With the sharing economy in full swing – think Airbnb – the hotel/residential hybrid market is opening a door of opportunity for space designers willing to explore new directions.  By Stephanie Schwalb

The definition of hospitality design is being redefined all the time. As the lines between hotel and residential markets continue to blur, a fresh approach to design with consumer desires in mind is making what was once a niche industry move closer to the mainstream.

At a panel discussion during the BDNY show several months ago, the session “Homing In: Business and Design Opportunities In the Red-Hot Hotel/Residential Hybrid Market” supplied some first-hand insights about how this sector is expanding innovation and providing inspiration for so many in the field of design. 

Moderated by Steven Rugo, Principal of Rugo/Raff Ltd. Architects, the seminar delved into design concepts with a residential slant — from multi-family high rises with hotel-like public spaces and spas, to apartment/hotel hybrids and service apartments — and how they are opening up rich revenue streams for designers. At the same time, the industry is also producing some inventive takeaways for the creation of unique guest rooms and suites in the process. Speakers included Toby Bozzuto, President of The Bozzuto Group; Chad Oppenheim, Founding Principal of OPPENHEIM Architecture + Design; Morris Adjmi, Founder and Principal of Morris Adjmi Architects; Rebecca Jones, Principal and Founder of RD Jones & Associates; and Lori Patten, Principal of Patten Purchasing.

Airbnb-&-Home-Designers

A+ for Authenticity

Some common themes that dominated the session revolved around the critical need for the development of authentic and timeless design as well as the importance of providing curated and concierge experiences that simultaneously and seamlessly encompass a profound level of personalization — whether the designers were creating spaces for single millennials, families, or even an elder demographic. Because of current hospitality trends such as the keen desire for local experiences and immersion – as well as the influence of the sharing economy and the proliferation of shared spaces and amenities – interior designers are heeding the call to reflect these preferences and activate spaces in a more focused and thoughtful way.

Based on a branding study from RD Jones & Associates, some key questions that designers need to keep in mind include knowing who your market is, who you are designing for; what they want; and the experience they seek.

“The industry is using high design to shatter the status quo,” revealed Toby Bozzuto, whose projects such as the Baltimore-based Anthem House – a luxury apartment community designed to “cater to residents’ personal lifestyles with a focus on providing opportunities for adventure combined with comfort and convenience” – are leading the way. “There is a need to create meaningful sanctuary and spaces that are experiences,” he said. To do so, designers need to study extraordinary experiences and incorporate them into their designs through the amenities and the environment.

High-End-Airbnb-Hotels

An integral part of that process to keep in mind, according to Chad Oppenheim, is that in “residential lifestyles, one is designing for lifestyle — not buildings.” His firm’s mixed use/multifamily project Ten Museum Park in Miami, is described as an “exploration of hedonistic possibilities of architecture in a futuristic tropical playground of urban sophistication.” It reportedly merges the best attributes of its location into one extraordinary space. Oppenheim believes it’s important for designers to “look at different aspects nurturing creativity.”

Morris Adjmi asserted that the trend of residential and hospitality design blending together is based on what he called “the Airbnb effect.”

“There is an immediate comfort level,” Adjmi explained. “People are comfortable with a more authentic experience versus an artificially curated one. One of the things we try to do is make experiences that are more like staying at home.” His firm’s work on the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn brought authenticity to new heights. They took a turn-of-the-century industrial co-op and converted it into a destination hotel that features “historic elements juxtaposed with new interventions.” A popular hot spot for both visitors and locals, the Wythe has a diverse range of amenities including a 60-seat restaurant, 3,000-sq.-ft. event space with outdoor garden, a rooftop bar and terrace, a 40-seat screening room, and a brick-arched private banquet room.

Making the Most of Multifamily

“Hotels’ diversity since the hotel market crashed has had a huge impact on the multifamily space,” revealed Rebecca Jones. Posing the question — What is multifamily? — has led to design aspects that make those spaces look more like hotels.

“There has been huge development across the U.S.,” she noted, “and the line between multifamily and hotel is blurring.” As a prime example, Jones cited one of her firm’s projects, Union Wharf, a collaboration with Toby Bozzuto and The Bozzuto Group. This residential high-rise project is a luxury multifamily apartment building located on the waterfront in the historic Fells Point neighborhood of Baltimore.

Union Wharf features open spaces functioning as a hotel, along with amenities such as a resort-style 12,000-sq.-ft. clubhouse that includes a fitness center, screening room, conference room, bar area with a billiards room, and eLounge. Also in the works are beverage and food outlets that will help activate the first-floor lobby space.

“Stepping up the level of design to be highly detailed and efficient has proven to be a critical piece of the puzzle,” Jones remarked, adding that the biggest trend is in the use of outdoor spaces. “A separate club space brings outside people in to see the property,” she explained, “which is good for marketing and exposure to the outside world.” When it comes to design “lighting has a huge impact on the overall space,” she concluded. 