Micro-Living, Less - But Better

Late last year we dived into the subject of co-living in this post whilst researching for a project in Brooklyn NY. Inspired by the success and imminent expansion of Amsterdam’s Zoku hotel, we looked at the convergence of micro-living with long-stay hotels, as the long-stay hotel sector continues to innovate; partly due to the continued success of AirBnB and the opportunities that this has created for the sector.

This, coupled with housing shortages in many cities, the rising cost of living that this creates, and a rise in the number of people looking to stay away from home longer are creating opportunities to differentiate from the competition, or cash in on an increasing acceptance of smaller rooms at a lower price in desirable urban locations.

Regardless of how we look at this, everything points to only one solution at this end of the market – to go small.

Multi-purpose interiors

At The London Design Festival in September, we noted several furniture and interior designers incorporating multi-purpose solutions in their work.

Other designers are following suit. For example, Graham Hill created a concept called LifeEdited2. With this concept he demonstrates two different rooms which with the help of adaptable furniture are quickly transformed into dining, lounging, sleeping and working space. Here you see the bedroom being transformed into a dining area that can seat up to ten people.

Picture Credit: LifeEdited2

Picture Credit: LifeEdited2

With her article, Shelby Williamsunderpins the overall rise of multi-purpose furniture in hotels by stating furniture is becoming more customisable and innovative in the way it looks & feels.

On a recent visit to New York, Ed and our partner architect Ben Masterton Smith from Transit Studio stayed in The We Company’s original WeLive in FiDI and had conflicting opinions about the experience of living in a ‘managed environment’ for anything longer than an extended stay.

“We were intrigued to look around and try out welive, one of two of wework’s foray into the co-living market. Building on their experience in the co-working sphere, the concept develops some of the language of their previous designs, but sits very much as their first in an emerging scene.” According to Ben & Ed

Nevertheless, what is in no doubt is that WeLive have successfully incorporated all the essentials of city apartment living into only a slightly extended room footprint, including the provision of separation from the main sleeping cabin and the pull out sofa bed, a small kitchen, and storage and display space. However the whole experience felt functional and efficient rather that homely and cosy.

Despite a surprisingly slow role out of only 2 properties in twelve months, the brand’s intentions are clear as we’ve seen their rooms advertised on both AirBnb and SpareRoom.com

Established hotel brands enter the Micro-hotel market

Major hotel groups are looking to enter this market too. Hilton recently announced the opening of their new brand, Motto by Hilton. Motto offers smaller, customisable rooms in urban locations with affordable rates. They are hoping to cash in on the holy grail of consumers, the hallowed Millennial: understanding that they will be the largest generational group in 2050 and will make up 26% of the total population.

Picture Credit: Motto by Hilton

Picture Credit: Motto by Hilton

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The demand for these types of hotel rooms will not to slow down anytime soon. Jay Patel, president and CEO of North Point Hospitality, and a Hilton Hotels-owner himself, said, “Until micro-hotels, there was not a lot of lodging real estate at a premium spot in the neighbourhoods where locals and travellers congregate.”

Whilst Marriott are yet to bring an exact Micro Hotel to market, we’ve been working closely with the Moxy brand this year and they are focused on minimising the footprint whilst retaining fun, energetic and smaller spaces. They see an average stay of 2.4 nights, and maximise on space and flexibility by replacing wardrobe space with a peg wall (shown below) and adding collapsible, folding furniture for a higher degree of flexibility whilst guests spend time in their rooms.

Picture Credit: Moxy Hotels International

Picture Credit: Moxy Hotels International

Long-stay Micro-Living 

Besides hotels designed for guests that embrace short stays and affordable rates, there is a growing trend in micro-living for extended stays. This is where multi-purpose interior design and furniture solutions and technology really come in to play. “Best Hotel Concept 2016” winners Zoku are competing with other emerging brands such as Pod hotels; an expanding brand that combines the micro-hotels with long-stay leases.

Their “Pod Pads” are designed as living suites, varying from 400 to 650 square feet, and include queen and bunk bed configurations. These innovative hotels prove that this micro-model is not only viable but hugely attractive. Pod Hotels boasts the highest occupancy rate across their parent company’s portfolio.

Picture Credit: Pod Pads, Pod Hotels

Picture Credit: Pod Pads, Pod Hotels

In addition to Pod Hotels, Ollie at Carmel Place created New York’s first luxury micro-apartment building. This concept serves as an all-inclusive hotel-style living apartment experience where guests can have a personalised space that is move-in ready and very designed focussed. Each furnished studio is a carefully curated space and strategically equipped with (for example) a foldable Italian coffee table from Mondial, and a queen size Murphy bed with sofa on the front.

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Picture Credit: Resource Furniture

Picture Credit: Resource Furniture

New York based architects MKCA have been commissioned on a number of micro-apartment projects in the city, and at a talk at A/D/O in Brooklyn, we were impressed and inspired by their “Five To One” apartment which combines total flexibility and transforms a 390 sq ft space into five distinct ‘rooms’. We can see projects such as this influencing the micro-hotel and extended stay sectors in the near future.

Picture Credit: Michael K Chen Architecture

Picture Credit: Michael K Chen Architecture

Is the Micro-Hotel competing with the sharing economy? 

Keeping in mind the growing trend of the sharing economy with Airbnb and Uber on the frontline, the micro-living trend is an answer for innovative hotel groups. They are now providing a closer alternative to Airbnb by offering affordable accommodation at prime locations.

Changing demands of customers, have led to a new generation of hotels, where rooms are getting smaller and common areas are getting bigger and better. Experts are calling this change “The Air-Bnb Effect”. Airbnb has been the disruptive brand that has shaken the hospitality industry and created strong ripple effects in all related industries. But now, the hotels are ready to strike back, with implementing smaller, but better hotel rooms and bigger and better communal areas.

With 68% of the world population projected to live in urban areas by 2050 (according to the UN), prices rising and space becoming a premium, there is an obvious need to minimise space and simplify. When considered alongside the rise in flexible, remote working and the ‘digital nomad’ there are multiple innovations at play that make these sectors incredibly exciting and open to huge innovation.

The multi-purpose interior trend gives someone the possibility to take one room and turn it into a different room within minutes: making a small space so much more versatile whether it’s a permanent residence, a long stay property or just somewhere to relax during a weekend in a city’s prime neighbourhood.

Conclusion 

Creating smart solutions for space issues is essential to the future of hotel room design and with Airbnb around the corner and consistently growing as a competitor, operators in a price conscious sector must differentiate themselves by focusing on the unique elements of a hotel that can’t be replicated in a traditional apartment. Lively, fun and accessible communal areas where guests can interact with others and share experiences are top of the list, along with consistency, quality and security that are sometimes missing from the gamble of apartment-sharing solutions such as AirBnb.