Designer    Case Study 01 Nov 2013

Luxury Hotel Bathrooms: International designer bathrooms that are well worth a visit

Bringing a touch of hotel luxury to the home is about selecting the key elements that make the difference and making them work in a residential context. We look at some hotel bathrooms that are well worth checking-in to…

Time was, the first thing visitors to a hotel would check as a measure of the quality of the establishment is the mattress on the bed. Nowadays, it’s more likely to be a look at the bathroom that will reveal whether they have struck it lucky with their booking, or checked themselves into a nightmare.

At the luxury end of the market, a beautiful bathroom can inspire an overwhelming sense of desire to capture some of that comfort and style in the home, and it can be the experience that plants the seeds in a prospective customers mind. Darren Paxford, National Sales Manager at VitrA, says: “Most people will typically only visit a bathroom showroom if they’re considering a bathroom renovation, but many will go on holiday maybe once or twice year.

“It is here that they are likely to experience the latest trends for the first time and re-evaluate the bathroom they have at home rather than a showroom. This can often provide the inspiration to make that change and the stimulus to head to their nearest showroom to find out how they can bring this look into their home.”

So what is it about these spaces that sets off this aspirational train of thought? Feran Thomassen, Designer of the Mainport Hotel in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, says that designing hotel spaces presents something of a creative paradox: “You can have mixed feelings about hotels – should they feel like a ‘home away from home’, or be completely different and offer a one-off experience?

“Early on in the design, I decided that the rooms in Mainport should focus on the most important values for having a comfortable stay, the core business so to say. This meant large, high quality beds and large bathrooms with superb walk-in showers and in-room Spa extras to ensure a state of wellbeing for all guests.”

Thomassen adds that focusing on the bathroom in hotels makes perfect sense as studies have found that 70% of the time spent awake in a hotel room is spent in the bathroom. “Within the design I have made an effort to make the bathroom both functional and a pleasant place to be. This meant the inclusion of a large walk-in shower for a start, a TV in the mirror for watching the morning news and a range of spa facilities – including a whirlpool in all the rooms and a private sauna in a third of them – to help relax after a busy day.”

“Perhaps residential interiors could benefit by focusing and considering both what the needs are and what would contribute to unwind. The perfect bathroom creates a mix between the two and blends in well with the interior and warmth of the bedroom by using natural materials and the appropriate light fittings.”

A greater understanding of the bathroom as more than just a functional space in the home is perhaps the biggest driver behind the overall thirst for luxury finishes. Elliot March, co-founder of interior design and architecture studio March & White, says: “Perceptions of bathrooms have shifted – people see it as an area

of investment and one to design specifically. Especially after staying in a hotel, they want to recreate that same luxury look in their home. It is now a special area, and a little piece of luxury, rather than ‘just a bathroom’.”

He adds that more and more innovative materials are available now so the residential sector can achieve the luxury hotel feel at home. “Strong design features such as the striking colour palettes and variety of contemporary finishes used in our Sussex Garden apart hotel project influences the residential sector as many clients look to replace the former English décor. Luxurious material palettes are at the forefront of our design.”

Enhanced modern technology – wall hung pans, hidden cisterns, accessed via a dual flush plate – means that this is no longer just a hotel feature and is something that can be translated into residential bathrooms. The shift towards contemporary glass screens and wet rooms rather than the traditional shower enclosure opens up a wealth of opportunities in terms of finishes, for example, the floor and wall finish has to be thought out, and designed into the rest of the bathroom for that seamless finish.

Marsh adds that integrated intelligent lighting and AV systems can now also easily extend from living spaces into bathroom areas. “We find that all these elements are actually more suited to contemporary living standards, and even to the more practical issues such as cleaning – integrated systems and continuous materials avoid grout lines which are more time consuming to keep looking their best.”

Alongside all the talk on this magazine’s pages about open-plan kitchens, a similarly broad approach to the bathroom has been growing in recent years.

The Traddock Hotel in the North Yorkshire Dales features a suite with a bath tub in the bedroom. Paul Reynolds, Owner, explains: “We wanted to offer our guests a break from the norm. When we added a claw-footed bath tub to our Gordale mini-suite nine years ago, no one was doing baths in the bedroom.

“We thought it would create an intimate and new experience for open-minded guests to set us apart from our competition. It did and still does attract the most attention from guests. We get a premium rate for the room and occupancy for this room is over 90% year round.

He admits: “It’s not to everyone’s taste, but it tends to be a ‘mature’ minority who don’t like it!” Dan Visser, Marketing Director at the Brimstone Hotel in the Lake District, also places great emphasis on the bath as a star feature for its key rooms. He says: “The inspiration for Brimstone came from wanting to offer experiences of the highest quality without any of the stuffiness usually found in luxury hotels, and an experience that is beyond boutique.”

Zoe Oakley, Director of hotel website which handles bookings at the Brimstone, says: “There was a real desire to draw inspiration from the surrounding countryside. Designers from Greyline Design used nature’s colour scheme, from the grey of the slate to the purple that can be seen in the bark of the trees, to create luxurious bathrooms that provide a tranquil haven.”

Open plan has its limits though. Some ultra-modern ‘design’ hotels have opted  for a truly open-plan layout, with all physical barriers within the room removed. Thomassen says: “Nowadays domestic bathrooms are a lot more luxurious creating different expectations when entering a hotel. I think it is most important to create the appropriate atmosphere  and get the basics right. Take me and my wife for example. We live together, are crazy about each other – may even take a bath together – but at the end of the day, we are glad to have  a private toilet separated from the bathroom.” Making good use of all available space is important of course, with many new residential developments seeing bigger dimensions given over to the bathroom in order to achieve the desired luxury.

Peter Joehnk, Co-Managing Director of hospitality design specialists JOI-Design, says: “Where space allows, hotel bathrooms are being designed with generous bathtubs and showers conventionally used in spas, furniture that feels plush and residential rather than clinical and functional, layouts that afford a view from the tub and – at the top end of the market – individual his ‘n’ hers bathrooms.

“For smaller suites, separate wet rooms provide a sense of spaciousness and opulence. Multi-layered lighting is important too so that the illumination is practical for grooming in front of the vanity mirror yet also atmospheric when the bathroom is used as a place to unwind. And as technology advances, water-efficient fittings no longer mean a compromise on luxury.”

Kicki Carlsson-Boyd, Managing Director of sauna and spa specialists Dröm UK, says that consumers are increasingly wanting to recreate the spa and luxury hotel bathroom experience in their own homes – something she believes is easier than ever to achieve thanks to the availability of high-end products. “For a minimal, contemporary look, take away the need for a shower tray and hard to clean doors by turning an ensuite into a wet room with a spacious walk-in shower.

“For the more luxurious look, if the grandeur of the solid marble surroundings is slightly out of your budget, use real marble veneer tiles to bring back that feeling of decadence. Use crystal lenses, chandeliers or chromotherapy lighting in a steam shower for added boutique hotel indulgence.”

The importance of being ‘on trend’ is central to any high-end hotel’s offering. Thomassen says: “Trends come and go. When developing a brand new five star hotel, you need to be ahead of trends to beat the competition. Years ago it was normal to stand in a bathtub when taking a shower, those days are long gone. However, simply offering a separate shower does not do it today.”

For the Mainport hotel in Rotterdam, he says the focus was on look and feel and the way the bathroom blends in with the color scheme in the room: “It is all about functionality combined with spa facilities, design elements and gadgets. Who knows, perhaps 20 years from now we will think of bathrooms without private saunas the same was as we feel today about taking a shower in the bathtub.”

Published in Designer Kitchen & Bathroom Magazine