Is intimacy the new luxury?

Founding DMA director, Dexter Moren talks on the evolving approach to hotel lobby design.

Recently I had the pleasure of visiting two newish hotels in Istanbul: the newly opened Soho House and Raffles. Both offer first class service with equally beautiful interiors but the design of the lobby area marks a significant point of difference.

Raffles’ reception presents a grand entrance space with high ceilings, acres of marble, dramatic art work and smart seating. Soho House on the other hand is a thoroughly more intimate affair. Despite the grand backdrop of the 19th century palazzo, the reception area feels more like part of a house with ambient lighting and casual seating arrangements demarking smaller, more intimate spaces. It’s perhaps not surprising given the different positioning of the brands, and Soho House’s dual function as a private members club, but it got me thinking about the different ways luxury can be expressed.

In the last decade we’ve seen a move in the luxury sector from ‘having’ to ‘feeling’; guests are no longer impressed by ostentatious service, opulent materials and finishes on their own, they want to ‘feel’ luxurious and comfortable in their surroundings. Linked to this, is the drive for a more authentic travel experience rooted in a hotel’s locale rather than a one size fits all five-star offer. Interior architecture and design in this new luxury experience is focused on natural colour schemes, softer lines and locally-sourced design ideas and materials.

This new idea of luxury will also spur the transformation of lobbies from waiting spaces to active spaces. With this trend, which we at Dexter Moren Associates have witnessed across all segments of the hotel market, hotel design is developing reception spaces into dynamic multi-use areas with creative space segmentation and a range of seating options.

Soho House’s brand promise is to create a ‘home from home’ for its members. This new style of lobby goes much further than creating a sense of arrival: it’s more about creating a sense of belonging.