Not Your Barbie’s Dreamhouse

Stonehill & Taylor reinvents extended stay with Hyatt House, a brand that offers social flexibility for a variety of travelers and injects some escapism back into hospitality.

01/09/2012 By Elianne Halbersberg, AnnMarie Martin

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Architecture and interior design firm Stonehill & Taylor’s new year’s resolution for 2012 is to turn hospitality’s extended stay market on its head with the unveiling of the Hyatt House™ brand.

More than 50 Hyatt Summerfield Suites® hotels and Hotel Sierra® hotels will be remodeled and rebranded as Hyatt House. These properties will cater to not just the traditional extended-stay customer, but a new set of clientele that has come to know the benefits of this hospitality segment over the years.

Previously reserved for business travelers away from home on a long-term basis, extended stay is now often utilized by families and travelers (business or leisure) staying for a much more temporary visit. What Stonehill & Taylor set out to do was create pockets of activity that promoted not just a sense of separate togetherness amongst guests, but also brought back the fun and aspirational moments that hotels used to be known for.

“We didn’t want to make it ‘home.’ We wanted to make it a ‘dream house,’” explains Mike Suomi, principal and head of the interiors division at Stonehill & Taylor Architects.

The firm wanted guests to once again leave hoping to recreate certain design details in their own homes, from touchscreen tabletops in the lobby that allow guests to perform tasks like looking up directions or printing out a boarding pass, to customized seating that offers power outlets, a heating option, tray table and more. Hyatt House will be able to adapt to anything and everything the long-term business traveler guest might need in order to feel comfortable; it will also allow them to use the space to build relationships, as they would their own homes if they were there.

The design team did two weeks of extensive research, staying at as many extended stay hotels as they could during that time to see what design elements people look for, as well as how the economy has affected travel patterns. Based on theirs, as well as Hyatt’s research, they found workers are now required to travel longer and farther to find work. They met people along the way who’d been away from their families for years on end.

Given that information, the team did something revolutionary for this segment—they removed the desk from the studio and one bedroom spaces. Stepping in was an unlikely replacement: a kitchen island with a variety of adaptability and connectivity capabilities.

“We’re making the kitchen a social center,” Suomi says. To accommodate a more short-term guest, a new type of room was added. The “transient” rooms—which do include a desk but not a kitchen—are attached to the studios, allowing both to turn into a two bedroom if both are rented and combined.

The idea of not being chained to a desk (or anything else for that matter) translates to the public spaces as well, which feature a number of opportunities for long-term guests to feel they’re a part of something without requiring them to interact with a larger group if they don’t want to.

An issue Stonehill & Taylor uncovered in their research was that a number of shared spaces go underutilized as the day goes on in extended stay properties. The firm’s goal therefore was to make the lobby area and other “activity pockets” multi-functional, in order to avoid those dead zones that tended to creep up, while also giving people the freedom to do what they like in a space.

For example, an elevated bar area serves as both a breakfast center in the morning, happy hour in the afternoons and a workspace for people in between those designated times. There’s a sunken living room in the lobby area that offers plenty of seating for larger groups, whether it be a family or co-workers; the seating can also be configured to accommodate individuals.

The game room, “loaner library” and outdoor kitchen are all amenities that help to limit the isolation of people who have to travel for long periods of time and give them a comfortable place to work and live. The game room is a great resource for those who have their families visiting, while the outdoor kitchen lets people entertain or make friends if they so choose. The loaner library offers gaming systems, bicycles and more to enhance their time away from home.

Another element that promotes that social flexibility is a proprietary chair that Stonehill & Taylor is developing for the lobby and surrounding areas. It serves as a mini desk, as all devices can be plugged into the arm, which also folds out into an airline tray table. Wings near the headrest limit peripheral vision, allowing for some privacy and promoting concentration if the guest wants to check out from the scene surrounding them.

As is evident with all the options and offerings of Hyatt House, both en suite and in the public space, Stonehill & Taylor will show the world a hotel brand that allows guests to make it an exaggerated version of “their own.” After all, it’s not just a home. It’s a dream house.