Interior Design: Inspiration and Advice From Hotel Experts

by Jim Gladstone

Passport recently reached out to five notable design professionals to get their perspectives on ways in which hotels and homes are influencing each other.


“When you stay at a hotel, even if its for a business trip, you want to have a sense of indulgence,” says designer Hun Aw (, whose projects have included the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel (, the Pullman ( in Bangkok, and the Hong Kong–based luxury Hotel G ( brand’s first US outpost, opened in San Francisco this past spring.


“The two things that everyone is going to do in a hotel room, or when they’re staying at your house, is to sleep and to take a shower. So those two experiences should be made memorable.”

It’s one of the reasons that hotel brands including Westin and Four Seasons invest heavily in signature bedding, even selling their bedding and mattress systems to guests who want to experience the same comfort at home.

When hotels boast of sheets with high thread count Egyptian cotton or a “menu” of pillows from soft to firm its more than mere hype. At the end of the day, the way guests’ beds feel and the quality of sleep they get are significant components in their overall assessment of a stay.

Even if you have a small apartment or tiny guestroom, Colum McCartan says, “Don’t try to save space by using beds with storage built in under the mattress. They make for uncomfortable sleeping, and they force people to bend over awkwardly when they’re packing and unpacking.”

“Instead,” he suggests, “Maximize the drawer space in nightstands by choosing units that don’t stand on legs” but sit flush to the floor.

“When we were renovating the Hollywood Roosevelt,” says Hun Aw, “we completely blew out the old bathrooms. Some of them now feel as big as the rest of the guest room! People love to have a ridiculous shower.”

“Our market research,” says MGM’s Vakil, “shows that bathrooms are often the #1 factor in the perceived value a guest sees in a room,” he says.

“Bathrooms are one area where residential design and hotel design are coming closer and closer together,” says McCartan. “People who experience renovated hotel bathrooms want that kind of quality at home. And people who live in houses or apartments that were built relatively recently want their hotel bathrooms to be at least as nice as the ones they have at home.”

“At Gurney’s,” says Kramer, “I’ve done what I have in my apartment: a large rainshower built into the ceiling and a handshower that’s hung at regular showerhead height.”

The Hollywood Roosevelt. Suite Bath, by Hun Aw Studio

The Hollywood Roosevelt. Suite Bath, by Hun Aw Studio

“Another bathroom trend I really like for homes and hotels is matte-black plumbing fixtures. It’s very distinctive and attractive.” Kramer points curious homeowners to Newport Brass (, as a source.

“Get rid of swinging bathroom doors,” says McCartan, who notes that Starwood and Marriott are typically doing so as they renovate older properties. “If you use a sliding barn door, the bathroom ends up feeling much larger.”

There’s a constant challenge, says David Baker, in addressing the one-upmanship between home and hotel bathrooms.

“Once upon a time, people may have been thrilled to stay in a hotel that had the novelty of indoor plumbing!” he jokes. “Now we’ve got to keep coming up with something new. Getting a window in a bathroom like we’ve done at h2h is huge.” (Thick textured glass lets light through while maintaining privacy from the outside world for the bather.)

“For a while,” Baker notes, “it was very trendy to have the shower in a clear glass cube that you could see into from the sleeping area of a hotel room. But once you reach a certain stage of life,” he suggests, it may not feel particularly sexy to be displayed in a vitrine.

“Right now,” he says, “We’re incorporating little hot spots in bathroom mirrors that keep them from fogging up from the shower. I can see that moving into homes easily. I think the next step for hotel bathrooms may be more showers that also function as steam rooms.”

“Dual vanities and sinks used to be seen as luxurious,” says Vikal, “Now they’re pretty much a standard in many of our properties. One of the new things we’re doing is showers with LED lighting that changes color. We’re constantly raising the bar in terms of fantasy bathrooms.”


Over the past few years, with the rise of the so-called ‘share economy,’ services like Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) have begun to exert an influence on the variety of ‘homey’ and idiosyncratic features offered in hotel rooms. Simultaneously, homeowners looking to add a boost to their income have taken cues from hotels in remodeling guest rooms and mother-in-law units.

“The traditional business-driven hotel is becoming less dominant in the industry,” says Hun Aw. “There will always be some travelers who want to know that every room they stay in will be laid out exactly the same, “but younger generations of business travelers are looking for rooms to have a sense of style and individualism.”

Meanwhile, says Aw, “People are seriously asking themselves, ‘How will my guest room photograph? Is this room going to look appealing to travelers looking for a bargain online?’”

David Baker heartily agrees. The 450-square-foot space that he and his wife lived in while the rest of their home was being renovated and which served as his creative laboratory for thinking about hotel design now serves as a guest room when his grown children and their families are visiting. And if they’re not in town, you can stay there: Baker’s listed it on Airbnb.

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