Hilton debuts new lobby design

When Hilton Worldwide relocated to Fairfax two years ago, it turned the neighboring Hilton McLean Tysons Corner into its very own incubator. The company last week debuted the latest project to come out of the testing ground: a swank lobby redesign.

The upgrade is part of a $40 million renovation at the hotel that includes remodeled rooms and a new restaurant. Elements of the lobby will be featured in new and renovated Hilton properties within the next five years, according to Dave Horton, the global head of Hilton Hotels.

“We’re beginning to create a design DNA for the brand, so people can begin to say, ‘Ah, this is a Hilton,’ ” he explained, stressing that each hotel will still retain its own character and style. “Out of that DNA comes a design manual for our owners that talks about how best to use public spaces for communal [needs], productivity and relaxation.”

Unlike traditional hotel lobbies, the Hilton McLean has an open floor plan, whereby the front desk area, bar and “technology lounge” all flow together.

A new take on the classic business center, the tech lounge, nestled in the corner of the lobby, offers communal work space, complete with PC and Mac computer terminals. Laptop-toting travelers can also grab a spot on one of the couches lining the lounge and tap into the free WiFi.

Toward the center of the lobby, blocks of lounge-style seatings provide guests a place to gather and watch one of the flat-screen televisions peppered throughout the room. Hungry souls can head to the sprawling centerpiece bar, which serves fresh pastries, Starbucks coffee and ready-made sandwiches during the day, turning into a pub at night.

A lit sculpture of intertwined tendrils hovers above the bar, bound by a towering frame with several flat-screen monitors running down one side. Contemporary furniture and decor in earth tones defines the aesthetic of the lobby, while illuminated tables give it flair.

“It's been very rewarding to watch a hotel that frankly was old school become relevant and fresh,” Horton said. “We’re going from having 10 to 15 people in the lobby at night to having 30 to 50.”

It took six months to complete construction on the lobby, which was being renovated during the build-out of Harth, the hotel restaurant that opened earlier this month. Work is already underway for the remodeling of all 458 guest rooms. Horton would not provide an expense breakdown for each of the three projects, nor estimates of how much owners might have to spend to implement the new features.

Hilton is among a host of companies, such as Hyatt and Marriott, breathing new life into their lodgings, as the travel business improves, said Jonathan Nehmer, founder and president of hospitality design firm Jonathan Nehmer and Associates in Rockville.

“Though there had been a lot of planning and discussions of these projects, hotel renovations were neglected for the last two and a half years,” he said. Nehmer noticed a surge in requests for planning studies and proposals around the summer, with a number of project taking shape around December.

“We’re in the beginning of a new cycle,” Horton said. “We’ve had a significant amount of assets change hands. New owners always look for the upside. They want to invest for the cycle so as rates come back they’re prepared to grow market share and drive price premiums, which ultimately leads to profitability.”

Danielle Douglas covers the banking industry for The Washington Post.
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