As hybrid and remote work models continue to thrive, hoteliers are recognizing the importance of re-modelling lobbies, business centres or meeting facilities into co-working spaces to generate additional revenue. To that end, designers have been tasked with preserving a hotel’s atmosphere while integrating specific elements to ensure it’s a work-friendly space.
“The pandemic has shone a light on the importance of daily human interactions and careful consideration of the environments that surround us,” says Anwar Mekhayech, founding partner, Toronto-based international design firm DesignAgency. “Our experiences during the pandemic have collectively taught us that social spaces are invaluable. The experiences, chance encounters and planned interactions that occur in these places have an immense effect on our wellbeing.”
DesignAgency recently transformed the lobby of the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, also known as the Public Square, into a popular gathering place featuring a café-to-cocktail bar and work spaces.
“Before, the lobby wasn’t a particularly inviting or social space. It was mostly a space people passed through,” says Mekhayech. “The revitalized lobby takes inspiration from town squares, which have long functioned as natural gathering spots that offer a variety of experiences within them. Now, people feel encouraged to stay, sip, plug-in, work or meet friends. Clusters of seating can comfortably accommodate groups big or small, as well as individuals. [The space is] open and collaborative, [but also features] private workspaces, including sound-proof booths, helping to transform the lobby into a destination from morning to night.”
Additionally, DesignAgency configured the lobby at Toronto’s The Drake Hotel’s new Modern Wing, in collaboration with the Drake’s in-house design team.
“The Drake Hotel’s new Modern Wing gives the hotel its first proper lobby to not only accommodate a living room-style lounge area and intimate lobby bar, but also a communal work table and meeting and event space that can either be left open to the buzz of the lobby or closed off for private functions,” says Mekhayech. “Even in this more compact footprint, we designed the space to bring together elements of residential and hospitality design and anticipate the needs of the contemporary professional.”
The Welcome Desk and Living Room at newly opened W Toronto, designed by global creative agency Sid Lee, features velvet furniture, a communal faux fire pit, a circular destination bar featuring cascading amber lighting and access to The Yard, its outdoor terrace. The hotel also boasts Canada’s first W Sound Suite, situated off the Living Room and outfitted with professional equipment for musicians, podcasters and other creatives. Additionally, five event spaces encompassing 4,679 sq. ft., feature botanical-inspired wallpaper and elliptical lighting and offer both casual working and big-presentation settings.
There are a few design elements that can’t be overlooked when designed effective co-working spaces in hotels. In addition to reliable Wi-Fi and ample outlets, lighting is a major component in workspace design.
“Glare and visual discomfort are frequent complaints, so we often provide light levels that can be adjusted, especially in a hotel environment where the space might transition from one function to another throughout the day,” says Marti Gallucci, design director at Toronto-based Mason Studio Inc., who designed Kimpton Saint George Hotel in 2018 and most recently, the Kimpton Banneker Hotel in Washington, D.C. “For user control, we might integrate a table lamp or a floor lamp that might be positioned in a way to illuminate the surface or portion of a table. It’s a blend of both architectural and decorative lighting to set up a space successfully.”
“It’s important for guests to be able to choose areas with different light levels. If they’re looking at paper, they need a higher light level as opposed to looking at a computer screen where they’re going to want lower light levels,” says Kara MacGregor, principal at Halifax-based MAC Interior Design Inc., who designed Four Points by Sheraton Moncton, Delta Dartmouth, Prince George Halifax and more.
With regard to materiality, Gallucci says “there are plenty of options with nanotechnology, which are self-healing products for scratches and scuffs. There’s also anti-bacterial and fingerprint-proof surfaces.” Durability and cleanability are also important considerations when selecting surfaces.
Gallucci continues, ““The layer of acoustics is important, too. Creating areas that are loud and vivacious, as well as areas that are quieter and more intimate, is crucial,” says Gallucci. “We can control a lot of that with physical partitions or through the use of acoustic materials, such as batting or wool panels. Shredded wood fibre creates fantastic textures and patterns, and drapery or an upholstered sofa or rug can really help control the travel of sound.”
In recent years, hotels have begun experimenting with different colours, patterns and textures to bring out the hotel’s personality and generate interest from guests. The biophilic design trend is also on the rise with the introduction of potted plants and green walls, which Gallucci says are “great to include in a space because of their natural ability to clean the air. They can also be used as a barrier to create privacy or division between spaces without including a direct partition.”
“In the first year of COVID, we saw this incredible movement away from whites and greys to layered florals,” says MacGregor. “Clients are craving playful textures and colours to generate interest in their spaces.”
Unlike traditional office spaces, guests are now looking for inviting workspaces that spur creativity and productivity while providing the same level of comfort and flexibility found at home.
“When you introduce some of the comforts and conveniences of home or hospitality with the excitement of activity and the uplifting effect of a beautifully curated space, people tend to stay longer, strike up conversations and participate beyond the average work day,” says Mekhayech “From small details such as USB ports to larger decisions about lighting and acoustics, as well as interesting art and cultural programs and easy access to food and beverage, every design choice is made to create an enticing space that people will enjoy using.”
By Nicole Di Tomasso