by Rebecca Hunt, CEO at Suna Interior Design
Your entrance area and lobby are your first chance to make that all important first impression. Irrespective of the style, size and amenities you are offering, a well-designed lobby area ensures that guests feel like they have arrived the minute they step off the street and into your door.
STEP 1: If you are in the enviable position of being able to start from scratch with a lobby design, your first priority will be to pin down ‘who you are’ and how you want your establishment to be perceived. This can then form the basis of the brief from which the design can grow. An informal, causal, edgy outfit will have a completely different look to a more traditional, high service offering. A country hotel will want to welcome guests into a different environment than a busy city-based short stay hotel. So, step one, know yourself so that you know the direction your design will need to go in.
STEP 2: Once you have established whether you want your guests to feel wowed or welcomed; to feel warmth or excitement; to plonk themselves straight down in front of a roaring fire, drink in hand or head straight to their rooms and back out again to experience the local nightlife, then the rest should fall into place. Research is your next step. Looking at local competitors and how they have achieved success (or not) gives you a really good steer. But don’t restrict yourself to direct competition, you can find inspiration in a multitude of places. As designers, we at Suna look to all fields of design to inspire us, from the more obvious design shows and exhibitions catering to the hospitality industry, all the way to fashion on the catwalk and inspirational architecture and developments. Lose yourself on the internet, saving images as you go, it doesn’t matter at this stage how many images you hoard, your next step will be to whittle them down to a more manageable quantity.
STEP 3: So, with a plethora of aspirational images in front of you, you can now start the cull. Get rid of any that don’t fit your brand, don’t try and shoe horn something in that is not representative of your target market, put it to one side. Only keep images that could happily sit next to your branding and your ethos, then try and organise what’s left into coordinating images. Collect all the images with a similar colour scheme together; pile up all the leather chesterfields in one batch, alongside images that have similar tones of leather and warmth; push all the warm tones into one pile and cool tones into another. Hold on tight to any one image that really strikes a chord with you, whether that be a stunning or unusual combination of colours or a piece of furniture that you absolutely must have. By the end of this process you will hopefully end up with a few small piles of images illustrating a variation of style directions, maybe with a couple of anomalies that stand out from the crowd but that you just can’t get rid of. Now you have to start making decisions.
STEP 4: Now’s the time to start applying what you have to the space you are working with. Whether your space is large or small, dark or flooded with light there is a design that will work perfectly. You just need to be realistic with what you have and what you want to achieve. There is no point aspiring to a bright, light, crittalled-windowed, double-height space if you are welcoming people into a low-ceilinged basement space, and vice versa. From your new ‘image library’ select the look and feel what most closely ties in with what you want to achieve and what you actually can achieve.
STEP 5: No half measures on this stage, you have to fully commit to your design, to the strength or the subtlety, to the minimalism or the maximalism, to the overall look and feel. If you want a colour filled reception area, make sure you deliver yourself a colour filled reception area. If you want to paint the walls in dark and moody colours then go ahead and do it. No design really succeeds if only part of it is implemented, it becomes a watered down, half-hearted design. You can’t get yourself a zen-calm lobby if you just clear out one half of the space. You have to fully immerse yourself in the design so it accomplishes what you initially set out to produce.
If you follow these steps, to your discretion, and remain true to your brand, then your customers and clients will buy into the whole experience from beginning to end. From branding and website, to customer service and room service, from booking online to checking in and checking out, there will be a truly subliminal continuity that will ultimately reinforce your brand, your offering and your reputation.