The problem that seems insurmountable on the one hand, is a creative adventure on the other. Once it was prudent to hide any overhead mechanical fixtures, ducts, beams and pipes, then it became trendy to emphasize those features and amplify their important functions with visibility. Contrasting color added intrigue and respect to structures and systems previously kept out of sight by lowered ceiling treatments. With such conceptual changes came bonuses for the design team: the opportunity to explore new aesthetic approaches instead of new ways to hide the works.
Tight angles and narrow halls are opportunities in disguise. A small niche perhaps becomes a unique focal point for art and lighting; a small, odd corner becomes a cozy reading retreat-for-one.
On a much larger scale, for instance, older, smaller, more traditional perceptions for hotel space have given way to “open space” design, with private rooms or suites designed for temporary living – not just sleep-and-leave. Business travelers now look for more: comfort, electronics accommodation and meeting space in their private quarters. The older motifs have morphed into “boutiques” for those enjoying the cozy warmth of small environments.
Both concepts present renovation challenges – converting a facility with multiple small rooms into a contemporary traveler’s convenience dream can be a momentary nightmare!
Likewise, taking a weary – although quaint – old, small hotel and freshening it while keeping the charm alive takes sensitivity, talent and patience. Folks may want tradition, but the design team must also smuggle in those modern Wi-Fi, TV and spa-jet accommodations!
New construction is not exempt from Ugly Duckling issues. The pressures of our more informed ordinances and specifications (such as ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act) require designers to accommodate those stipulations with style. Everything from expanded doorways, regulation fire equipment, railings and very specific materials often clash with (and limit) aesthetic preferences.
Safety preparation, child protection and accommodation for those with limitations are all important issues. As the design and construction industries matured in attitude and innovation regarding requirements, the options widened and function became more appealing. Architects and designers have found ways to build style and beauty into the pragmatic needs.
A handicap bathroom doesn’t have to be a big, bare, tile compartment, and child safety in public places can be disguised as play and safe distraction. Equipment needed in an emergency can be designed into the colors and contours of an environment and does not have to be an eyesore.
It takes thoughtful creativity and good functional design to handle “the uglies” – large and small.
Robert Boccabella, B.F.A., Certified Interior Designer
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Collaboration & Writing: Ms. Zoe Tummillo