High Atmosphere: Ambience Is Our Business

We wondered what future hotel rooms will look like, so we asked the design gurus at the Santa Monica offices of HBA/Hirsch Bedner Associates. It's all about grabbing your attention and giving you an experience, say design consultants at the firm, which has consulted on 600 luxury and boutique hotels worldwide since 1964 and has about 70 projects pending. Nothing less than unforgettable will do.

The folks at HBA have bigger plans for your hotel bathroom, for example. Think clear glass walls between bath and bedroom that turn opaque with the touch of a button. Think glass basins and mirrors suspended from a transparent barrier. In short, think high-concept. "The bath is part of the guest room experience," says design director Dean Singer. "We're trying to blur the line between bath and bed."

Elsewhere, HBA visionaries forecast inventive uses for new technology. Example: Mood projector lights to festoon the bedroom ceiling with blue skies, desertscapes or green forests by day and a starry sky at night. And brace yourself--that once cutting-edge attraction, the plasma flat-screen TV, is already on the way out. The latest is the "reversible holoscreen projection TV," able to beam images onto the transparent glass between bedroom and bathroom, for viewing from both sides. "We try to avoid things that are just for novelty's sake and go for things that are timeless," says HBA CEO Michael Bedner, who concedes that many of the most innovative concepts are being tried in new hotels in Asia, where hoteliers want "something different" and are less tied to design models.

If all of this sounds like a bit of a production, that's the point. "The goal is to create a memorable experience," Bedner says. "Whether it's with technology or luxurious bedding, we want the guest to have that wondrous feeling that their experience has been serendipitous."

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