The must-haves of a hotel room – according to designers

A suite at The Bo Tree in Marylebone
'Sleep isn’t the main purpose of the space anymore': a suite at The BoTree in Marylebone

I frequently find myself manoeuvring around a hotel room wondering if it was designed by defective AI with an attitude problem. How many sets of corporate eyes signed off on bedside tables in front of a power point making it incompatible with the depth of an Apple plug? Why can’t there be a luggage rack that works in a functional way with my twin sided Rimowa? Why is there a narrow window to the outdoor world and a curtain next to it that suggests I can sweep it back to reveal a panorama, when in fact, it’s just concealing a solid wall?

When I’m looking for a hotel, I want all of the above addressed. I also want a Japanese bidet toilet, and evidence that a human has thought about what people want from a stay: I want to see a toothbrush and toothpaste because I am forgetful, hair straighteners, and a powerful hair dryer with a diffuser head.

I also want to get in and out of the shower with ease. I was thrilled by the swivel-door design of the showers at the new No. 42 by Guesthouse in Margate recently (double rooms from £122 per night). Why isn’t everyone using them? They are intuitive, save on space and look great.

No. 42 by Guesthouse recently opened its doors in Margate
No. 42 by Guesthouse recently opened its doors in Margate - Toby Mitchell

I’m a mere customer (and sometime critic), but what do hotel designers think we need right now? Well, Peter Marino, the leather-clad daddy responsible for the most dazzling flagship stores under the Tiffany & Co, Dior, Chanel and Louis Vuitton marques, has just finished work on the 190 guest rooms and suites at the beyond-lavish new Peninsula in London (double rooms from £1,300 per night), and as well as creating dream bathrooms finished with honey onyx, he has debuted the “valet box”, which is something I’d like for my front door at home: It’s a cupboard near the entryway to each suite, so room service (including your dry cleaning) can be dropped off without having to disturb you. Want something picked up? Shove it in the box and flick a light switch that alerts the staff outside.

Martin Brudnizki is in the same league as Marino in the world of interiors, and when I asked what he wants from a hotel room, he said he has fairly simple, but fundamental wants. “It’s all about a good night’s sleep,” he told me, “so the quality of the mattress, pillows and comforter is crucial. Enough counter or shelf space has to be allowed for to accommodate beauty products in the bathroom, and a hook for your towel by the shower is always a delightful surprise.”

Dream bathrooms at the new Peninsula in London come finished with honey onyx
Dream bathrooms at the new Peninsula in London come finished with honey onyx - Will Pryce

One of my personal bugbears is nowhere to rest products at chest height while I am in the shower. I like to brush my teeth in there, so I want a shelf for the toothpaste, and not one of those ridiculous chrome basket affairs that are fine for blocks of soap, but which let everything else fall through.

Brudnizki designed the branch of 25hours that’s in Copenhagen (double rooms from £181 per night), in a former porcelain factory. I stayed last year and found it visually fresh, with every aspect of the design well thought out.

Co-founder of the hotel group, Christoph Hoffmann, CEO says the direction for his properties starts with the ‘not haves’: “No bedspread or decorative pillows – I like an alternative bed topography, but always colourful linens instead of white. Ceilings are underrated – why do they have to be plain white or boring grey? You spend more time staring at a ceiling than a wall in a hotel room”.

Hoffmann also insists on free minibars, “and we are going to start designing rooms with refill stations in destinations with excellent drinking water. We are creating spaces for summer-long stays in a city, for people tired of AirBnB.”

While the sleep aspect is key – particularly for someone like me, plagued with insomnia – studies in the industry suggest that slumber is no longer the main purpose of a hotel room. Rob Wageman is the founder and creative director of Concrete, which designed The BoTree in Marylebone (double rooms from £630 per night).

The BoTree, Marylebone
A guest room at The BoTree in Marylebone

“Sleep isn’t the main purpose of the space anymore,” he says. “Our reinvented guest room at The BoTree is a great example; we eliminated the traditional bathroom box and created a much more open plan, flexible space which guests can use in many ways during the day.”

The mood of a room is, of course, dictated by the design. The YOTEL chain (double room at its Shoreditch hotel from £92) is all about high tech innovation, but at the core is “intuitive design and calming colours and mood lighting”, says their VP of Technical Services. “We are based in bustling city centres, so we need to create a contrast. We also maximise efficiency with our SmartBed, which reclines from a sofa to a Queen-sized bed at the touch of a button. We have rooms as small as 13m². Reduced in size does not mean a reduced experience.”

The word “intuitive” should really be seen as the most important directive for any hotel designer. “The fact is that many guests only visit a hotel once or a few times, unlike a home,” says Helena Toresson, one of the architects at Wingårdhs, which created the new Nobis hotel in Palma (double rooms from £180 per night), a member of Design Hotels. “The worst thing we can do is make the guest feel stupid. We make everything simple and focus on incorporating elements of global and local craftsmanship, to show attention to detail and an overall experience that is more sensual than loud.”

Rooms at YOTEL are minimal in contrast to their bustling city centre locations
Rooms at YOTEL are minimal in contrast to their bustling city centre locations - Yotel Shoreditch

It’s interesting to remember what seemed essential in every hotel room, which now does not. The trouser press and Gideon Bible have both vanished. But wouldn’t a steamer for the clothes that have just had a long-haul flight be great? I don’t care how often I hear the advice about hanging my clothes up in the bathroom and turning the shower on hot – it doesn’t generate enough steam, it’s not going directly onto fabric, and all you’re doing is wasting hot water. I was beyond thrilled to discover a Steamery Cirrus 3 in a drawer at No. 42 in Margate. I have one at home. It’s a thing of beauty.

The biggest changes in hotel design might be more subtle than giving me that steamer as a default. In the latest survey by Design Hotels, 60 per cent of travellers said they were actively increasing daily wellness rituals. That might be yoga, or 15 minutes with a meditation app.

Sarah Doyle, VP Global Brand Leader at Design Hotels, believes properties are going to go deep with design possibilities in this area: “How this translates to in-room amenities will touch every aspect of the guest experience,” she says. “From laying thoughtful design foundations utilising neuroaesthetics and circadian lighting; to incorporating meditation chairs and furniture to encourage mindfulness and moments of calm; to highly personalised wellness programs that promote mental wellbeing and long-lasting vitality – from sauna blankets, to vitamins, and custom-branded products.”

But hopefully there’ll be a steamer too.

What would be in your dream hotel room? Tell us in the comments section below