Experimental feature

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00
Experimental feature

The exhibitors at the Independent Hotel Show, which took place at London’s Olympia centre this month, are an eager bunch. They beckon to show me the latest in-room coffee machines, concierge waistcoats and “chemical-free” mattresses.

But I was headed for the “Hotel Room of the Future” stand. Here, Two’s Company Interior Design had built a mock-up of what an ideal hotel room should look like.

I have some proposals of my own. The ideal hotel room should have a limited number of lights, each with its own switch, and those by the bed should be bright enough for reading. The shower taps should be simple. There should be a desk at which you can comfortably type or write, and a bank of sockets to accommodate phone and laptop chargers of the major plug types. One other idea I have is so compelling that I’m saving it for the end of this column.

First, Nicholas Sunderland of Two’s Company, winner of several awards, including “Most Innovative Luxury Interior 2017”, shows me around. The central feature of the hotel room of the future is, naturally, the bed.

Created by British company Simba, it can be adjusted into various shapes, including “zero gravity mode”, where, according to the sales literature, “the recumbent’s legs are raised above the level of the heart for improved circulation, and to relieve pressure on the lower back”.

I have had my own lower back issues but, as I sleep on my stomach, I am not sure that raised legs, and an upwardly arched spine, would be optimal. I get a back twinge just thinking about it.

More interesting to me is that Sunderland tells me that a motion sensor turns on ambient lighting around the base of the bed when you get up, which aligns with my own exciting idea (which you will have to await patiently).

We then move to the bathroom, where a British company called SplinterWorks has created a banana-shaped black carbon-fibre “hammock bath”, described as “the ultimate vehicle for total escapism, suspending you in bathing bliss”. As my idea of bathing bliss is a shower with comprehensible taps, we move on instead to two sensible features, neither novel, but unseen (by me anyway) in hotel rooms.

The first is an answer to the ridiculous hotel fashion for see-through bathroom walls and toilet doors. These are fine if you’re travelling alone, but not if you have company. Do you know of any couple, no matter how happily hitched, who have a glass loo door at home?

The answer, Sunderland demonstrates, is a switch that turns the glass wall an opaque milky-white. There is also — once again, nothing new, but which I would welcome in a hotel room — a small screen from which you can control the heating. No incomprehensible buttons and dials.

Now my idea for the hotel room of the future, which I got from the airline pre-take off safety demonstration and the advice on how to leave the aircraft if it is filled with smoke. Why, I ask Sunderland, can’t there be a motion sensor that activates, as your feet touch the floor in the middle of the night, a dim but discernible row of lights that guides you to and from the toilet? No need to struggle with rest-disturbing light switches or to wake a sleeping partner. No stubbing your toe or cracking your ankle against the bed. He ponders and declares that there is no technical obstacle to this.

I have no patents pending on this idea or licensing arrangements in place. (If we journalists were that interested in money, we would be doing something else.) So please, hotel designers, do it. All I ask is that if anyone inquires who came up with this fine idea, you give credit where it’s due.

If you are a subscriber and would like to receive alerts when Michael’s articles are published, just click the button “add to myFT”, which appears at the top of this page beside the author’s name. Not a subscriber? Follow Michael on Twitter @Skapinker or email him at michael.skapinker@ft.com

Letter in response to this column:

The travel essential that I still regret not buying / From Liam Tuite, Portobello, Dublin, Ireland

Simple instructions that anyone can understand / From Vidya Borooah, Belfast, N Ireland

Get alerts on Next Act when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.

Follow the topics in this article