How Hospitality Design Trends are Influencing Today’s Workplace

by Matt Bushey, September 25, 2018

From the reception desk to the break room, the modern workplace is changing. The last few years have brought significant change to how we do our work and the design of the environment in which we work with each other.

At TruexCullins our studio structure allows us the opportunity to develop our expertise in specific markets, and to work across markets when we see synergies between project types. This has been the case for hospitality design and commercial interiors. Both on a national level and here in Vermont, the design trends and concepts for hotels and restaurants are making their way into the design of today’s office space.

Why this is happening is clear when you consider the nature of work today. We all seek more complete, authentic experiences, whether it’s when we’re on vacation or while putting in the daily 9-to-5. We have also witnessed a disintegration of the boundaries separating our work life from our social life (sometimes under the guise of a healthier work-life balance). Add in rapid advancements in technology and dramatic shifts in workforce demographics, and you have the perfect recipe for these hospitality-driven design trends to take hold in the corporate world.

Here are three of them:

A SENSE OF PLACE

One of the biggest trends in the hospitality world today is the embrace of regional-based design, which is in stark contrast to the approach taken by branded hotels of the past half century. Not so long ago, hotels strived to provide the same, dependable experience for guests everywhere. Hotel interiors looked and felt exactly the same, from Boston to Berkeley.

Today, hotels are embracing their neighborhoods and offering experiences specific to their location. This trend began with boutique hotels and is now extending to even the largest hotel chains, offering guests a unique experience and a real sense of the city they are visiting.

This connection to the local culture is now extending to the workplace as well. Companies are leaving their office parks and moving to our downtowns, and their location is often a big part of how they identify themselves as a company.

TruexCullins worked with one Vermont-based Asset Management Firm to do exactly that. Moving into a new office space with panoramic views of Lake Champlain, the company decided to draw heavily on the regional flavor. The space is designed to celebrate and connect with the beauty and spirit of the surrounding landscape.

The lobby and reception area features hardwood floors harvested from the Vermont forest, white oak millwork, and marble quarried from the Champlain basin. Other woods and fabrics in the space bring in more of the hand-crafted Vermont feel. A custom ceiling provides a warm glow across the space, with backlit sail cloth that forms an emotional connection with the sailboats drifting by right outside the window.

A WELCOMING RECEPTION

The traditional hotel check-in process – where you hand over a credit card and the receptionist hands you the keys to your room – is going the way of the land-line. Hotels are reimagining the check-in process so it’s less of a transaction and more of an experience – one that is welcoming, friendly, and sets a positive first impression for your stay.

The front desk itself is getting smaller or being split into “pods”, breaking down the barrier between host and guest. Some hotels are experimenting with seated check-in, where a host may sit with you in the lobby and use an iPad to confirm your room. Other hotels may offer a drink or snack from a connected bar, and in some cases, the receptionist doubles as the bartender.

All of these concepts are making their way into the design of today’s workplace. The office receptionist is now more akin to a hotel concierge than a traditional desk attendant. Advances in technology are eliminating old tasks (such as the need to direct phone calls; we’ve got voicemail for that), and changes in office culture are leading us to rethink traditional roles (think of the DIY culture of tech startups).

Some companies have opted to eliminate the position altogether, but many have chosen to maintain a presence at the front desk, albeit with significant changes. For these companies, it is important to keep that human contact, welcoming visitors and directing them in.

TruexCullins is currently working with Vermont Sportscar – one of the top rally car assembly shops in North America. At their new facility now under construction in Milton, the receptionist will serve double-duty as an office host and in-house barista. Forgoing the traditional reception desk, Vermont Sportscar chose to install a multi-use work counter and coffee bar. An employee will sit here to greet visitors and answer questions, but the counter also serves as a place for visitors and employees to enjoy a coffee while they check out the latest cars on display. The “front desk” becomes more than a transaction point.  It’s the hub of a social and gathering space.

INTEGRATED FOOD & BEVERAGE

Another trend in hotel design today is the breakdown between the traditional lobby and the hotel bar or restaurant. By blurring that line, the lobby becomes an extension of the bar, with guests mingling and mixing. The lobby is more activated, with a variety of uses throughout the day.

In today’s office, this concept has translated into a proliferation of multi-use social spaces, where employees may share a meal or conduct an impromptu meeting in the same space. Gone is the traditional break room. In its place is a more open, more flexible kitchen or café, often occupying the most prominent real estate within an office. Sometimes it’s available for visitors as well, a place where employees and clients can meet in a more casual, social setting.

The kitchen has taken on a primary role at the recently renovated workspace of Bigelow LLC, a mergers and acquisitions firm in Portsmouth, NH.

The office is comprised of two zones. The front half of the space is essentially a European-style café surrounded by meeting spaces of different sizes. When visitors step into this office, their first experience is a warm, friendly one, with a residential feel. Books and artifacts line one side of the space, and an open kitchen defines the other. The room has a mix of lounge seating, shared tables, and bar seating at the kitchen counter for employees and guests. This kitchen and café is the heart of the office.

Similar to the newest boutique hotels, workplace design is becoming more social, more integrated, and more site-specific. By leveraging the best strategies in hotel and restaurant design, we can bring these attributes to the design of today’s modern, collaborative workspace.

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