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Hyatt House is Outfitting Their Chairs With Power Outlets (And Other Awesome Design Details)

October 13, 2011 at 2:45 PM | by | Comments (0)

Welcome to our newest new feature, Design Thursdays! Thursdays are now our day to focus on hotel design through photo tours, video walkthroughs and interviews with hotel designers. Got a cool hotel design story we should know about? Let us know!

Just a few weeks ago, Hyatt Hotels surprised us with the announcement of their new brand, Hyatt House, which they hope will reinvigorate their extended stay offerings.

Right now, all of Hyatt's Summerfield Suites and Hotel Sierra hotels are turning into Hyatt Houses with the service upgrade and remodels to continue throughout next year. The redesign aims to create public spaces and guestrooms that will be more home-like but at the same time, more social. (Don't worry, there's still free WiFi on offer.)

Judging by the renderings we saw after the announcement, we're sure that Hyatt House will thrill road warriors and extended-stay trippers, particularly with the revamped lobby henceforth known as the Great Lounge, but there's only so much we can learn from computerized graphics.

That's why we were happy to get the chance to speak with Michael Suomi, a principal at Stonehill & Taylor the firm that created the new Hyatt House concept and design. Two of the design firm's past clients are among our favorite hotels in New York--The Ace and The Crosby Street Hotel--which intrigued us even more. Big box brands borrowing from boutique hotels is nothing new these days but to do it for an extended stay brand? We could hardly contain our excitement.

So without further adieu, let's delve into the design details with Michael Suomi. And we never thought we'd say this, but the brand's new proprietary chair is totally worth this read.

HotelChatter: How will Hyatt House differ from other extended-stay brands in terms of design?

Michael Suomi, Principal at Stonehill & Taylor: Hyatt gave us complete freedom to rethink the extended-stay experience and we designed a new type of hotel that is not only comfortable and contemporary, but one that we feel better fits the needs of long-term, as well as welcome short-term guests.

We first noticed that there was no real center of activity in these types of hotels, guest function areas were separated from each other and didn’t capitalize on the need guests have to multitask. The breakfast areas were busy during the 4-hour complimentary breakfast service in the morning, and then shut off to create dead-zones during the rest of the day.

We went on to create a real sense of “place” – a well-defined oversized mixed-use lounge where guests will be able to hangout during the entire day. In Hyatt House, the Great Lounge will be operational for 18 hours a day. Along with sitting, home entertainment and individual work areas, the multi-functional H bar will transform from a breakfast bar in the morning to a cocktail bar in the evening. In the backyard, we created areas that can be used for sun bathing during the day or as an outdoor lounge during the evening, with a built-in guest kitchen and conversation areas around a fire pit.

Another major difference of Hyatt House from the rest of the category is the transient rooms. Extended-stay hotels typically have studios, 1 or 2 bedrooms. We found that about a quarter of guests stay in these hotels for 1-3 nights and we incorporated an option for short-term stay with transient rooms attached to one-bedrooms. This is a category first.

HotelChatter: A lot of emphasis in hotel interior design these days is going towards functional furniture, ie. a nightstand with a pull-out tray for breakfast in bed or a table that can also serve as a work station. So what are some pieces for Hyatt House that are doing double duty?

Suomi: We are designing a proprietary chair for Hyatt House that draws ideas from automotive and airline seating and addresses both social flexibility and an “always-on” lifestyle.

In a time when people are in constant need of power, we outfitted the chair with power outlets, saving guests the hassle of looking for plugs. The chair may also feature a fold-out tray for laptops, a reading light, reclining back, a cup holder and heating option, providing ultimate comfort for working.

The chair is designed to be versatile for group seating or privacy for working individually. The top curved sides of the chair help people focus their peripheral vision, allowing complete concentration on work. With a swivel, guests can work privately by turning away from the crowd or publicly by facing friends or colleagues.

HotelChatter: What was your inspiration or influences when designing for Hyatt House?

Suomi: We designed Hyatt House based on the way people want to live today. In the 60s, travel came with the excitement of living unique experiences away from home. There were things you did and saw that you wished you could carry back home. We wanted to bring some of that aspirational element back into the travel experience in Hyatt House.

We did a lot of research into design elements people identify in a dream vacation home and incorporated those elements into our design, such as kitchen islands as the center of activity, large walk-in showers and high-tech touch-screen tablets embedded in tables in the lobby. We wanted to offer aspirational features to guests that will make them look forward to coming back to Hyatt House.

HotelChatter: Did you draw from your experiences working with Ace and Crosby Street? Are there any similar pieces from those hotels to be found in Hyatt House?

Suomi: Absolutely. I think the main feature we carried from boutique projects like The Ace and Crosby Street is sociability. At The Ace, the lobby is a thriving place throughout the entire day, where people meet others or work on their own. There is a bit of a town square feel to it. Crosby Street, similarly, has a very active social scene. We thought this is an important element to improve the extended-stay experience.

During the design phase, we stayed in scores of extended-stay hotels and found the experience isolating. There was the obligatory manager’s free drink hour in the late afternoon that was not well attended, but nothing was offered to bring people together. One of our main goals with this project was to make the stay experience more social, giving the guests a comfortable place to entertain friends, co-workers and meet new ones. We planned an open layout for the Great Lounge, a lot of versatile seating areas that facilitate interaction between people.

HotelChatter: What are you most excited to introduce guests to at the Hyatt House?

Suomi: The fun and aspirational elements we are developing that guests would love to bring back home such as the game room, island kitchens, fire pits and dream showers. Those are some of the unique ideas that set this brand apart and are truly what you hope to have when on vacation.

Big thanks for Michael for dishing on the design deets with us and another shout-out to Defne for making this interview happen!

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