What new designs and creature comforts can you expect to see when you visit a hotel in the near future?
For a hotel products preview, I attended the industry’s real life take on a crystal ball, the two annual trade shows — HX: the Hotel Experience and BD Boutique and Design Fair — that eat up a chunk of New York’s cavernous Javits Center for several days each November.
From the thousands of offerings on view, including those only a hotel manager could love — advanced waste handling systems, anyone? — I zeroed in on the little guys, small companies often run by an entrepreneurial inventor with something fresh to show. Here’s what caught my eye.
Hot Seat Come chilly weather, hotels break out heating towers for their patios and plazas. But that doesn’t mean you still won’t, uh, freeze your butt off. Or so thought Aaron Jones, an enterprising student of architecture and urban planning, back in 2010. The result: stylish outdoor love seats and club chairs designed to look good, withstand the elements and heat up. Heated furniture by Galanter & Jones, Jones’ San Francisco company, comes with a knob to adjust the temperature, a plug-in cord like a discreet tail and a drainage hole to accommodate rain and snow. The Kosmos Chair, a mid-century-riffing bucket seat perched on sleek metal legs, is the company’s new model. I road-tested it at the Javits. Definitely gets the job done.
Hang Ups With changing lifestyles in mind, hotels are rethinking traditional furniture and storage options, from dressers to closets. Asked to come up with storage ideas for rooms with minimal closet space at Buffalo, NY’s hip new Hotel Henry, Southern California designer Donna Matsumoto of Matsumoto Architectural Hardware embraced brushed stainless steel tubing. With multiple arms at the ready, her Styx coat rack (yes, it’s named for the band) holds almost anything you like —scarves, computer bags, hats, coats — and doubles as a handsome sculptural object. “Millennials have a different mindset and don’t mind alternatives to closets,” she says.
On the Wall As a former buyer for Rosewood Hotels and a member of a Dallas family that’s been in the printing business “forever,” as she puts it, Lindsay Wood’s two-year-old venture look.Walls & Interiors is the embodiment of her CV. Dissatisfied with ho-hum hotel wall coverings, Wood fulfilled her aim to transform the wall into art with a spectacular line of contemporary designs, many created by artists — art deco geometrics, polka-dot pandas, atmospheric abstractions, hyper-large florals and feathers. Thanks to digital printing, the images can be customized, so designers can choose the colors, scale and backing material, including vinyl, metallics or grass cloth. My prediction: you’ll be seeing more show stopping ceilings and accent walls at hotels.
Light My Fire Who wouldn’t want to hang out in a hotel suite or lobby with dancing flames in the fireplace? At the behest of a persistent client lacking a chimney, Brooklyn architect Arthur Lasky devised Hearth Cabinet, a ventless fireplace powered by gel cartridges that eliminates the need for encumbrances like a flue, wood, gas lines, electricity and a chimney. Lasker compares the gel cartridges to chafing fuel, “like you use in your chocolate fondue warmer.” Bonus: because it’s real, the fire throws off heat even through glass. You’ll find ventless fireplaces in suites at New York’s sybaritic Surrey Hotel. New this year: a double-sided ventless fireplace shaped like a metal trapezoid available in eye-catching colors. Expect to see them at ski resorts and hotel terraces.
Drawer Safe There’s a reason those clunky hotel safes usually wind up in closets. Which is why the KD50 Safe Drawer from Italy’s indel B caught my eye. In repose, it looks like a sleek black glass panel that doubles as a drawer front in a desk, cabinet or dresser. Awaken it with your fingers and numbers appear through the magic of touch technology. Tap in your code and the drawer slides open, big enough to hold your passport, diamonds, letters of transit, whatever you cherish. Close it, and it locks. Indel B also makes a minibar drawer that’s every bit as subtle and chic.
Elegant Receptacles Recycling is a good thing, so why do so many recycling bins look like they’re designed to collect toxic waste? Enter International Art Properties, aka IAP, a long-time maker of planters that added good-looking trash and recycling receptacles to their repertoire. If it weren’t for the absence of plants — and neatly printed prompts — it would be hard to tell the difference between planters and recycling bins from this Oakland, California company. The fiberglas beauties pictured here are their newest creations.
Multitasking Furniture When Loren Sherman, a theatrical set designer, moved into a new Manhattan apartment with his two children in 2000, he needed furniture that did double duty. The result? Tablebed, a table that could fold up and morph into a pull down bed. Putting old-style Murphy beds to shame, Sherman’s invention became the cornerstone of Inova, the space-saving furniture company he started near Albany, NY. No surprise it’s popular with family-centric hotels. Inova’s latest creation is the slim-line Optima Sofa-Wall Bed. By day, it looks like a sofa set in a towering wood cabinet. By night, the cabinet front pulls down to become a platform bed — sweet, but no great feat for a designer who once created a sofa-bed for an Off-Broadway show that unfolded in front of the audience with two already people in it.