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December 2, 2014

Meeting Room Design: How Decor Can Improve Business

Though not a new concept, hotels have only recently opted for comfort over beauty when it comes to seating.

According to Mitchell Gold, co-founder and chairman of furniture manufacturer Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, the need for material that can withstand high-traffic areas while still looking good is at an all-time high, especially for lobbies and meeting rooms. Gold said that the key to comfort is designing a chair without too deep a pitch, allowing guests to sit up more without being stiff, like in a dining chair.

Public Spaces

“When designing for areas where guests will have a conversation, you don’t want your guests leaning forward in order to hear,” said Bob Williams, co-founder and president of design of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. “It is easier to talk when sitting up straight as opposed to when reclining.

For John Hamilton, design director for residential and commercial furnishing designer Coalesse, color and texture are now secondary to posture. Hamilton said hotels are constructing more social spaces than ever, but are not always adapting the correct seating concepts for guests to take advantage of these spaces. “Look in any hotel lobby and you will see people sitting in some funny ways to share information or have private meetings in a space that is very public,” Hamilton said. To be most effective in these private-yet-public meeting areas, Hamilton suggests seating that is lower, more akin to lounge seating, as it is more comfortable to sit in for long periods. “Low seating also creates a more relaxed, open posture,” Hamilton said. “This often helps build trust during interactions. Having an open posture can help build rapport.”

Adam Kubryk, director of sales and marketing for Global Allies, said the level of comfort and design of a hotel’s banquet seating could be costing the hotel business. According to Kubryk, in a metropolitan city, such as New York, where event organizers can take their pick of convention hotels, these organizers will go with the event space that fits their niche and has chairs their attendees can sit in for long periods. For that reason, having comfortable seating in banquet and meetings facilities can give one property a leg up over another with outdated seating.

“It isn’t limited to seating, it’s the whole package for these spaces,” Kubryk said. “But if you have 1,000 of anything that is ugly or uncomfortable, you can’t hide it and it will be compared to other properties.”

Meeting Rooms

In traditional meeting rooms, the biggest new change to design is a result of the increased emphasis on electrical outlet placement. According to Kubryk, hotels are looking for a seating setup that takes outlets into account (think closeby), while allowing the room to be configured properly for video calls and digital projections.

“Technology is changing how these rooms are used, and therefore designed,” Kubryk said. “For task chair design, that means being able to use the room differently, so more priority [is] on movement and shape.”

Seating selection for meeting rooms is dependent on the room’s layout, Hamilton noted. Designers are working on predicting how guests will be using a space and developing seating options to fit those needs.

“Guests almost always have a briefcase for meetings, or need an outlet to charge devices, and designers need to think about those needs for positioning,” Hamilton said. “Is there a place for your things? Positioning is about protocols.”

Some seating comes with these options built directly into them, such as small tables for sharing content on laptops. But these needs are presenting a challenge to designers, who don’t want to make a piece too complicated.

“You can design an amazing thing, but if your intent is not conveyed to the guest and they don’t understand how to use it then it is all for naught,” Hamilton said. “When a hotel pulls it off, however, the guest will remember it, and that is a competitive advantage.”

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