The reasons why hotels and motels remodel or refurbish are many and varied. It is generally accepted that guest wear alone means that refurbishment will be needed every seven years or so.
But there are many other reasons. Older hotels in particular will find that electronic features such as lifts, cabling and air conditioning are no longer advanced enough for modern requirements and have to be upgraded or replaced.
Another reason is where a hotel might be in good condition but unsuitable for rebranding, either by the company that owns it, or new owners taking over. Such a case can be seen in the present remodelling of an iconic Auckland hotel which has now seen three owners. Originally the Hotel Intercontinental and then for many years a Hyatt, it had several upgrades to maintain its standards, but still did not entirely suit the requirements of new owners, Accor, which is remodelling it as a Pullman, aimed squarely at the modern business traveller.
Whatever the reason, a decision will have to be made as to whether partial closure is the answer while the establishment continues to trade, or whether it is best to simply close for the duration and try to complete the work faster. Perhaps the most famous example in recent years is that of England’s Savoy, which closed totally for three years up until October 2010 while an extensive £220 million upgrade was taking place.
Clear design brief
Although no New Zealand renovation is likely to reach that level of expense, any project will be costly and needs to be extremely well planned, whether the hotel or motel chain has its own interior design team or whether an outside company is used. Three men involved at trade level say any form of refurbishment needs to be well thought out.
“The first step is a concept as to what the client wants to achieve from it and how much they want to spend,” said Geoff Wallace, managing director of bathroom fitting company, Plumbline. “We can then take it to reality with an obligation and cost-free specification service.”
James Sorensen, key account manager at upmarket furniture wholesaler, SM Interiors agrees. “A really clear design brief makes it easy to set your budget and ensure you stay within it. It also helps any supplier they’re obtaining furniture and fittings from to make sure their products will fit comfortably into the allowed space.”
Deciding on a theme will be an essential early step. For instance, if an establishment is by the sea, a maritime theme might be appropriate throughout the project.
Josh Heath, key account manager at Vivente Interior Concepts takes the subject further: “Everyone needs to agree on that theme. The starting point might be a colour or some other special feature. If designers and product suppliers understand that, they can make the whole project work around it.”
All three agree it is essential for the client to first decide precisely what level they want to be in the market and adapt the fit-out to that. They believe achieving good design cannot be over emphasised.
Said James Sorensen “Good design is a medium to tell other people what you’re all about – to convey your qualities. Failing to achieve it will have a negative impact. If guests don’t have a good impression, they’re not going to go back or recommend that establishment to anyone else.”
When it comes to furniture and fittings, durability and practicality are factors that should be considered, said Mr Wallace: “In the business of bathroom design, ease of cleaning is a very good feature. If a client purchases bathroom-ware that splashes water all over the place, it makes it a hard job for the cleaners and that means extra cost. All those sorts of things have to come into interior design.”
Mr Sorensen agrees. “It’s the same in the bedroom department. Furniture has to be easy to clean and move around because time spent is cost. The more practical it is, the better a hotel’s going to run.”
The three men agree that New Zealand design is as good as anywhere. “The world’s a lot smaller place now – there are a lot of very good exhibitions overseas and we’re only shipping time behind the leading fashions of the world – six weeks,” said Mr Wallace. “We can bring products into New Zealand and onto the market as soon as it comes out of the Italian or German factories, or anywhere. I don’t believe New Zealand is behind at all.”
“Obviously New Zealand looks outside for its design inspirations to whatever’s going on in the rest of the world,” Mr Sorensen said. “Once we know what look is required, we should be able to find a supplier to fit it.”
Vivente Interior Concepts has access to the very best from overseas and Mr Heath believes those soft furnishings can transform a setting. “They bring colour and life into a room that is otherwise blank and boring. You can make guests feel much better by simply adding cushions, throws and rugs.”
New Zealand-made quality
All three companies import products where needed to achieve excellence but two of them also manufacture extensively in New Zealand.
“We make our own vanity units and the quality’s right up there,” Geoff Wallace said. “We might take the concept from overseas but it’s far more economical for us to manufacture cabinetry in New Zealand because it’s so bulky for shipping. When it comes to complicated manufacturing, such as brassware and vitreous china, it might be better to obtain it from overseas manufacturers because of the volumes they produce.”
James Sorenson has a similar story. “We can manufacture international quality furniture using recognised finishes, machinery and technology to produce a standard equal to anywhere in the world. I’d go so far as to say that the furniture we make is better than a lot of imported product at the higher end of the market.”
Vivente mostly imports its hand crafted accessories or the materials necessary but does some finishing and custom-manufacture here.
All three men agree that those in the accommodation industry here are well aware of the need for good design and that particularly in the best establishments, achieve levels of excellence as good as anywhere in the world.