In the first few months of the year, hospitality flooring professionals were optimistic about the continued growth in the sector. Now, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and worry about the economy, manufacturers and designers alike are concerned but still hopeful about their recovery after this time of unprecedented challenge. Floor Trends spoke with industry leaders about the trends, and their thoughts on how hospitality flooring will continue to evolve and bring more comfort to our places of respite, needed now more than ever.

Even amid the current uncertainty, people still want an elevated experience complete with all of the creature comforts, wherever they are. We continue to see these residential trends, but hospitality design has gone beyond bare necessities or extreme luxury. “There’s a restraint now, because people want to feel nurtured in their home away from home,” said Lindsey Waldrep, vice president of marketing at Crossville. 

Indeed, designs have gone from over the top to a more subtle approach, while still providing the luxurious touches that the public craves. The look— and feel—of the hospitality environment is key to ensuring that consumers will return to a restaurant or a hotel. Rather than considering a single trend of the moment, operators are moving from a macro to micro view when considering the design of a new property

“Typically, you would start with inspiration material, and design your hotel based off of that mood board. Now, hospitality is taking the lead from things that are local and part of a community, versus just pulling from design trends in general that we see passing through the industry,” said Elizabeth Bonner, creative design director at Durkan. “We’re wanting the floor to take part in the story of the space again.”

Larger hotel chains are looking to boutique hotels and Airbnb for inspiration. It’s no longer about highlighting a brand logo everywhere or conforming to a cookie cutter look at every property. Regional artwork and furniture are sourced to create spaces which are truly unique. “A lot of hotels are really celebrating what’s special about the locale,” said Cindy Kaufman, Interface Hospitality’s director of marketing. “Allowing the design to follow that narrative is dictating what’s happening on the floors instead of a brand standard.” 

Wood flooring in particular continues to be specified for hotel and restaurant projects because of its timeless appeal. As designers move away from cold, industrial styles, wood is being used for the character it can bring to interiors. It’s also the perfect complement to biophilic elements like  plants, sunlight, and ventilation.

“Wood has always played a role, whether it’s on the ceiling or the floor,” said Patrick Bewley, vice president of marketing at Duchateau. “The hospitality industry is utilizing wood to warm up a space but in a very natural way.”

Designers are pairing wood and throw rugs not only for a sophisticated residential style, but also for cleanliness. As anxiety about air quality, germs, and viruses grows, we’re likely to see this combination become a staple. Area rugs can be washed regularly, and they can also be effectively used to mitigate any acoustic challenges normally faced when utilizing hard surfaces.  These clear benefits have specifiers shying away from wall-to-wall carpeting. 

“People are moving away from carpet for a few reasons,” said designer Lauren Rottet, founding principal and president of Rottet Studio, a Houston-based architecture and interior design studio. “A hotel room looks more like a residence if it has a hardwood floor and there’s a rug laid over it, that’s one. Everyone is so germ-conscious, that’s another. No one wants to think about walking on a carpet that someone else walked on when it hasn’t been cleaned.”

Nicole Alexander, principal designer at Chicago-based Siren Betty Design, concurred, and said that designers at the firm use rugs for added sustainability. “We use a lot of vintage rugs in our projects. You can just pick them up and take them to the dry cleaners. They help to balance the hard surfaces and the acoustics, and it’s another way of recycling, too.”

Tile and stone are appealing for many of the same reasons as wood, with versatility that designers want to be able to create ideal hospitality spots. “The tiles are so beautiful now, whether they’re porcelain or concrete. We’ll do a stone or porcelain entry, and then use some hardwood in the lobby, and then it might transition back to some kind of interesting tile in the restaurant,” Rottet said.

Although sound issues can be a problem when too many hard surfaces are used in one area, tile is beginning to appear more often in rooms, but with a light hand. Keeping costs down is also paramount today as business owners monitor the long-term economic impact of coronavirus on the industry at large.

Major renovations will no longer be a priority, so the longevity of hard surfaces is even more beneficial. “Hotels definitely steer away from things that are too patterned because of the renovation turnaround—they don’t want it to look dated after five years. So, we’re finding quite a bit of the stone looks but with more subtle or unique textures, particularly for the guest rooms,” said Zoe Rahimi-Nolen, national account manager, hospitality, for Emser Tile.

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Customization will continue to be important as hotels and restaurants look to rebound from the slowdown, and consumers resume travel or dining out. “When you talk about all of the unique experiences that hotels are trying to deliver, custom is the foundation. Everyone is trying to create something that is completely one-of-a-kind, and so if we weren’t designing customs, we wouldn’t be able to be a part of that journey,” Kaufman added.