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Home Away From Home

Airport hotels have always catered to business travelers, serving as a place to rest their heads for a night as they rush out the next morning. Or, a place to simply touch back at in between meetings and events. The Grand Hyatt at SFO, however, is taking a different approach, with a departure from this “in and out” mentality.

BraytonHughes Design Studios has reimagined the hotel’s spaces with what the firm calls an “empathetic design approach,” hoping to keep travelers at the hotel, possibly to host some meetings on-site, or to provide a cozy place to enjoy a nightcap after a long day.

“At Grand Hyatt at SFO, we wanted to bring a sense of serenity to a busy airport campus, and we coupled this with a design goal of giving guests a sense of the local language, regardless of whether they would stay briefly in the destination while conducting business or venture deeper into the city and explore the surrounding environs,” said Kiko Singh, principal at BraytonHughes Design Studios. “Grand Hyatt at SFO departs from a typical airport hotel experience—where the decor, food and service can be generic and offer little indication of the locale—and encourages moments to pause, relax and linger, whether you are enjoying up-close views of jumbo jets through floor-to-ceiling windows, experiencing art by local artists or imagining various Bay Area scenes through carefully crafted design details.”

Inspired by the natural elements of the San Francisco Bay area, coupled with the spirit of Northern California, the hotel’s design incorporates nature to awaken guests’ curiosity.

“Timed with the Terminal 1 renovation and part of SFO’s larger multiphase improvement plan, our design sought to connect to the airport’s site-sensitive features—from yoga rooms to organic dining options and a 6,000-ft.-zen garden-inspired zone—while delivering a distinctive ‘home away from home’ experience for travelers beyond the airport bustle,” Singh said.

To achieve this, Singh explained that the firm needed to create a story that leads guests on a journey as soon as they touch down by air or arrive by car.

“The walk through the eucalyptus grove starts once one enters the lobby. The public areas act as a canvas to highlight large sculptures from local artists and the jumbo jets that are parked nearby. The guestrooms are a sanctuary so a traveler who is tired from a long flight can relax and unwind,” she said.

BraytonHughes designed the guestrooms, lobby, public areas, Grand Club and meeting spaces, while interior design firm RoseBernard Studio designed the restaurant and bar. San Francisco-based architect Hornberger + Worstell and associate ED21 also worked on the project.

Regarding business travelers, Grand Hyatt at SFO has conveniences in its uplifting space to help these guests stay comfortable.

“Regarding meeting spaces, focus groups revealed what companies across different industries wanted, and we integrated privacy and flexibility in response, creating event venues and pre-function areas to adapt to business and social occasions without compromising elegance and the regional narrative,” Singh said.

To make business more business casual, meeting rooms display the airplanes through tall windows, creating a refreshing environment. Singh said that the 14,435 sq. ft. of meeting spaces were inspired by the colors and shapes of the bay, with carpet patterns featuring deep blues and shapes reminiscent of sailboats.

“Event venues are named after airplane models such as Supersonic and Stratocruiser and contain sketches of planes over San Francisco, providing a gallery-like experience for business travelers to slow down and enjoy a bit of aviation history and local art,” she noted.

Artwork has the power to shift the mind, Singh said, especially the hotel’s piece of stained glass that immediately greets guests into the hotel and in the double-height ground floor lobby that showcases a 28-ft. hand-cut glass and stone mosaic between levels one and two.

“In addition to showcasing expansive views of SFO and the surrounding Bay Area, the hotel features double-height volumes which we leveraged for thoughtful connections between spaces and artwork placements, reorienting guests’ minds toward relaxation and attentiveness,” she said.

Guests can also enjoy local art, commissioned by the international airport in cooperation with the San Francisco Arts Commission, with photographs and abstract paintings of San Francisco and Northern California through the eyes of local artists.

Singh explained that in bringing luxury and serenity to a busy space, the design’s intentions are to connect guests, locals and visitors to make them feel more alive and human.

“Warm-toned vertical wood slats in the lobby give guests the impression of being guided by tall trees as if walking through a eucalyptus grove,” she said. “With a color palette of serene grays and blues and dark eucalyptus millwork, sound-proofed guestrooms are an homage to the liberating feeling of approaching the beach and seeing sandy cliffs amid an open landscape. The Grand Ballroom and event spaces are inspired by waves and sailboats spotted on the bay, with carpet patterns activating the experience and guiding guests through each of the event venues.”