When launching or renovating a hotel, the goal is always the same: create an aesthetic both inviting and stylish, while providing a unique guest experience. 

These days, when it comes to room design, success is all about the details. As a result, hoteliers are paying increased attention to the sleep experience provided with linens and textiles. Today’s purchasing agents are spending money to incorporate contemporary and durable textiles that will remain popular for a typical design cycle of five to seven years. Because textiles are the first items in a hotel to show wear and tear, choosing the wrong fabrics could potentially put the business at risk, says Geoff Allan, general manager of Hôtel Le Crystal in Montreal.

There are many factors hoteliers should consider when planning textile purchases but the first step is to consult with a designer

There are many factors hoteliers should consider when planning textile purchases but the first step is to consult with a designer or purchasing agent, who will help develop important criteria for the supplier, based on guest comfort, durability, and the trends of the day. “You give the order to your purchasing agent and contact your interior designer to execute the order. Or, you can source a supplier yourself and save the intermediary,” explains Allan. Craig Norris-Jones, vice-president, Operations and GM of Vancouver’s Coast Coal Harbour Hotel says “once interior designers spec the colours, we purchase the fabric, and have the material manufactured into skirts and bed scarves.”

Housekeeping, laundering, and energy consumption costs should be factored into all purchases. Al Reingold, director of Brand Management, Holiday Inn Brand Family, Americas, says the initial cost is only a small consideration. “The ongoing search for cost reduction, balanced with superior quality products also extends beyond the traditionally recognized purchase price of a product to the overall cost of that product over its lifetime,” says Reingold, who is based at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta. Le Crystal’s Allan says the textile budget for his 131-room hotel ranges from $50,000 to about $100,000, an average of $750 to $900 per suite in textile costs.

Money matters aside, design plays a huge role in creating a memorable customer experience. These days, the sleep experience itself is paramount in how a hotel is perceived by the guest. Marie-Pier Germain, marketing manager, Openings, for Hôtel Le Germain in Calgary, says the ideal bed cover should provide guest comfort during all four seasons. Her preference is for a duvet cover with 43-per-cent linen and 57-per-cent cotton, with 100-percent cotton sheets. “A bed made with linen is not as crisp looking as one made with cotton sheets, but it’s extremely soft and supple,” she says. At Montreal’s Le Crystal, all pillows have a silk covering, which adapts well to seasonal changes.

Nothing trumps a plain white sheet with a minimum thread count of 220

In today’s frenzied world, it’s increasingly important for hoteliers to give guests a home-away-from-home feeling. Bruce MacKay, GM of Holiday Inn Airport West in Winnipeg says “Back in the day you used to be able to go into a hotel room and everything was better than what you had at home. Today it’s the opposite.” As a result, MacKay says “Hotels are doing everything they can to try to keep up.”

Hotel operators may have contrasting views on various design elements, but they agree on one simple truth. Nothing trumps a plain white sheet with a minimum thread count of 220. It gives the room a fresh, clean look; white won’t fade, and withstands the abuse of frequent laundering. Suppliers say a low replacement rate is important, and hoteliers across all industry segments and price ranges are asking for heavier-weighted fabrics to help increase its life expectancy. The typical lifespan ranges between two to three years for linens, and five to seven for drapery.

Fabric weight will also differ between bed linens, drapery, carpets, and other frequently used items such as chairs, which easily show signs of deterioration. “Vinyls and leatherettes are easy to maintain and use a tighter material,” Allan says, explaining how it offsets the wear-and tear factor. Whether your hotel has its own on-site laundering facility or outsources, it can also impact the lifespan of the fabric, says Norris-Jones. “When you have your own in-house laundry, your linens have a bit of a longer lifespan than when you send it to an outside company. They use harsher chemicals.”

Today’s discerning guests have come to expect an eco-friendly environment at their favourite hotels and the same applies to how textile choices are procured and used. For example, chemical-free linens laundered with unscented detergents are a must-have. Some hoteliers choose to buy from local manufacturers to minimize transportation costs and install energy-saving window treatments to minimize heat loss in the winter.

“Bedspreads are a thing of the past”

When it comes to colours, simplicity reigns and hoteliers are finding ways to incorporate natural colours and textures into their design. Earth tones are popular for bed skirts, bed scarves or pillow shams. Brown, beige, gold, green and grey are favourites. Drapery is still preferred over blinds as they completely darken a room when drawn, but hoteliers are now requesting accents such as wood valances to offset the white or natural colour of the drapery.

Gone are the days of busy floral patterns, especially on bedspreads. “Bedspreads are a thing of the past,” says Norris-Jones. The triple-sheeting technique, which uses three flat sheets with a duvet in the middle is easy to accessorize by changing up the pillow shams or bed scarf.

With a wide range of skin sensitivities, operators are also experimenting with non-irritant quality material. Some hotels are responding by using allergen-free textiles. “Rather than making a special request, it’s about letting your customers know your pillows are hypoallergenic. It’s the same thing with the bed cover,” says Allan. “Too many of our guests were asking not to have a feather pillow,” says Norris-Jones, adding, “so now we purchase non-feather, hypoallergenic pillows.” Suppliers say the growing trend points to other natural materials such as wool, which is difficult to break down and create allergens.

Hoteliers agree textiles are the last area in which they’d cut costs, especially when it comes to the safety of their guests

Hoteliers agree textiles are the last area in which they’d cut costs, especially when it comes to the safety of their guests. For example, Holiday Inn chooses flame-retardant window treatments and bed skirts that have a long-lasting fire proof quality that cannot be laundered out over the material’s lifespan.

As for future trends, given the economic uncertainty hoteliers will continue to look for textiles that are cost-effective, durable and, most importantly, environmentally friendly. A holistic environment is the future, asserts Reingold, pointing to “crisp, clean appearances for bedding components and soft accent colours.” And, with greening continuing to grow in interest, environmentally friendly textiles may soon be more than just a request — they may be a requirement, says Allan. “A percentage of all textiles will be made of recycled material.”

Certainly, textiles have come a long way from the days of busy floral patterns. Today’s sophisticated customers are expecting a sleeker, streamlined look in their hotel rooms, one that reflects the comfort of their own homes. And smart hoteliers are serving that up with an emphasis on safe, allergen-free and eco-friendly material.

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