By K.J. Quinn
As hospitality brands invest millions of dollars to renovate existing properties and build new ones, a common theme is interior spaces that make their guests feel at home. This residential design trend is not so much about creating a “home away from home,” experts say, but providing a special experience that takes people away from the daily grind of modern-day life.
“Hotels want to craft a genuine experience that’s equal to or better than being in your own home,” said Maria Scott, hospitality design director at Shaw Hospitality Group.
Hospitality is one of the fastest growing sectors of the commercial market as an improving economy is helping drive business and leisure travel back to pre-recession levels, according to published reports. Mid-range and upscale hotel brands reportedly have many projects in the pipeline as business has picked up since the recession. To some degree, hospitality design mimics social culture because the industry is so closely connected to the human experience.
“Because hotel owners have different preferences and are marketing to different audiences, it’s important to emphasize flexible design possibilities, coordinating patterns for different uses and ample color options,” Scott pointed out.
There is an increasing blend of soft and hard surfaces being specified in these spaces as hotels attempt to incorporate residential design with high-performing, easy to maintain products that stand up to heavy traffic demands. With a wealth of selections to choose from, specifiers find that combining different types of flooring creates practical solutions for owners. “In addition to standard broadloom installations, carpet tile and resilient are now offered in a variety of formats — square, plank and hexagon,” Scott said. “Some designers are utilizing hard surfaces throughout a space with the addition of custom rugs created from carpet tile or broadloom patterns.”
Although floor coverings specified for hospitality spaces vary by end use, broadloom remains the preferred flooring for guest rooms, hallways and certain public areas, experts say. Hotels lean toward broadloom because it’s still viewed as a luxury design element. And a big part of the market likes to cre- ate custom looks using stock materials.
“Although other flooring selections are increasing in popularity and will be incorporated in various manners, broadloom will continue to be a preferred product category in this space because it provides solutions the other options cannot,” Scott noted. “Seamless, large-scale patterning, subtle texturing and complicated constructions or design elements cannot translate or be manufactured as carpet tile.”
Broadloom is said to offer design capabilities that cannot be replicated in carpet tile; hospitality leans heavily on preferences for heavier weight, high luster and cut-loop to achieve the high-end aesthetic for the industry. “While carpet tile has its place in the market, the ability to deliver high-value design capabilities with larger pattern repeats in broadloom is still desirable,” said Mike Gallman, senior vice president of product, Mohawk Group. “With Durkan, we offer a wide range of broad- loom and carpet tile offerings to meet the needs of all end users.” Durkan is a brand within the Mohawk Group, the commercial division of Mohawk Industries.
Carpet or modular tile is considered a practical solution and offers hotels the flexibility to add colored products to a neutral backdrop for a fast and inexpensive design refresh. Increased design options and formats — such as planks, hexagon shapes and larger sizes — have reportedly helped carpet tile grow at a much faster rate than broadloom. “We have been seeing great strides for carpet tile lately,” said Emily Morley, NCIDQ, LEED AP, associate at ForrestPerkins, San Francisco. “When pieced together, the tiles look like broadloom with expansive textures and are found in dynamic and refreshing colors.”
Meanwhile, carpet tile’s design flexibility enables the prod- uct to gain coverage in similar spaces. “Surprisingly, carpet tile has leaped into the hospitality world as well, offering both inter- esting design combinations and ease of changeability,” observed Lara Leskaj, LEED AP, senior interior project designer, senior associate at Perkins+Will, Chicago.
TRENDS IMPACTING DESIGN
Flooring producers often work closely with their clientele to help ensure products match the aesthetic desired and meet performance and budgetary goals. “Larger hotel groups maintain standard products for all their properties, while others do not,” Shaw’s Scott pointed out. “On the other hand, stand-alone or boutique hotels are designed based on owner preference or intended user experience.”
Floor design in new hospitality spaces vary widely depending on the application and client. For instance, one of the most common broadloom carpets specified in new construction is Axminster, observers say, as it provides flexibility in customization of both pattern and color. Not to mention the carpet is naturally sustainable. “Although used for more economical projects, I have had success with custom colors utilizing an archived pattern in nylon,” Perkins+Will’s Leskaj said.
Indeed, the hospitality industry is driven by custom products and establishing individuality within a space. Interface, a producer of carpet tile, offers products that provide designers with the flexibility to create seamless transitions that move in four directions across the floor. “This is especially popular in creating corridor concepts, or ballroom ideas that deliver scale or larger repeats using the different components available in one product set,” said Charley Knight, vice president, Interface Hospitality.
While hospitality settings feature a consistent level of performance standards associated with their brands, flooring choices are often influenced by architecture and regional design preferences as well. “When building or redesigning a property, ‘wiping the slate’ has been replaced with a repurposed approach,” Shaw’s Scott said. “You can use existing materials in new ways, so the structure’s historical integrity is pre- served and tells an authentic story to maintain the neighbor- hood culture and geographic uniqueness.”
In the same vein, there is a movement toward rehabilitating abandoned buildings and transforming them into boutique hotels, designers say. “It gives them a ‘glamour and grit feel’ catering toward young, tech savvy, energetic millennials,” Perkins+Will’s Leskaj said, citing the Soho House and London House in Chicago as recent examples. “Floor color and pattern have taken on an eclectic vintage feel.”
Rebuilds often call for color and design choices that blend with the integrity of the existing space and elements, bridging the gap between the past and present. By comparison, end users are said to be more open to fresh ideas in a redesign situation. “Recently, I have seen more geometrics in an attempt to bring an existing space up to speed and be current with this technology-based time,” said Carla Remenschneider, IIDA, RID, Remenschneider Design, Indianapolis.
Durkan reported heightened interest in its new Definity platform for corridors as the carpet patterns are geometric, lin- ear or organic in styling nature. “Definity offers styling and designs that can’t be achieved on any other platform, such as 12-color capability with a hand-sculpted look and feel,” Gallman said. “In guest rooms, however, we are seeing subtler offerings.”
Designers are seeing a rise in the use of natural and reclaimed materials in hospitality spaces as well. There is also a continued demand for products with texture and dimension. “Many of our customers are moving toward using more texture in their flooring and moving away from pattern, as well as combining hard flooring options with area rugs,” Interface’s Knight said. “In addition, our customers are looking at the benefits they can achieve through incorporating biophillic design elements to increase wellness, creativity and productivity for their employees and guests in any space.”
Nature remains a powerful influence in hospitality design as hotel operators seek to create interiors that are fresh and different. Mills report that more vibrant textures inspired by nature are being specified in an increasing number of floor pat- terns. “Natural settings resonate with us, whether by literal or subconscious cues,” Shaw’s Scott said. “For example, carpet designs that mimic sitting under a shade tree versus a simple texture reminiscent of birch bark.” The nature/irregularity trend is reportedly steering some people away from rigid geometric patterns and clean lines, as evidenced by the growing popularity of modern design choices. “I would say that the distressed look has carried over to carpet, too, based on designs I’ve seen recently,” Remenschneider said. “Perhaps this could mean larger-scale patterns that would lend themselves more to a broadloom than carpet tile.”
EVER-CHANGING COLOR CHOICES
Across the board, hotel owners are typically looking for carpet featuring long-term maintenance with patterns and colors that wear well. “Trends lean toward larger and bolder patterns with- in public spaces and smaller scale, more timeless patterns with- in the guest rooms,” Perkins+Will’s Leskaj said. “Some of the more interesting styles I’ve seen on social media include special attention to corridor — and specifically guest corridor — carpet design, and how door drops are integrated or featured.”
Hotels factor in numerous intangibles when choosing carpet styles and colors, including the importance of having a versatile “base” to accommodate quickly moving and changing elements in the space, like technology and furniture. “Although they used carpet tile, a great example of this trend is Hampton FYI [Forever Young Initiative],” Remenschneider said. “In the guest rooms they used a very neutral, versatile carpet to go with the more colorful and moveable furniture. Many other brands have similar new schemes in both guest rooms and public spaces.”
But color trends are ever changing with some clients prefer- ring bold, while others elect neutral palettes. “Color choices are extremely important,” Remenschneider added. “But I’m not sure about the most sought-after colors. I went into several Vegas casinos last year and it seemed like color was all over the board.”
On the other hand, ForrestPerkins’ Morley noted that the firm often studies the natural surroundings of a property to incorporate those colors into its project interiors. “Nature- inspired colors are quite common for hospitality projects located near the water,” she said. “We work on a lot of coastal proper- ties so we often incorporate various shades of blue, for instance.” Neutral colors like beige and gray, plus a range of light and dark, remain popular choices across the hospitality sector, observers say. “We’re seeing a huge shift into neutrals in the hospitality space,” Interface’s Knight said. “It’s important to have a wide variety of options, but it is even more important to be able to offer custom capabilities for color so designers can match to specific requirements or palettes.” Since each project has its own color scheme, gaining access
to a vast assortment of flooring choices is paramount to designers. “But having the right base that works well with the concept is very important,” Remenschneider said. “Having a large, high- quality selection of grays, tans and other neutrals is especially key.”
To meet both needs, companies such as Shaw Hospitality Group consistently add fashion-forward colors to their commercial carpet libraries. “With more than 720 print colors and 288 Eco Solution Q dyed nylon colors for tufted and CYP carpets,” Scott said, “our color options are comprehensive yet flexible, allowing clients to make effective selections with ease.”
MEETING SUSTAINABILITY OBJECTIVES
A well thought out design can have a significant impact on the amount of waste and attic stock requirements; reducing both can contribute to meeting designers’ sustainability objectives. However, if a product has the perfect colors but not the correct sustainable attributes, designers can find an alternative product and adjust the scheme as needed. “Since this is not ideal in sticking with the design concept, I don’t see this happening very often in hospitality,” Remenschneider said. “In many cases, the design intent takes precedence, although it may not be the most sustain- able.”
Concerns over sustainability in meeting LEED building requirements have been greatly reduced in the hospitality market as more flooring producers list environmental and health data so their product claims are transparent and verifiable,
Carpet remains the preferred flooring for guest rooms and public areas inside hotels. This design project inside the Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts was done by Pierre Yves-Rochon, a subsidiary of Perkins+Will focused on high-end hospitality work. Photo credit: Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts.
according to published reports. Plus, mills have made a concert- ed effort to develop products with their life cycle in mind.
“Our solution-dyed nylon and dye-injection print carpets are made with Eco Solution Q nylon on either our standard ClassicBac or EcoWorx backing,” Scott said. “Our Cradle-to- Cradle certified silver flooring system is backed by our environ- mental guarantee — meaning at the end of its useful life, we will reclaim old product at no cost to the customer and manage this waste through our extensive internal recycling portfolio.”
Similarly, sustainability is part of Interface’s DNA as the mill reports having focused on reducing its own impact on the environment since 1994 with its Mission Zero initiative. “And we are well on our way through energy efficiency, renewable energy efforts and our commitment to designing and manufacturing sustainable closed-loop products,” Knight said.
Flooring producers are a valuable resource for specifiers, serving as a sounding board, as well as recommending viable solutions to help them meet the flooring spec. “It’s also critical for designers to look carefully at each supplier to ensure they are delivering on stated sustainability objectives,” Knight added.
“The only issues I’ve run into with carpet related to sustain- ability objectives has been the backing on some carpet tile products,” Perkins+Will’s Leskaj observed. “But, most manufacturers provide backings that meet or exceed the objective.”
Durkan is addressing sustainability and performance at the same time. As the need for noise reduction and underfoot com- fort are becoming a bigger part of end-use specification, the mill is launching a 99% recycled post-consumer attached pad to fill the need. “Not only are we recycling bottles that can’t be used in the production of face fiber, we are providing noise reduction, underfoot comfort and additional thermal value to the carpet,” Gallman said. “All of our broadloom products are also Red List free.”
The plethora of commercial carpet provides specifiers with endless features to weigh and benefits to compare. Looking ahead, the challenge for the A&D community is determining which qualities meet the needs of their hospitality clients. “In some areas, we are still seeing the lush, ornate broadlooms with the intention of giving the space a grand, high-end feel and look,” Remenschneider said. “But in many areas — such as corridors, guest rooms and even gaming floors — we are seeing the use of carpet tile, especially as owners are becoming more aware of the wide variety of design options and the ease of installation and maintenance.”