For guests who want an authentic and genuine hotel experience, “living like a local” is a must. Staci Patton, principal, DLR Group, discusses what it truly means to create a space that inspires guests to experience the surrounding neighborhood—and inspires locals to come inside.
All hotels these days talk about how guests want to “live like a local.” What does this really mean?
I feel guests want to experience the best of its locale and sometimes the best doesn’t mean the most obvious or popular. Guests are seeking to feel and see the unique destinations off the beaten path. The opportunity for hotels is to introduce these experiences beginning when a guest books their stay. From there we see that many guests start to research and build their lists of fun places to see and amazing food to experience. Each hotel can offer engaged content that showcases the “live local” options for their guests on social media and their website. Sharing options of curated community partners with guests sets them up for a satisfying stay and saves them some research time. Having fond memories of those experiences will directly correlate to the hotel. Guests will remember this extra, “going beyond,” offering and have a much higher regard for the spirit of the hotel and will more likely return for another adventure on their next stay. Further, curating an interior space with access to the street experience can welcome in locals, and that is where the magic can happen. Guests mix and mingle with true locals and there we see further impromptu sharing happening. Guests will really feel like they have the inside knowledge on local retail, restaurants, or experiences.
Tell me a bit about your approach to designing a hotel that embraces local culture. Where do you start? What’s your process like?
Connecting with a community can take many forms. It ranges from engaging local artists and restaurants as well as using elements from nature in the design. We look at the community for our initial inspiration and then begin to pull in native elements into the building’s design—whether it be nature, historic elements or craftsmanship from the area.
By bringing in components such as a local artist’s work or neighborhood food vendors, a hotel can inspire people to learn more and engage with the city beyond the walls of the property.
Our goal is always to inspire people to learn more and connect with the local community because it not only enrichens their experience, but also helps to support local businesses.
You recently worked on the Canopy by Hilton Minneapolis Mill District. How did you infuse “local” into the design? What are the key, signature moments?
Canopy by Hilton Minneapolis Mill District presented us with the preservation of the historic 1904 Thresher Square complex. Using the space and its relationship to Minneapolis, we were able to draw on the rich history of the town and the importance Thresher Square once held.
The largest signature design moment is the Sift. This atrium sculpture was influenced by wheat manufacturing, which was the original purpose of the space. Inspired by wheat falling through sift, this piece of art reflects on the rich manufacturing history of the building and surrounding Minneapolis.
Because of its location, we also took inspiration from the surrounding Minnesota culture. Agrarian elements and Scandavian design motifs were brought in to embrace the local design culture. By incorporating rich textures and patterns throughout the art, furniture and building Canopy by Hilton Minneapolis Mill District provides the comforts of Scandinavian home-works: quilting, weaving, fire and candlelight.
Is there anything you have to take into consideration when doing this with a branded property? Does the process differ from an independent hotel?
When working with a major hotel brand, it is key to remain true to its pre-existing image. Patrons stay at a Hilton-brand hotel with a certain level of expectancy for an elevated experience, and also crave the uniqueness independent hotels have grown to provide. By bringing in local design elements, we can enhance the experience for guests by providing them with a unique outlook on what they have come to expect from hotel groups.
When done well, how does local design aid in both the guest’s and the hotel’s relationship with the community?
One of Canopy by Hilton Minneapolis Mill District’s greatest successes is the Canopy Central Umbra. This space changes throughout the day to fit the needs of the guests and the community. The Umbra is complete with a mix of furniture from high tops for working and soft couches for relaxing. During breakfast and lunch hours, the space shifts to provide guests with localized dining options and at night it can transform into a community space for concerts and other events. Canopy by Hilton Minneapolis Mill District encourages guests to move around the furniture to create their own environment. Interactive commons allow for guests and the community to come in and feel at home in the space.
We are also reimagining traditional meeting room in hotels. No longer are these spaces solely being used for conferences. Canopy by Hilton Minneapolis Mill District hosts wellness events in these spaces for groups throughout the community that guests can also partake in during their stay.
Are there any mistakes you see hotels making when it comes to “living like a local”?
It is easy for a hotel to become “gimmicky.” As designers, we have to reflect the understanding that guests know they are staying at a hotel when they book a stay and we do not want to lose that stay-in experience. If design is taken too far, guests can see that a hotel is trying too hard to disguise itself as something that it is not.