sheraton phoenix downtown

Sheraton Hotels’ redesigned community spaces engage people and encourage flexibility in their use. (Photo: Marriott International)

Travel by Design

How to Redesign an 85-Year-Old, Iconic Hotel Brand? Just Ask Sheraton Hotels’ Design Team

In the piazzas of Rome or Prague’s Old Town Square, residents might listen to live music while enjoying an apertivo with friends, while tourists chat in cafés or people-watch from a nearby bench. Indeed, in plazas and town squares across Europe and the world, locals and visitors gather in these vibrant, community-driven spots to relax and recharge — scenes which inspired the Sheraton Hotels global brand team as they developed a new design strategy for the 85-year-old, heritage brand.

Sheraton designers looked at how community spaces engage people and encourage flexibility in their use: tourists might enjoy a coffee or people-watch from a bench, while locals peruse the morning paper. In addition, the brand paid attention to how these public gathering places varied by city.

The takeaway? Sheraton committed to transforming all of its hotels’ public spaces into community gathering places where guests and locals can work, socialize and relax.

“Our mission is to be the world’s gathering place,” says Amanda Nichols, global brand leader for Sheraton Hotels. “It’s centered on bringing people together, and we think our lobbies are the beating heart of that.”

In addition to inspired space planning, Sheraton also understood that design elements such as color, materials and artwork should help their guests connect with the local destination.

Setting the Scene for Gathering

sheraton public workspaces
Find a comfortable nook in which to work or unwind. (Photo: Marriott International)

In the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown, travelers sip lattes and catch up on emails at &More by Sheraton, a stylish coffee bar, café and market that marks a new signature for the brand and plays a key role in the revamped lobby concept.

Surrounding the coffee bar, long communal tables and glass enclosed work spaces give guests plenty of room to settle in for as long as they want. Sunshine pours in from a vertical bank of windows, warming the open, airy space with a desert glow. The palette and patterns are a nod to the colors and traditions of the Southwest (think desert hues and details like Spanish-influenced tile work).

You’ll find a similar buzzy scene at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Toronto International Airport. Here the color palette and materials draw from the brutalist-style architecture of Toronto, rendering a moody color scheme across striking lobby sitting areas and workspaces. Private, glass-walled work studios and charcoal gray sectionals backed by a bookcase-style art installation inspire a desire to sit and stay a while.

The Mediterranean Sea and Tel Aviv’s cosmopolitan feel, on the other hand, inspired the new design of the Sheraton Tel Aviv. Blues, creams and whites color the decor, with circular pendant lighting, round chairs and curving couches suggesting waves (or seashells).

The iconic hotel chain recently completed the redesign on 20 of its properties, with plans to incorporate the updated design philosophy on 27 additional hotels through a mix of renovations and new builds.

Divining Community-Forward Design

sheraton tel aviv
Mediterranean Sea views help set the scene in the Sheraton Tel Aviv. (Photo: Marriott International)

Sheraton began developing this community-forward design strategy back in 2016, using global research, travel trends and guest preferences to guide their new vision.

The brand found that business travelers viewed guest rooms as places they could “exhale and focus” but did not find as much purpose in lobbies during their stays, instead leaving to meet up with clients at nearby offices, restaurants or coffee shops.

Brand leaders wondered if, given the right design, guests could be convinced to use the hotel as a hub and stay on-site instead.”That’s really what pushed us to lean into community-forward design,” Nichols explains, “and spurred our interest in the types of spaces that bring communities together.”

At the same time, “bleisure travel” — combining business travel with pleasure — was on the rise, coinciding with companies becoming more flexible with how (and from where) staff worked.

“People were moving to using co-working spaces, some companies no longer had offices, and fast forward to 2020 when the pandemic happened, and we found this trend really accelerated.”says Nichols.

Sheraton has already implemented this community-forward design vision in 20 hotels around the world, with plans for another 27 hotels to implement it by the end of 2022, through a mix of renovations of existing hotels or new openings for the brand.

Creating Universal Threads for Sheraton’s Design

Though the end result will feel visually different across Sheraton hotel lobbies, there are key elements that bring the design strategy to life and create a connective thread through all Sheraton hotels.

Custom-built community tables welcome guests and come with nuances like lighting at eye level to spare solo travelers sitting across from one another the awkwardness of making direct eye contact.

Visitors will find soundproof booths meant for private phone calls or video conferences, along with glass-enclosed studio meeting spaces for guests to reserve. Everything is equipped with high-tech details, from ports for laptops to contact chargers.

sheraton gateway toronton
Communal spaces welcome in the Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Toronto International Airport. (Photo: Marriott International)

Mobile dining is also a popular lobby offering, with hotel staff happy to deliver food and drinks to any sitting area, studio or booth. &More by Sheraton is the last element integral to the new design, always situated as a beacon to draw guests in, says Nichols.

By all accounts, Sheraton’s reimagined spaces are a huge success. The idea was born four years before anyone had heard of COVID-19, but as it happened, the pandemic proved to be a good testing ground for the concept — it sped the transition from traditional office workers to work-from-anywhere digital nomads. Sheraton rolled out its community concept just in time for this seismic shift.

“Seeing guests and locals using our lobbies and finding it enjoyable to move throughout their entire day with us, it’s exactly what we wanted from the design,” says Nichols. “Now it’s come to life, and that’s just been so exciting to see in each hotel.”

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