Last month I followed one of the latest Hotel Designs Live conferences, which was centred around how to ensure the best sleeping environment and improve sleep performance in hotels. We are always on the lookout for innovations that might improve the well-being of the residents in the accommodations we design, and many points and important topics were touched on during the panel. So, since most of these apply to different contexts, especially those of serviced accommodations, I thought it’d be interesting to discuss the topic further.
The panellists talked about what are the factors affecting our sleep, and how developers and designers can solve issues that are very diverse and often change from person to person.
About Hotel Designs
Hotel Designs is an important website focused on the research and news within the Hotels industry. It is mostly followed by hoteliers, designers, and architects, and since last years they have been organising interesting online conferences on various topics of interest regarding the hospitality sector’s development.
Every month a few topics are selected and analysed. Experts, designers and other figures within the industry have the opportunity to contribute to the discussion.
The perfect night sleep
Going back to the main topic, three were the panellists involved. Hannah Shore, a sleep expert working for Silentnight Group, the event’s sponsor, then Nathan Hutchins, Founder of Muza Lab, and Ananth Ramaswamy, Project Architect at The Doyle Collection.
I think it is interesting to look at the consumers’ demands and how these have evolved, or are evolving in recent years, as a starting point.
One important factor that is significantly different from any previous generation is the technology integration that we have today in every aspect of our life, and which of course permeates the experience within hotel rooms too. Technology, while developed to help us and make our lives easier, when it comes to our sleep’s quality it can become a disrupting factor.
For instance, we are often suggested to avoid watching a computer or phone screen in the evening right before going to bed. But there are many other minor disturbances that can seem negligible at first, but when summed all up can get might affect the quality of our sleep significantly. I am referring to small stand-by LEDs from different devices such as phones or TVs to blinking lights from fire/smoke alarms, or even noises and whines that can come from different machines, or even a lift right outside the room.
So, the first thing to do would be to keep in mind the basics. Consider all these factors that might negatively affect a person’s sleep and manage them. Naturally, some, such as road noises and lights, or lifts are outside of our control, so the design and construction have to step in. Sound-proofing is extremely important in this case and the materials’ choice can make the difference, the same goes for light insulation. Textiles and timber, as well as some new sustainable upcycled materials obtained by wastes such as Really by Kvadrat that we included in our 6 Top Materials for a Sustainable Interior in 2021, are a great solution in terms of interior design.
As for other kinds of noises and light pollution such as those coming from a phone the approach is different. Phones today are objects that everyone uses daily for work, entertainment, and more. Some might like to have them always by their side, maybe charge them at night, while others to avoid sudden lights or noises might want to keep them away. In any case, the designer will have to come up with different options to accommodate both these needs. Providing both storage spaces either by the bed or far from it as well as adding plugs where necessary to charge it.
Following these initial considerations, when it comes to sensory design the most important factors were probably what the panellists referred to as TLC, meaning Temperature, Light, and Comfort.
Generally, lighting preferences follow a similar pattern from subject to subject. It should be dictated by our circadian rhythm, and a designer should try to achieve almost complete darkness within a room to ensure the best sleep, and also use as much natural light as possible, as suggested by the principles of Biophilic Design.
Temperature preference instead can vary significantly between different people depending on their age, habits, and so on. Here is where the space needs to be flexible. A lot of study has to go into the locations’ climate and seasonality, average customer preferences, and also in the proper appliances research. Heating and air conditioning systems that work well and are easily usable should always be a priority.
Finally, comfort when it comes to sleeping is naturally about the mattress, pillows, and duvet, but there is also a lot more.
Here is where designers should apply a holistic approach to the space development. So, scents play a role, as do materials. A mattress can be warmer, or especially breathable, or both, adapting to a different location or target demographic’s preference. Everything else surrounding the bed, from the headboard to the furniture, down to every material we can touch counts. A space in its entirety can have a calming effect, convey a homely feeling a give a sense of security.
Bedroom project by Stykka
Communal spaces’ design relationship with the bedroom’s
There are many instances nowadays in which designers are asked to create spaces that have a relaxing feeling which can help concentration, mental and physical health. Biophilic Design is often used this way, but as we discussed in Biophilic Design: The Shape of Nature, it has to be done right. It cannot just be about a couple of plants in every room. This means, the right effect is much more difficult to obtain, and would otherwise just become a gimmick.
Also, sometimes instead, a brand might want to result bold, playful, and eye-catching. Quite the opposite of relaxing and soothing. Either way, a lot of effort has to go into the design of communal areas to reflect a brand’s identity. But how to properly replicate it in a bedroom?
In the first case, the solution proposed is to make it more fluid and less cluttered. Something that gradually leads toward the bedroom and inspires a feeling of relaxation even before a guest enters the room itself. The risk, however, is to become sterile and forgettable. So, the brand has to be present and a lot of work has to be done. Ideally, clients want to find themselves in a place where they have something out of the ordinary and that they wouldn’t find at home.
In the second, however, the solution might be to find some sort of physical distinction between bedroom and communal areas. This can make the design work a lot more difficult but would be the only way to convey the same message from a brand while delivering two different spaces. One lively and bold, the other calm and relaxing.