Well-Designed Space: What We Can Learn from Hotels

When trying to impress upon my siblings and me the importance of tidiness, my grandmother always used to say: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” She had neither the financial resources nor the desire for the random accumulation of goods, and the few things she did acquire during her lifetime served distinct purposes. She would have made an astute consultant for the hotel industry, where every aspect of design is considered carefully for its efficiency, orderly appearance, and cost effectiveness.
In this age of mass consumption, it seems that we have lost the ability to edit the spaces we inhabit. I thought a lot about the disintegration of simplistic living during a recent stay at the Mandarin Oriental (MO) in Las Vegas (what better place to do this, right?).
The nature of the business mandates that certain elements are included in the hotel guestroom, a place to sleep and a place to wash being the most basic. But the MO takes extra measures to maximize space and create an oasis of calm in the otherwise frenetic environment of Las Vegas.
Here’s what works:
1. Ample storage – I like to unpack my suitcase the moment I arrive at a hotel room, even if I am staying only one night. When my clothes and belongings are strewn all over the place, I feel completely unsettled. Unlike the typical sliding mirrored doors that line guestroom entryways, the MO designates approximately a quarter of the room for the “closet” area. This includes compartmentalized space (six drawers, a full-length closet, above-head storage, an exposed shelf for suitcases, and a valet closet to the outside hallway for discreet deliveries) and ample room for dressing.
At first I thought this was an inefficient use of space, but I quickly realized that it allowed the rest of the room to breathe. At home, customize your closet to maximize your storage capacity and even consider building closets for rooms that don’t have them. The absence of clutter will make up for the lost space.

2. Specialty boxes – One of my favorite touches in the MO guestroom was the incorporation of beautiful boxes used to house everything from a selection of teas to dining and amenity guides. Not only did the boxes conceal the mundane clutter, they added a layer of discovery.
For example, the MO presented the bathroom supplies in a three-drawer jewelry box rather than sitting them on the counter. At home, use boxes in various shapes, colors, and sizes to hide unsightly items and create visual points of interest.
3. Built-ins and dual-purpose furniture – At the MO, one sleek piece of furniture served as the desk, mini-bar and appliance cabinet, and console for the television. At home, consider custom-made furniture rather than individual pieces for small spaces or for rooms that serve more than one purpose.
4. Technology – The MO guestrooms feature a central panel from which guests can operate the television, set the alarm, open and close the shades, control lighting and temperature, communicate with the service staff, and much more. It takes some time to learn, but once it is programmed, the system remembers your settings.
At home, evaluate where technology can help you streamline your space and eliminate redundant remotes. Do you need a separate alarm clock, television, music system, and telephone, or can you consolidate what you need on one or two devices?
The ingenious organization of space is one reason why hotels are able to elicit feelings of peace and tranquility from us when we are on vacation, and conversely explain why we tend to feel disoriented and depressed when we return to our daily routine. If we can integrate these few simple spatial practices at home, perhaps we’ll be one step closer to sustaining the harmony we desire.

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