The accoutrements it takes to design a hotel bathroom may differ from segment to segment, but one unifying fact is that guests want to feel like they’re living in the lap of luxury — even if they’re not. Below are three hotels, from tree different segments, which are operating with three different budgets and appealing to today’s refined guest.
THE FAIRMONT PACIFIC RIM, VANCOUVER
Bathers know one of the best places to get their blissful fix is at the 377-room Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver, which overlooks the North Shore mountains. Designed by architect James K. Cheng, with interiors by B+H CHIL Design, the 45-storey building features a hotel on the first 22 floors with the remainder devoted to luxurious condominiums. It’s the sort of place travellers want to recreate at home, suggests Philip Barnes, the Fairmont Rim’s regional GM. “In the hotel industry, we have to be conscious of what people have in their homes,” he says, noting travellers have high expectations and hotels should match — or preferably exceed — residential design.
In fact, it’s why the Fairmont Pacific Rim offers unparalleled bathrooms. Typifying Cheng’s “sensuous modern” description of the hotel property as a whole, beatific scenery can be viewed through floor-to-ceiling windows in the swoon-worthy spa-like space that is flooded with natural light. Covered in marble and granite, the spacious bathrooms, big enough for two to tango in, boast deep-soaking Japanese ofuro tubs, a separate shower and double sinks. To gild the lily, thick and velvety Mascioni towels, bathrobes and slippers are folded and tucked on a floating walnut shelf. Fairmont’s rigorous eco practices are also in effect, with rooms stocked with reusable glass bottles filled with filtered water; even old soaps and shampoos are recycled.
After all, the little things count. “For example, TVs are built into the mirrors — they’re not a separate entity hanging off the wall,” Barnes says, noting a sleek design is also a point of differentiation. “It’s something people wouldn’t do in their own homes, but they love it here; it’s a far better finish,” he says. “So, whether they’re shaving in the morning or in the tub, they can watch the news or weather. Technology as a whole is an expectation [in a hotel]. Having a strong Internet connection in a room is as much a requisite as hot water.”
In fact, each Fairmont Rim room is equipped with an iPad, which gives a breakdown of hotel services. “Guests can lie in the bathtub and place their in-room dining at the same time — as long as they don’t drop it in the water,” quips Barnes.
Then again, not all guests are lolling for hours in the Japanese tubs. Barnes notes that business travellers (as opposed to leisure travellers) tend to prefer a quick shower before starting their day. Thus, the age-old tub-versus-shower debate in the hotel depends on the guest. “At the moment, we have a lot of families staying with us, and tubs are an important component for young children.”
ALT HOTEL HALIFAX STANFIELD
“Travellers want a hotel that’s trendy and comfy and that includes the bathrooms,” says Louise Dupont, the interior designer with the Montreal-based firm Lemay Michaud Architecture Design. Dupont is behind the swanky 169-room, $27-million Alt Hotel Halifax Stanfield, which opened this past June. The location is the fourth in Canada and the first in the Maritimes.
Alt’s design-forward tone is immediately set from the lobby. Here, thousands of Instagram photos — cheekily composed of travellers’ snaps — are displayed on LCD walls to create a lively conversation piece. Guestrooms, meanwhile, feature such swish highlights as the iconic Italian Calla armchair with its arms that extend out to be configured into a chaise longue to flexible snake wall-mounted light fixtures, while the spa-influenced loos are stylish prefabricated pods.“It’s a new way to conceive a bathroom or a hotel room,” says Dupont. “All of the pipes are fitted and then the module is delivered and installed. It accelerates construction time and is a really intelligent way to create a bathroom.”
The module also serves as the dividing wall between the bathroom and the bedroom. “On one side, the wall acts as a headboard and the bathroom side is a wood bench, incorporated closet and all of the facets for the glass shower with rainhead,” she says.
Other features include a resilient vinyl floor that’s water-resistant, comfy underfoot and imparts warmth, instead of traditional ceramic, “which has such coldness,” scoffs Dupont (though tiles are used in the showers). She points out that the floor can be installed much faster, it’s also less messy and has low sound transmission. Another aesthetic feature is the mounted European toilet with a hidden tank that’s easier to keep clean because it doesn’t have a floor portion. Similarly, instead of messily mounting the hairdryer on the wall, it’s casually laid out on a shelf; and the amenities aren’t an afterthought: “They’re in nice recyclable bottles in the shower stall that are refilled instead of wasting packaging,” says Dupont.
When it came to conceiving the space, Dupont harnessed a wood-heavy spa look that has timeless appeal — perfect for properties that are slick and serene. An elongated basin creates the countertop and keeps the look clean-lined and chic. Lots of backlit mirrors, meanwhile, are practical and provide contrast to the wood. So, what’s the best part? “There’s a huge door to get into the bathroom,” she says, “so if you’re in the bedroom by yourself, you have this lofty effect where you can flip the door open … it all feels fluid and connected.”
MOTEL 6, AIRDRIE, ALTA.
Motel 6 may offer “the lowest price of any national chain … throughout the United States and Canada,” in the economy-lodging segment, as a recent Motel 6 press release reports, nevertheless the bathrooms are spotless and stylish. This is especially true of Motel 6’s Phoenix design, a prototype that’s proving to be a no-frills-design contender in the industry.
A writer from ApartmentTherapy.com, a site that catalogues eye-catching interior design, gushed over the rooms’ modern, minimalist functionality. It’s a decidedly hipster-looking room with retro-orange feature walls, back-lit panelled sconces and platform beds. Meanwhile, a bright yellow towel holder mounted over the bathroom sink recalls a wine holder — albeit the holes are much larger since they cradle coiled towels and not Merlot. The bathroom sink itself is raised and sits on a gleaming swatch of black granite.
“It’s a new and unique design. We’re really happy with it,” says Justin Schinkel, owner of Winnipeg-based Schinkel Properties, of the 70-room Motel 6 Phoenix that recently opened in Airdrie, Alta., just north of Calgary. “The cleanliness and functionality has been a big hit.” That means no tiles in the bathrooms. Instead, a durable laminate flows through both areas for a chic, utilitarian feel.
As for environmental features, the showers are all low-flow. “And, soaps that customers don’t use get sent and eventually donated to a recycling facility where they refinish it, rebar it and send it to needy people in Africa,” Schinkel says.
So, bathroom design doesn’t necessarily have to be solely about aesthetics. It has to be sustainable and comfortable — design functions any hotel company can provide, regardless of budget constraints.