It’s just one of the riddles that the design team at Brooklyn-based west elm had to solve in its collaboration with SpringHill Suites to create a truly modern sofa that unfolds into the trifecta of dream sleep spaces — a couch, daybed and trundle bed in one.
From the moment SpringHill Suites approached west elm with the idea through a design process that birthed sketches, 3-D renderings and physical samples, the joint effort had gone quite smoothly — until they tried to get the couch into a hotel room.
“We had come far in the design process when we learned the sofa would need a feature that allows its construction to be flexible for any sized space,” reveals west elm Design Manager, Ed Hale. “Being able to adapt quickly in the design process allowed us to get the sofa to fit nicely in the rooms the way we envisioned.”
The story of how this west elm sofa came to be in a SpringHill Suites guest suite is filled with behind-the-scenes tidbits like this.
Design Challenge #1: Make a Standout Sofa
Lionel Sussman, V.P. of Global Design Strategies at Marriott, reveals the team’s overall mission, which was to simply feature furniture that guests would love so much they’d want it for themselves.
Sussman also says they wanted to figure how they could give their guests “a little extra” in a truly unique way. The answer was taking the sofa — a common hotel suite fixture — to the next level.
So, they called on the furniture experts at west elm. Together the teams decided the sofa should not only be distinguishable by its shape and materials, but also for its function; thus a 3-in-1 design, offering two additional sleeping surfaces to satisfy a real need for guests.
“Cool brands are defined more by function — part of the beauty is that they’re very functional,” Sussman says. “We wanted this sofa to be more than expected.”
Design Challenge #2: Engineer Twin-Bed Seating
The quest to create something unexpected raised all sorts of interesting questions, like: How to design a full-sized sofa to artfully conceal a twin mattress?
“A twin bed is deeper than the average seating depth of a sofa, so there was a lot of space we had to make up,” Hale says. “That’s why the back cushions have more structure to them, so they can make up some of that extra depth.”
From the start, the teams set out to rethink a design from the west elm collection by adding elements from the SpringHill Suites brand aesthetic. Reclaimed wood seemed a natural fit for both brands as it cut modern form with something more rustic and warm, according to Hale.
“We arrived at a pleasing solution where the wood base aligns with the trundle bed,” Hale adds. “This is my favorite aspect of the design — there’s a logic to the application of different materials, which brings a greater overall resolution to the design.”
Selecting the right fabric is a big part of the design puzzle too.
“We spend as much time thinking about the right fabric as we do about the design of the frame itself,” Hale says.
In looking at the overall lighter-hued palette of the suite, the designers decided on a dark gray, velvet-like material.
“Going darker was a great way to make it pop,” Hale explains, noting that another distinguishing feature is the material’s depth, so when you step back and look at it, there are highs and lows in the fabric.
Design Challenge #3: Make It Stylishly Indestructible
For Sussman, the biggest consideration was finding a fabric that guests could imagine on their own couch at home that could also withstand the wear and tear of a hotel room.
“We had to think about construction details geared toward high-traffic areas,” Hale adds. “Literally the nuts and bolts of how the internal frame is made.”
To make sure the couch was hotel-ready, Hale’s team put the piece through cycle testing that simulates several years’ worth of use in a couple of days. Then Sussman’s team put the couch in actual suites for guests to test out.
In the end, a unique, functional and modern couch was born.
“A very simple shape that’s all about the details,” Sussman says. “Both form and function at its best.”
This article is brought to you by SpringHill Suites, MORE STYLE FOR YOUR STAY™.