With the help of innovative flooring solutions, the A&D community is pushing the envelope of design to create hospitality spaces that enhance the human experience.

Hospitality Spaces of Today

“Spaces are evolving into a succinct experience for those traveling through the space so that while in it, they are immersed in the ‘moment’ and when they exit, they will remember the moment,” said Kris Stanfield, Shaw Contract’s communications manager.

Careful planning goes into every detail of the creation of a hospitality space. In addition to the services these hotels, restaurants, spas and spaces of the like provide, their design and aesthetic transforms run-of-the-mill spaces into something unique and unforgettable.

“In general, I think people are looking for something unique,” said Brent Zeigler, president and director of design at Dyer Brown. “A really good hospitality space not only makes the occupant feel comfortable, it also elicits some sort of emotional reaction. People want to be taken out of their everyday experiences and transported into a unique space.”

Creating a hospitality space that not only functions well, but looks good and creates a memorable experience is sometimes much easier said than done due to various design challenges.

“The challenges faced in hospitality design work are not particularly unique to hospitality spaces,” said Zeigler. As with all projects, budget, durability, sound/acoustics and schedule are all challenges we face.”

Hospitality Design Solutions 

To combat these and other design challenges, designers are turning to flooring for the solution. “Flooring surfaces can definitely be part of the solution,” said Zeigler. “For instance, if a space is very loud and a designer needs to help reduce the noise levels or limit reverberations or echoes, a carpeted floor or a rug within a space can help control those sounds. Additionally if durability of the surface is a major concern because of exceptionally high foot traffic, a hard surface flooring material such as stone, tile, or polished concrete may be the right choice.”

Whether flooring in a hospitality space is being used as a backdrop, or it is considered a focal point, it is often the starting point of design.

“Over the past several years, there has been a shift in design mentality,” said Stanfield. “It’s become more evident that flooring is the new basis for the project palette.”

Clare Marino, a partner in GTM Architects’ Commercial Studio, added, “Some projects have a neutral floor palette and others have a floor that is the feature of the space. The best designs consider both as equally important.”

As concepts and ideas are developed for spaces, designers look for materials and finishes that serve the ideas.

“We like to establish a hierarchy of materials and finishes that will again serve the concept/idea,” said Dwayne MacEwen, founder and principal of DMAC Architecture. “Sometimes the floor will be a design feature, as was the case with the custom tile pattern we created for Hugo’s Frog Bar and Chop House. Also, sometimes the floor may take the role of “supporting cast,” meaning although intentional and designed, it serves to act as a background for the space.”

Mixing Materials

Getting the right mix of hard and soft flooring surfaces in order to address the very specific needs of a space is the best strategy, says Zeigler, and similar to commercial and residential applications, hospitality is doing just that.

“Hospitality clients are looking for a level of detail typically associated with residential design including elements like warm, natural wood finishes,” said Marino. “Some borrowed details include decorative trims and borders, more complex patterns and unique detailing.”

Although it can be seen as a challenge due to maintenance and cleanability, carpet’s sound absorption and high performance capabilities make it a top choice for hospitality applications.

“You’re basically building a material for the floor that has to perform for many reasons,” said Mark Page, senior director of creative design and development for Mohawk. “A solution for most environments is to create a carpet design that has enough textural detail and enough contrast between the colors that even as it flattens, wears out and gets dirty, the pattern score has enough strength and clarity.”

With that in mind, Page encourages designers to go with a slightly higher contrast in color values early on, so that once the carpet becomes more worn and soiled, it will be exactly where they want it to be at that point.

Stanfield added, “In regard to carpet, custom design reigns supreme for hospitality—with many variables on trends. Individual factors such as the client property, its target market or the specific project/design requirements often dictate bold or neutral patterning, scale, color, product mix and overall design of project.”

In hard surfaces, rustic wood looks remain a popular design choice. “The variations of wood plank tile are nice and continue to evolve,” said Stacy Elliston, principal at Studio 11 Design. “There is still a want and need for this and it is requested quite often.”

MacEwen added, “Natural materials like natural woods and the ‘unfinished’ rustic look is very popular right now. Muted patterns and textures in porcelain tile is something we’re also doing a lot of right now, and creates a natural feeling. We also like to use high contrast “modern graphic” patterns when the floor is more of a design feature.”

As with many other markets, luxury vinyl tile (LVT) is currently reigning supreme in the hospitality sector due to its stunning visuals and unmatched durability.

“LVT is the fastest growing flooring segment—with 85% of specified designs using wood plank,” said Stanfield. “Other drivers include performance, ease of installation and low-maintenance options. There is also increasing use of LVT in public spaces, restaurant/bar space, and fitness/spa areas. LVT provides a strong, reliable and reduced maintenance option. The product performs well with the segment guests, and ownership values reduced maintenance associated with the product. Additionally guests appreciate the consistently clean aesthetic the product provides.”

Another on-trend look and material in hospitality is cement tile. “For hospitality flooring, cement tile is the perfect way to go, whether it’s for a restaurant’s restroom, hotel’s pool or even to add a splash of color to any large room,” says Melanie Stephens of Granada Tile.

Praised for its durability, cement tile is able to stand up to the high foot traffic hospitality spaces often see.

“The cement tile is enjoying a recent return to the spotlight and is one of the most sought after materials on the market today,” added Stephens. “Its unlimited design options lend to its popularity, which are made possible by the manufacturing process that involves pouring a mixture of cement, sand, and dye into molds that are then pressed with 2,000 pounds of pressure. Compared to ceramic tile and glass tile, cement tile is more durable.”

Advancements in Hospitality Flooring 

“As is the case with all industries, the pace of innovation is ramping up. The development of unique composite materials will give designers a wide range of options when it comes to specifying flooring for hospitality spaces, said Zeigler. “With these new materials will also come an increased ability to customize—color, pattern, wear surface, etc. New flooring options will help provide that unique experience that guests expect.”

Heavily influencing hospitality flooring designs and trends are the advancements of technology, according to the designers.

“As technology evolves so does design,” said Nadia Burton, vice president of design for Brintons Americas. “Heavily patterned panels are in the past. Over scale free flowing designs that meander through the space with no obvious transition is where we are currently. The future will see manufacturers exploring new techniques and yarn types that will deliver textural, carved flooring solutions that infuse spaces with luxury.”

MacEwen added, “I think technology will continue to give us new and exciting materials and also all will get natural material such as engineered wood floors (Hakwood) to be more natural looking, durable and ultimately perform better, both aesthetically and operationally.”