Five-star style: Get some inspiration from a hotbed of new trends - hotels

Kate Burt
Saturday 22 October 2011 23:47

Artful clutter, a super-size bed and a deep free-standing bath – elements which, one might think, could give a good hotel a "homely" air. Not according to Patrick Goff, who ran an award-winning hotel design practice for 25 years before setting up, an online industry resource: "When a designer talks about a hotel being 'homely'," he says, "he's lying. He's talking about a kind of theatrical, Disneyland 'homely' – not what you actually get at home."

With domestic clutter usually, well, cluttered, the bath simply what the bathroom has space for and a king-size bed a luxury upgrade rather than the norm, perhaps he has a point. In fact, he argues, the influence of the hotel over the home is far greater than the other way around.

Goff's first large-scale job, in the early Eighties, was adding en suite bathrooms to the Highcliff in Bournemouth. "At the time, shared bathrooms were the norm", he says, but not for long. With the rise of the charter flight in the Sixties and Seventies, British tourists were being exposed to a new level of comfort in the hotels springing up on the continent, where cheaper land and construction costs often allowed for higher or, perhaps, "Disneyland"-esque standards. "Ordinary people were going to the Spanish Costas and staying in rooms with balconies and bathrooms. Once you've experienced that, you won't want to queue in your dressing gown while the person in front of you finishes their ablutions, will you?"

Goff continues: "That was the first big step up in hotel standards, and that then went into the home: you come back, look at your little house, and you think: 'I want some of that.' "

Just a few decades later, an en suite in the master bedroom of a modest family house isn't at all rare. Quite a leap considering many households in the 1960s and Seventies still had outdoor loos. As Goff says, "once a concept of luxury is in someone's head, it becomes their goal."

If the first sort of "theatrical" luxury to filter from hotels through to domestic life was a private bathroom, we've come a long way very quickly – heated towel rails, recessed lighting, bidets ("Rocco Forte always put them in his hotels – they became a marker for luxury", says Goff), extra large-size beds (for which we have the Americans and the lofty Dutch to thank), dual flush loos, Egyptian cotton sheets and automation technology – such as pre-programmable lighting and keyless door locks – all came via the hospitality industry. And, with hotels constantly evolving, we can learn a lot about the next big interiors trends for the homes of tomorrow, by looking at the hotels of today.

"Digital media is opening things up," says Goff, of the technology that allows you to print anything you like onto, say, wallpaper, from a holiday photo to an antique map. He cites the unhip but forward-thinking Splash Landings hotel at Alton Towers: "That opened in 2003 and they had sand and starfish images woven into the carpet. It was groundbreaking then, but is becoming normal."

Another hotel, the British branch of the Indigo chain, in Paddington, was helped to four-star status by maximising the space in its small rooms with the clever use of digital wallpaper – in the form of huge black and white photographs behind the beds. Though it's not always tasteful. Goff recalls a designer friend who was recently asked to fit a well-known television presenter's dressing room with wallpaper featuring a collage of magazine features she'd appeared in. "Not to everyone's taste," he acknowledges.

While Talib Choudhry, the deputy editor of Elle Decoration, and editor of the magazine's hotel and travel supplement, bristles at the digital trend, he has noticed a theme of personalisation, which is filtering through to homes.

"Hotel rooms in the Nineties and early Noughties could be very minimalist – such as London's Hempel or the Sanderson. And that trend was reflected in the home. But we're moving away from that now – it's much more about colour, pattern, eclecticism and individuality."

"Hotel Missoni does this very well," he says of the recently opened Edinburgh hotel, "it's a riot of pattern on the walls and the floors – which is what its brand is all about, of course."

Juxtaposition is another buzzword. The decorative style of Rough Luxe, in King's Cross, one of a slew of new London hotels in edgier locations, is a mish-mash of bare plaster mixed with rich fabrics and battered antiques with chic seating – is particularly reflective of emerging home fashions, says Choudhry. "It's about celebrating imperfection – and we're definitely seeing that coming through into the home with artisan products, or a bit of patina on furniture."

Hotel bathrooms have always been much copied at home – whether it's just providing miniatures for guests, or installing a whirlpool bath. Goff recently visited Cape Town's One and Only, which takes luxury to the next level. Forget measly his and her basins – this place has his and her bathrooms (and 63-metre square bedrooms to house them – grand scale another looming trend, he says).

For our cramped country, other bathroom advancements have already arrived. Choudhry agrees: "that sense of indulgence has moved away from squeezing in a little en suite to knocking down walls to create space for a luxurious freestanding bath in the bedroom." And a door? So passé.

"Every hotel worth its salt now also has a spa," says Choudhry, "and that will move into the home. We recently ran a piece on home saunas and steam rooms – it's actually not that difficult or expensive to do."

Lighting is another hotel-to-home trend-setter, particularly for creating zones as we move into more open-plan living. "Anoushka Hempel has done very well in her new La Suite hotel," says Choudhry, "by using raised, underlit platforms to define the sleeping and lounging areas, and lighting to create colour washes on the white walls." Watch out too for vertical gardening to get a grip on stylish homes – the Athenaeum Hotel in London's Mayfair has a spectacular living wall, and urban foliage solutions such as the Woolly Wally ( and the mirror-meets-hanging basket 'Miroir en Herbe' ( are starting to pop up in swish garden shops.

On the whole, though, it's the high-end developments that pick up hotel trends first. Developments such as the Candy Brothers' One Hyde Park, the new record-breakingly expensive, Richard Rogers' designed Knightsbridge apartment block – which includes hotel staff on call from the neighbouring Mandarin Oriental, a panic room, sustainable heating/cooling via geothermal boreholes, bullet proof windows and a private wine-tasting facility.

It sounds outlandish – but some of those features (well, at least one) will trickle down the ladder – and sooner than we might expect. As Patrick Goff points out: "The difference now is that whereas, once, the "ordinary guy" was going to Spain on holiday. Now he's going to Dubai, home of the first six-star hotel, and setting his sights on a whole new set of standards."

Useful contacts

Getting steamy: supplies and installs domestic saunas and steam rooms. It also sell a 'steam shower' which can be fitted in the space of a regular bathroom shower cubicle. Prices start at £6140.

Digital dreams: will transfer digital images onto floors, walls and blinds. See the website for full details. also has a selection of digitally printed wallpapers, copied from vintage fabrics. From £150.

Bathing belles: sell a range of reclaimed hotel style free-standing or roll-top baths. Price on application.

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