Guest Room Design: What’s the New Normal?

| July 25, 2018

by Harry Wheeler

Today’s hotel guests are traveling lighter, smarter, and spending less time in their guest rooms. They crave convenience, ease, flexibility, and demand 24×7 access to technology — influencing nearly every aspect of guest room design. They want unique and customized design options with a sense of personality and,a seamless end-to-end hotel experience. Let’s take a closer look at how the hospitality industry is responding to guest needs to create the new normal in guest room design.

Today’s hotels are switching up traditional design to offer keyless entry systems, smartly designed guest rooms with alternative closet and bathroom design options, multipurpose and collapsible furniture, free and fast Wi-Fi access, and locally sourced and inspired food and beverage options. And, all within a smaller footprint.

  • Space. Travelers today are looking for unique hotel experiences in an innovative guest room layout. Very often, square footage is at a premium and hotel brands need to fit as many key design elements as possible into a single guest room layout. In major cities, space is a commodity, and it’s even more critical to incorporate key design elements into a tiny footprint.

Marriott Moxy exterior / rendering courtesy of Studio Rendering, Inc.

  • Technology. More and more, customers are now typically greeted by someone with a tablet rather than from a traditional lobby desk. When guests arrive, they increasingly have the ability to select their room via an app prior to check-in. Keyless room entry and lighting controlled by smart phone apps are the new norm. In-room tablets enable guests to customize all aspects of their stay and manage their account and also connect them with local businesses and services.
  • Unique food and beverage options. Locally sourced food and beverage offerings have never been more important to accommodate guests’ desire for cultural immersion when they travel. Today’s guests want a truly unique experience. We’re seeing upgrades and renovations of community spaces like bars and lounges and transformations of traditional lobbies into interactive common areas — both of which are offering exclusively local food and beverage options for a one-of-a-kind experience that appeals to both hotel guests and the surrounding community.
  • Colors, materials, and accessories. Not to be forgotten, smart design materials, colors, and accessories are imperative to make the space appear and feel larger. Designers look at smaller rooms with much more richness and higher-quality touchpoints than within a larger footprint. When it comes to design accessories, remember that today’s travelers want to feel as if the hotel they are staying in celebrates its place in the world. One example of this is the decorative throw pillow in the guest rooms at the Onyx Hotel in Boston, a Kimpton property located near the TD Garden. Featured on the throw pillows is the phrase “Wicked Smaht,” a nod to the movie “Good Will Hunting,” the distinctive Boston accent, and the city’s reputation as the premier college town in the United States.

Marriott Moxy interior / rendering courtesy of Studio Rendering, Inc.

Hotels like the Moxy are creating new brands to appeal to this new traveler and that incorporate smaller guest room footprints. Our Moxy Hotel in Boston’s Theater District, currently under construction, is the first Moxy hotel to be built in Boston, located on a previously vacant parcel that is exceptionally small — a challenge for many previously proposed developments.

The 24-story Marriott Moxy Hotel will have 340 guest rooms at an average 180sf. In the guest rooms, the most notable design shift is the distinctive peg wall. The peg wall replaces a traditional closet. Collapsible furniture, including chairs and side tables, take the place of customary stationary furniture. Traditional desks are being swapped out for folding side tables. Wall pockets house brochures and other room information, which are typically placed on desks. Platform beds are being used to make the bed feel lighter. The depth in which the platform bed box recesses is larger than average to accommodate baggage storage.

It is, and continues to be, a very exciting time in hospitality design as we are seeing ongoing design shifts to keep up with the ever-changing traveler’s expectations.

Harry Wheeler


Harry Wheeler AIA, NCARB, LEED is a principal at Group One Partners

based in Boston.

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