Have you just returned from the Independent Hotel Show 2016, full of design inspiration from the amazing products you discovered, and now you want to give your hotel a makeover? Or have you been thinking about giving it a face lift for a while and you’re ready to give it a go? Maybe you’re also feeling a little overwhelmed with ideas and now you’re wondering where to start. Well you can relax because interior designer Yasmin Chopin shares with us some “insider designer” ideas.


If “Scarlet Opus” were the name of a hotel, we might visualise a property with Gothic architecture set deep in the heart of the countryside; a place renowned for its romantic candlelit dinners, sumptuous furnishings, and classical music soirées. Ah, but this is in our imagination…. Scarlet Opus is in fact a UK trend forecasting agency, and the visionary Trend Translator providing design insights and strategies to its clients, Phil Pond, took the audience at the Independent Hotel Show on another journey entirely.

The seminar entitled “What the Future Looks Like” was inspirational, and if you’ve just returned from IHS16, you’ll be buzzing with ideas. It takes a few days to sort through the business cards, notes, and photos, and perhaps you’re wondering where to start with this wealth of information. To help, I’ve put together some “insider designer” ideas gathered from the show.

Deliver on your promises

Do you really know what new visitors to your hotel expect to see when they arrive? They may have viewed photos or a video online, but those images will flit away like butterflies from the memory when they step into your reception area for real. In that moment, the design of the space has to give more than expected.

A warm reception

Aroma chart
Aroma chart, supplied by Signature Aromas

First impressions will prejudice visitor reactions for the rest of their stay, so take a fresh look at your reception area. In fact take a sniff! Does it smell inviting? Aroma has a powerful effect on emotions, yet is often overlooked.

During conversation with Paul Chappell, Sales Director at Signature Aromas, we discussed the impact this non-visual design element has on people. I learned that the three top aromas for hotels are: Clean Linen, Ocean, and Orchard. Put fragrance to work in your reception area!

Entertaining information

Sarah Burghard of Sarah Burghard Designs
Sarah Burghard of Sarah Burghard Designs, photo credit Yasmin Chopin

During check-in, guests may have a few moments to contemplate their surroundings. This presents a design opportunity which Sarah, of Sarah Burghard Designs, is well-positioned to capitalise on.

Her textiles heritage goes back to 1830, when her great-great-grandfather founded a textile factory in Derbyshire, which still thrives today. Sarah will capture your identity, your history, and your values in a bespoke fabric design.

Let your guests find out more about you, your hotel, and your philosophy — reupholster a chair, for example, to reinforce your brand!

Uplifting emotions

As I walked around the stands I felt the buzz — in fact, there was a lot of energy in the hall — but visually the spaces were drab. Yes, it is autumn in the UK, but do we really need to focus quite so much on browns and greys? One lady thinks not, and that is Klara Capouskova, designer and owner of SO KLARA. Her colours shout at you, but in a friendly way: warm, exciting, and energetic.

Artwork by So Klara
Artwork by SO KLARA, photo credit Yasmin Chopin

If you promise guests an uplifting experience, one that refreshes and revives, invite Klara to show you her work. Highly saturated colour may be too much for some people, so consider proportions. Transitional areas are perfect for bold decor, but you may choose to be more restrained in your guest rooms.

Quick tip: use yellow with care — it will surely generate smiles, but it is extremely invigorating, so it is therefore more suited for public areas. Klara celebrates the power of colour… could you, should you, dare you?

Natural reactions

Phil Pond warned the large and interested audience to take into account the impact that Millennials have on the hotel industry. This generation, born between 1980 and 2000, doesn’t know what it’s like to live without a mobile phone. They have used the internet to learn everything they want to know and have made friends around the world, some they will never ever meet in person.

In terms of design, this privileged and knowledgeable group appreciate nature and natural materials. The term biophilia (an affinity between nature and human beings) doesn’t have to be explained to them… We can all appreciate the human desire to connect with nature, no matter our age.

Take a look around your reception space; how good does it make you feel? Bring nature indoors with a large vase of freshly cut flowers or textures of wood, stone, or wool. Help your visitors to relax and feel good: wellbeing is the way forward. Are you leading the way or dragging your heels?

Practical matters

Artwork by Carved Wall Art
Artwork by Carved Wall Art, photo credit Yasmin Chopin

A decor scheme that closely follows the design concepts of nature and the natural world can go too far towards becoming impractical for a hotel situation. Hardwearing fabrics, easy-to-clean surfaces, and durable materials in general tend to fall into the “manmade” category.

However, at the show I saw some artwork that grabbed my attention — the company is called Carved Wall Art. Using plywood as the substrate, the artist carves sinuous lines revealing the layers of wood beneath, and the finished piece (or pieces) are protected with your choice from a range of lacquers. I saw the designs after hearing Phil’s talk and thought, “they fit the brief perfectly.”

Moving experiences

Phil explained that Millennials are mavericks; they like to move around. In fact, they like to move furniture around! While we may want to prevent them from writing on the walls (or maybe not; there are ways of doing this stylishly!) perhaps we should encourage them to move a chair to create a nook for privacy while working solo. And suggest that they pull together some sofas to accommodate a small team meeting, or invite them to sit on the floor and chill with a favourite cocktail. This growing demographic can work anywhere, and your reception area could offer the perfect space: Are you investing and planning to make it attractive for today’s — and tomorrow’s — guests? Embrace the digital age!


The Independent Hotel show took place at London’s Olympia West Hall on 18 & 19 October 2016. Presented by James Hallam Hospitality & Leisure, this fifth edition of the event was packed with visitors from around the world. Providing a wide range of seminars and exhibition stands, it has certainly become an important event in the calendar for hoteliers. Read our highlights from the show here. 

Are you embracing design in your hotel? Do you have questions for Yasmin? Leave a comment below!

Yasmin Chopin

Yasmin Chopin is an interior designer providing consultancy and design services to boutique hotels and private residences in central and eastern England. Habitually seeking better ways to use space Yasmin aims to produce individual and memorable designs that skilfully reflect the client’s wishes and personality. Working on both large and small projects Yasmin’s experience ranges from barns to period property and modern buildings. Her consultancy service is very popular with clients who have an eye for style but who welcome an intelligent and friendly chat with a professional.

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