Creating the perfect in-room oasis has increasingly become a balancing act. While working to deliver a sense of luxury and escape in guestroom bathrooms, designers must also accommodate demand for efficient cleaning and sustainability.

While there has been increased focus on cleanliness as a result of the pandemic, Louise Dupont, senior partner and interior designer at Quebec-based LEMAYMICHAUD, notes that this hasn’t had much impact on the practice of designing hotel bathrooms. “Those considerations are [aways] the starting point of doing a bathroom in a hotel room because those rooms need to always look perfect, clean [and] welcoming.”

However, she does note that it’s more important than ever to consider the performance, durability and ease of cleaning/maintaining the materials used in these settings.

And, sometimes the right insight and a certain amount of compromise is required to find the right solution. For Le Germain Hotel Montreal’s recent renovation, “we designed these beautiful cabinets all made of glass and mirrors — materials that are extremely resistant to cleaning chemicals, staining, heat, [et cetera],” Dupont shares. But housekeeping quickly pointed out that the cabinet’s reflective surfaces would be very time consuming to clean because it easily showed streaks and smudges. As a result, the piece was replaced with a unit made of painted steel.

While creating a luxurious, wellness-focused experience may be the common goal for these spaces, Dupont notes, when designing guestroom bathrooms, the starting point is usually the overall story the hotel’s design is telling. As an example, she points to Le Germain Montreal’s 1967-inspired design, which influenced the colour palette, the rounded shape of many design elements and inspired the murals found in the water closets. These unique archival collages “relay the history of what was happening in 1967 is the city of Montreal.”

Dupont notes that with the way guests shop and book accommodations online, “They want to be surprised. They want to be charmed. They want they want to understand the story behind the hotel…And the bathroom is part of that experience.”

Beyond the design story, sustainability is also top of mind. “The first pre-occupation is making sure [there’s] less water consumption,” Dupont shares, noting the importance of low-flow fixtures. Fortunately, manufacturers are increasingly offering options that combine luxury aesthetics and sustainable function.

Beyond this, sourcing from local suppliers as much as possible helps meet hotels’ sustainability goals and support the local economy.

“It’s all in the details,” Dupont adds, giving the example of “having this over-scale shower head, but still [limiting] water consumption.” These fine details all add up to creating a sense of luxury in a relatively small space.

Looking ahead, the evolving approach to wellness will continue to impact bathroom designs, as hotels strive to meet the expectations of guests.

Hilton’s report The 2022 Traveler: Emerging Trends and the Redefined Traveler identifies biophilia — the desire to connect with nature — as a key trend influencing hotel design. The report specifically calls out natural light, as well as plants and views of water, among the ways this desire will be met. It also calls out the role this plays in creating an overall sense of wellbeing, stating: “Well-being is enhanced by engaging the senses of sight, smell and sound with nature.”

The influence of this can already be seen in bathroom designs, with a greater emphasis on bringing natural light into these spaces. LEMAYMICHAUD’s design for Club Med Québec Charlevoix — an all-inclusive ski resort, which opened in December — features patterned frosted- glass panels that allow light from the sleeping area to reach the bathroom.

“More and more, the bathroom tends to open into the bedroom,” says Dupont, which creates a greater sense of flow in the room and a loft feel.

And, together, these two trends are making it more common to have enclosed water closets to ensure privacy.

This shift is starting to become more apparent across segments and brands. Homewood Suites by Hilton’s new Prototype 10.0 (unveiled last April) features a new suite type that includes separate vanity and bathroom areas among its key design features.

This de-construction and separation is also in play in Hyatt’s recently opened tommie hotels in Austin and Hollywood, which operate under the JdV by Hyatt brand and were designed by California-based Studio Collective. These small-footprint rooms feature sliding glass doors that let natural light into the bathroom, as well as vanities located outside of the bathroom.

The flurry of brand updates and re-designs announced in the last few years will also be shaping guestroom bathrooms for the years to come.

Among these, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts’ new brand vision includes “completely re-designed [bathrooms] with new and modern walk-in showers;” and Delta Hotels by Marriott’s re-freshed guestroom design focuses onsimplified forms and premium finishes across the guestroom and bathroom.

More broadly, ’spa-inspired’ bathrooms remain a common standard, with brands such as Westin and Cambria using this descriptor in their brand promises.

And, while a clean, calming atmosphere is often the goal, white and sanitary is not necessarily the aesthetic. Matte pastels, such as pink, aqua and green, are increasingly appearing in bathrooms. Dupont also notes that trends are moving away from gold fixtures again, in favour of copper and pinker tones, though matte-black finishes remain popular.

Ultimately, the key is to balance the cost of the design with the aesthetic goal. “The challenge is to find that beautiful vanity and that beautiful faucet or sink that will create a ‘wow’ [moment] without spending an extreme sum of money,” says Dupont.

By Danielle Schalk

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