Hotel lobbies seem to be on the way out – at least, the huge ones of the past (as exemplified by the Hilton Metropole London pictured above) seem to have shrunk. Maybe no one finds them useful any more. After all, what do you actually use the lobby for?
There’s a business centre for connecting to the internet, a bar for meeting people; and as for check-in and check-out, it’s become a much quicker process in most hotels, with some hotels automating it or taking out the check-in desks entirely. Many guests just want to get to their rooms as quickly as possible – the days of the jet-set style ceremonious arrival are numbered. And there’s nothing quite as sad as an unfrequented hotel lobby – I won’t name it, but there’s one hotel where the lobby always makes me feel sad, a bit like the dentist’s waiting shown below.
Some hotels prefer a more intimate boutique-style reception area over a flamboyant traditional baroque lobby. And a lobby does of course represent wasted space if you could put a destination bar or restaurant there instead. At the Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street luxury hotel in Covent Garden, a corner check-in saves space while giving pride of place to the hotel’s quirky art collection as recently featured on our blog; while the lobby at The Arch feels very much like a townhouse hallway rather than trying to impress with vast vistas or a grandiose palm court style space.
Nowadays many hotels want the lobby to be multi-function so it may blend into other spaces, like the bar, or it may include working spaces and even PCs for guests to check their email. The recently opened Tune Paddington has a couple of computers and a coffee station with comfy chairs, as well as the check-in desk, in its lobby – but budget Paddington hotels are not alone in following this trend; the Cavendish lobby includes a row of PCs; while Radisson Blu Edwardian Guildford‘s double-height glass-walled lobby has been designed to include working space where you can plug your laptop in within a giant wooden cube. The Z Hotel Victoria meanwhile has turned its lobby into a cafe - that’s where you’ll get your breakfast.
However, London does have a number of more traditional lobbies that are well worth seeing. Here are a few of my personal favourites.
The Corinthia Hotel’s lobby lounge is dominated by a huge Baccarat chandelier; it’s full of light, wonderfully spacious, and you can get a jolly nice afternoon tea there. Claridges is another classic with its black and white lozenged tiles, elegant chandelier, and vast space (mind you, Katherine Hepburn is said to have always used the staff entrance!).
And a new one – Citizen M Bankside‘s entrance looks like a Bauhaus living room, not a hotel lobby with books, sofas, and a vast assemblage of white paper lampshades hanging from the ceiling. It’s not grand, certainly not pompous – but it’s comfy and it might well be the way of the future.
Finally, one hotel group seems to be going against the trend – the Hilton Group believes that mobile technology will usher in a new Golden Age of the Lobby. People who take their laptops to Starbucks, Hilton reckons, like to work in a sociable environment – so they’ll head for the lobby, where they can get a coffee or a beer while they answer emails, jiggle a spreadsheet or simply read Fifty Shades of Grey on their Kindles…