Chain hotels go big on design
Forget cookie-cutter layouts. Hotel chains are taking a leaf from boutique hotels to create accommodation that is Instagram-worthy
In this age of Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat, where you stay on vacation is now almost as important as the destination itself.
Boutique hotels have long been at the forefront of pushing stylish interiors, complemented with curated facilities, amenities and activities to entice travellers and staycationers to check into their properties.
Now, even hotel chains are latching onto the concept of unique design elements that are not replicated across the chain’s properties.
Moving away from cookie-cutter lobbies and standard room layouts, these hotels are emulating boutique hotels, by hiring well- known designers, putting in chic furniture and crafting cocooned nooks within their properties to enhance a guest’s experience, not to mention their Instagram pictures.
When it comes to designing a hotel for millennials, M Social has crafted the perfect blend of cosy and communal spaces.
With plenty of Instagram opportunities, spots to mingle and discover the Robertson Quay neighbourhood and readily available tech convenience, M Social is right on the money.
Overlooking the Singapore River, the hotel will check in its first guests from June 9, though reservations are now open.
It is part of the Millennium Hotels and Resorts’ stable, which includes Grand Millennium, Millennium and Copthorne.
The group’s move to design a hotel for 18- to 34-year-olds – or those with a “millennial mindset” – mirrors other chains that have set up similar properties.
The Hilton hotel chain will launch its boutique-like Canopy in Iceland later this year, while the Marriott has its hip-sounding Moxy hotel, which redefines the budget hotel experience with smartphones as room keys.
For M Social, the owners brought in star French designer Philippe Starck to helm the project, which was conceptualised about seven years ago.
This is Starck’s second completed hotel in Singapore, after The South Beach luxury hotel in Beach Road.
The 67-year-old may not represent that age group, but his whimsical and fun designs will resonate with the younger demographic.
For example, the entrance to the hotel features two larger-than-life bronze-coloured steel peanut sculptures for a cheeky touch. They are about 3.2m long and 1.5m tall.
Nearby, a hulking, rusty-looking box stows guests’ luggage if they arrive or check out early.
The hotel experience starts with self-check-in kiosks and guests collect their key cards and head straight up to their rooms.
The rooms, all 293 of them, are packed snugly across 10 floors, but step into each one and you would not feel cramped.
M Social has also done away with the old-fashioned names for room categories. Of the four room types, two categories are The Nice Room and The Big Room.
The Nice Room features bare concrete walls with mirrored surfaces – a Starck signature. But the piece de resistance is the striking, 4m-tall pitched roof. It lends drama to the 19 sq m room and creates a spacious vibe.
Meanwhile, The Big Room is a duplex-style loft with raw marble flooring and a roomy sofa bed on the first level. A queen-sized bed sits on the mezzanine level.
Those who need to work can use a set of nesting tables – a smaller, shorter table can be pulled out from under the bigger one for more space. The open-concept closets and the wash basin are under the stairs.
There are also larger-category rooms: The Nicer Room and The Bigger Room types come with attached terraces.
Prices start at $218 for The Nice Room, $248 for The Nicer Room, $238 for The Big Room and $268 for The Bigger Room.
Fridges are deliberately left empty so guests can fill them with their own snacks. Each room also has a smartphone with unlimited 3G connectivity and is pre-loaded with a city guide for convenience.
For a quiet respite, head to the fifth floor, where a shimmering blue-tiled pool is lined with green hedges and monochrome sun loungers.
The cosy rooms may dissuade guests from venturing out, but the hotel hopes the real mingling will take place at its hot spot: Beast & Butterflies, the in-house restaurant and bar on the ground floor.
Here, music is piped through the sound system, while the interiors are slightly dim with lava lamps placed around the seats.
And much like an art installation, a collection of tablets is hung on the walls, flashing pictures of the fusion food served up by the kitchen.
Another highlight is the eight different chandeliers, housed in their own alcoves, as projectors flash psychedelic images through the light fixtures.
It is, literally, a loud spot to see and be seen, especially when you are hanging out at the 13m-long bar.
Keeping it trendy, the bar does its own infused spirits and mixologists have come up with 20 signature cocktails.
M Social has also roped in popular Singapore band The Sam Willows as the hotel’s ambassadors.
Mr Paul James, senior vice- president of global marketing and branding for Millennium Hotels and Resorts, says the new look moves away from the “cookie- cutter consistency of late 20th- century travel brands”.
“M Social serves savvy, busy, self-sufficient guests with the ability to navigate their stay exactly as they need. It responds with service when and where our guests need it. It should feel like staying with really good friends.”
Natasha Ann Zachariah, The Straits Times (14th May 2016)