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Technology, open room layouts lead to changes in furniture

The look of guestrooms has changed dramatically in recent years as a result of hoteliers’ desire to open up the space more and offer state-of-the art amenities like flat-screen televisions. Furnishings have naturally evolved to keep pace with the new guestroom designs.
“There is a trend away from the big furniture pieces like armoires to the architectural pieces— lounging elements and upholstered pieces built in— and that opens up the room,” said Pat Murphy, partner at Morrison Seifert Murphy.
The advent of flat-screen televisions has significantly contributed to the shift away from armoires, Murphy added. “The television used to be hidden in the armoire but now there’s a move to a gentleman’s chest or credenza with the television mounted above it,” he said.
Furniture suppliers like Furniture Design Studios have taken steps to adapt to the flat-screen television phenomena, noted Charles Monaco, the company’s design director. “In the past three years we’ve redesigned units to accommodate the televisions that are mounted on the wall. We’ve done some framing to match the furniture and put panels on top of the dresser to hold the television above it and built wire management in,” Monaco said.
Overall, “the trend is for clean line furniture styles with a warm, residential feel,” said Peter Mandel, director of Duralee Fine Furniture. “Dark woods are prevalent and upholstery fabrics in solids with textures and a sprinkling of pattern are currently popular.”
There has been a marked shift to contemporary, clean looks in pieces such as dressers, desks and nightstands, according to Monaco. “And we’re seeing more exotic woods. Some hotels were using mahogany but that’s expensive. Now it’s moving a lot more to angre wood and there’s also a big run on kewazinga wood from Africa. It’s a really sleek, good-looking wood and there is a lot of it available,” he said.
The traditional guestroom closet is also evolving, according to Amy Burchette, senior designer at Portfolio Associates. “We’re seeing new closet units rather than the built-in closets at the entry of the room. Some have drawers and an entertainment center with the minibar and space for the coffee service. It can replace the typical closet and dresser unit or armoire,” Burchette said.
Many hotels are also putting rolling desks into the guestrooms with casters to afford the guest more flexibility when it comes to working in the room. “And in the bathroom the vanity has become more like a piece of freestanding furniture,” she added.
The growing popularity of moveable desks on casters stems from the desire to have furniture that is more practical and functional in the guestroom, according to Brad Winsor, director of sales for Braman Furniture International.
“Decorative functionality” is a key concept in furniture these days, according to Renee Kiser, partner at Studio R Interiors. “Especially in case goods, brands are developing signature furniture pieces with specific functionality. Independent hoteliers are also incorporating furnishings that have guests’ functionality needs in mind,” she said.
The new Hotel Indigo brand has a new concept for a lobby chair, she noted. “It’s called ‘table for one’ and is a chair with a built-in table so the guest can sit and work or have a snack in the lobby,” Kiser said.
On the supplier side, Kiser noted that more highly styled “green product” is available in upholstered products. “In the past, many companies didn’t have separate green divisions for hotels. That’s changing. JL Furnishings, for example, created a new division, Lone Meadow,” she said.
However, going green is expensive, pointed out Joseph Cabrera, president of NLP Furniture Industries, Inc. “Green is such a big thing but we still have a long way to go. I’m a big supporter but with it comes the cost,” he said. “Everything has to be water-based, made from recycled materials and the certification process is like dealing with a government audit— it takes forever.”
Different materials are being used to add interest to case goods, according to Winsor. “We see people [in the hotel industry] looking for variety and some different materials like more granite tops, metal as accents and Lumicor on headboards. That’s because the trend is still toward contemporary and there is not much you can do to spice it up unless you use different materials,” he said.
A trend evident at resorts is the use of outdoor fabrics for furniture within the room, Murphy noted. “Some of these fabrics look like indoor fabrics and offer better durability for chaises or lounge chairs in the room. It’s a very nice fit for resorts where guests come in with wet bathing suits,” he said.
There is also more attention being given to “regional market tendencies,” Kiser said. “This is now being embraced by brands, even in their standard packages,” she said, explaining that there is more flexibility now then was evident with the “cookie cutter approach” of the past when all furnishings were the same. “A hotel in Texas, for example, might have furnishings with a Southwestern flair,” she explained.
The banquet or stackable seating category has also taken some new directions, particularly with many hotels enlarging and upgrading their ballrooms and meeting spaces, according to Greg Piper, executive vp of sales for MTS Seating. “There is a real desire for comfort and a more contemporary look for banquet seating. In the past, stack chairs were almost an afterthought, but now it’s getting much more attention. Along with comfort and style, quick delivery is key,” Piper said, adding MTS Seating’s newest products incorporate a blend of attractive design and comfortable features, such as a flexible back, built-in lumbar support and cross webbing on the seat.