Trends: Brand Refresh

Alissa Ponchione and Katie Noble • August 8, 2018


Notable legacy hotel brands are undergoing a bit of a renaissance, defying expectations to create a design-driven atmosphere inside some of the industry’s most recognizable names. Take the Moxy, Marriott’s Millennial-driven brand that has entered the global market with a sophisticated design that cheekily celebrates its youthful culture. “Moxy’s flexible design makes it a smart choice for owners, as it easily adapts to a range of development projects, including the transformation of unconventional spaces into stylish, disruptive hotel experiences,” explains Aliya Khan, vice president of design strategies for . Here, we take a look at three global brands, including the Moxy, that are reshaping and redefining brand standards.

Moxy Amsterdam Houthavens
There is no slowing down for Moxy, launching in the U.S. late last year with its Times Square flagship designed by Toronto and New York firm with F&B spaces from New York’s . The brand has also taken strides to revamp its European properties, notably in the new-build , which opened this spring thanks to a collaboration between Marriott’s in-house design team and local firms , , and building architects . Amsterdam’s playful spirit is interpreted through a rustic industrial theme with a palette of concrete, wood, leather, and other course fabrics, defining the open public spaces and 120 petite but bright guestrooms. “There is an urban grit to the materiality that carries through the public area, inspired by the famous graffiti artwork in the neighborhood,” notes Khan.

Because Houthavens is located on the water, much of the design is nautical inspired with old shipping containers dressing part of the lobby and a green living wall crafted from recycled pallets, “a nod to the harbor it overlooks,” Khan notes. In addition, the public area has multiple intimate zones, including a DJ area with six hanging seats that “ensure guests can lose themselves by day in the views and by night in the music,” she adds. This is enhanced by a bar that doubles as a reception desk and a large communal table that encourages both work and relaxation.

There is also an emphasis on art throughout thanks to the #BlankCanvas initiative, Moxy’s global brand program that gives emerging artists the chance to have their pieces become part of a permanent contemporary art collection on the property. For the Amsterdam hotel, artist Kristel Steenbergen’s The Amsterdam Jungle playfully hints at the city’s urban culture portrayed by different animals. “Amsterdam is known to be a bold, exciting city, which perfectly embodies the spirit of the Moxy brand,” Khan points out. On top of that, as guests shy away from cookie-cutter design, they are moving toward properties that offer experiences that blur the lines between work and play, indicated through the property’s kitschier elements and balanced through sophisticated notes, like floor-to-ceiling windows that bring the outside in.

Tianjin Holiday Inn
There is a certain idea of what a Holiday Inn is yet the 190-key  is an exception to the rule, thanks to a design by Beijing and Shenzhen-based  that is purposely meant to create a precedent for the international hotel brands in the area. Tianjin is a major metropolitan city that embraces its past and present as a major port city in northeastern China. Because of that, the property is imbued with specific details that capture the essence of the area’s landscape with charming moments, including a reception area that recalls a container and is enclosed by shallow wood and made of gray lacquer glass.

The lobby blends the natural image of the forest nearby with the port city’s life, maximizing those motifs with a ceiling board that is coated with aluminum plates, while lighting reproduces a mysterious outdoorsy landscape, including large chandeliers in the central recreation area that outlines the rise and fall of the nearby sea. A common element is the color green enhanced by patterns, modular furniture, wall paintings, and long timber tables. “The green accent is inspired by the green color of the Holiday Inn logo while it also makes people think of nature,” explains Honglei Liu, who cofounded the firm alongside Yun Du.

A highlight: the vintage block floor in the dining area that cultivates a feeling of ancient foreign-style houses, while bright colors, like yellow wing-backed chairs, are sprinkled through—another reminder of the beautiful scenery and the brand’s willingness to experiment. “The rich colors inspired from containers and the chairs with bright colors spotted here and there bring elegance and warmth to this little space,” adds Honglei. “With elegant and solemn cultural tones, the dining hall brings back the history of Tianjin and reminds people of the tradition.”

Hilton Portland Downtown
Originally designed as a convention center, the was the tallest building in the city when it was built in 1962 and had a distinct Hilton look. Following its first upgrade in 2015, owner reached out to Chicago-based to complete the lobby’s extensive renovation, along with a redesign of the ballrooms, meeting space, and guestrooms. “We wanted to create an elegant yet modern contextual design that used local materials,” says the Gettys Group principal Ben Nicholas. (Also part of the revamp, the Executive Tower, now known as the 327-room , which received a facelift courtesy of Toronto-based .)

In the lobby, this meant creating a comfortable, Northwest-appropriate space for guests to gather, with two local reclaimed wood tables spanning 35 feet where people can work during the day or enjoy drinks at night. “The materials combined rich textures and organic forms reminiscent of the surrounding mountains,” points out project designer Ali Bacon. Antique mirrors and columns nod to the organic nature of soft clouds that gather at these peaks, and furniture combines mixed metals with a soft, understated color palette.

The elevated Northwest aesthetic continues in the 455 guestrooms, where casegoods are inspired by the Willamette Valley and feature finishes such as knotty pine planks. Art includes headboard pieces that call to mind a view of the moon on a nighttime hike nearby, says Bacon, while “floating frames and graffiti-inspired artwork embody the local downtown area—with its food trucks and music scene.” It’s here that the Hilton brand and Gettys Group push the design limits, creating an intimate space with lavish, authentic moments.

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