The Hotel Disruptors: Positivity in post-pandemic ‘lean luxury’ & ‘hybrid hotel’ openings.
e shine the spotlight on the new openings from the growing army of lean luxury and hybrid hotel brands, that in the face of adversity, are tackling the current challenges in a way only true disruptors know how. Rather than battening down the hatches and cautiously defending their current positions, they are betting on a post pandemic travel recovery and confidently expanding their burgeoning portfolios. Here at Studio 104 this is a segment of the market we know well. Since 2018, we have partnered with Zoku to ensure the staff appearance seamlessly compliments the hybrid, contemporary, organic, and linear Live Zoku brand principles.
Lean luxury and hybrid hotels are concepts championed by brands such as Ruby, Zoku, citizenM and Locke. All offer lower rates by championing space-saving, customisable, stripped-down style with innovation at their core. They are smart, clever, sustainable, and aesthetically damned good looking! Expect hotels and aparthotels that aren’t just a place to sleep, but somewhere to work, relax, and play. Expect space-efficient 'cabins' where the beds turn into sofas or hidden mezzanine staircases rolling seamlessly out from a multi-function bookcase wall. Expect hotels occupying mixed-use and former office buildings in the heart of the cities, rather than the traditional, prestigious addresses with sky high rents favoured by traditional hotel developers.
Ruby, the self-proclaimed pioneers of ‘lean luxury’, has expansion plans that build on its existing 10 property all-European portfolio by debuting new hotels in Cologne (2021), Helsinki (2021), Zurich (2021) and London (Ruby Stella 2022 and Ruby Zoe 2023).
Focusing on the London launches, and building on the successful opening of Ruby Lucy on the South Bank earlier this year, Ruby Stella is set to open in 2022 in Clerkenwell. It will house 154 rooms, ranging in size from cosy ‘Nest’ rooms to expansive ‘Loft’ rooms, a stylish bar area, a communal workstation, and a library. A laid-back, contemporary design will see quirky touches such as the inclusion of a Marshall guitar amp in each room, which guests can use both with their own guitar or one borrowed from reception, and ‘Ruby Radio’, the hotel group’s own internet radio station.
In 2023 Ruby Hotels will ‘go-west’ with Ruby Zoe scheduled to open in Notting Hill. It will be within walking distance of Kensington Palace and Hyde Park, while Portobello Road Market with its quirky stalls, independent shops and excellent restaurants will be just around the corner. Just like the group’s other properties, Ruby Zoe will follow the Ruby Hotel philosophy: a top location, high-quality fittings, and outstanding design. All of this is offered at an affordable price by rigorously cutting out the superfluous and focusing on the essential.
Facilitating global living and working, Zoku, named after the Japanese word for family, tribe or clan, is a home-office hybrid, also suitable for long stays, with the services of a hotel and the social buzz of a thriving neighbourhood. Zoku is optimally suited for people living and working in a city for a few days to several months offering the international travelling professional a home base with both a smart loft (private areas) and social spaces (communal areas) to work, sleep, play, meet and live in.
The hugely successful launch of Zoku Amsterdam in 2016 laid the foundations for an international roll-out. The Dutch hospitality brand is now on the eve of debuting new properties in three of the world's most liveable cities; Copenhagen (late 2020), Vienna (2021) and Paris (2021).
Zoku Copenhagen will be situated on the Amager island just minutes to central Copenhagen, and will accommodate 160 Lofts, the largest number in the brand's portfolio so far. The new property will be shared with an organic focused supermarket and the co-working concept ‘Woods’. Zoku Vienna will be located in the city’s booming 2nd district, Leopoldstadt with the aim of contributing to the creation of a dynamic and inspiring neighbourhood, facilitating interactions between like-minded travellers and locals.
Zoku Amsterdam partnered with Studio 104 to create a simplistic uniform to complement its contemporary interior aesthetic. The brief was to smarten up the Sidekicks (Zoku’s term for a residents’ go-to person, personal assistant, cross-pollinator, connector and problem solver) by moving away from denim, taking inspiration from the linear, organic, hybrid spaces and constructing a casual-yet-refined silhouette. The Sidekicks now wear slim chinos, a concealed placket shirt, finished off with a brushed cotton bomber jacket, in a palette of tonal blues with silver hard-wear highlights. Studio 104 will be working with Zoku for the Copenhagen, Paris, and Vienna launches.
The Dutch HQ’d ‘affordable luxury’ hotel brand citizenM was founded by Rattan Chadha, the founder and former CEO of the fashion brand Mexx. Since the first citizenM hotel opened at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport in 2008, the development has been swift with a further 19 wholly owned and operated properties now neatly scattered across various major cities in Europe, North America, and Asia.
Washington DC and Geneva will be added to the inventory at the end of this year and with travellers having a renewed focus on health and safety, both properties will benefit from citizenM’s new minimal-fuss ‘smart luxury’ contactless experience, effectively providing guests with extra confidence in their wellbeing during their stay. Using the app on a mobile device, guests can open their rooms or create a keycard. Kiosk passport scanning will be a thing of the past – this will be feasible through the app. Once a guest checks in, they can use their phone to open their room, order food and beverages, control the in-room experience, then check-out when they have finished their stay.
A contactless experience isn’t the only reassurance for guests. Since citizenM only offers one room type, implementing new hygiene standards consistently in the new hotels (and across the entire portfolio) is straightforward. Guestrooms are independently ventilated with 100% fresh air (instead of being recirculated), and feature minimal surfaces to clean, innovative materials like Corian, and no carpets, bedspreads, or chocolate on pillows. Guests will enjoy an affordable contact-free hotel stay powered by superior technology, reinforcing the citizenM doctrine of ‘the new standard is smart luxury for all’.
Locke currently offers seven UK & Ireland design-led hybrid aparthotels for those who want to experience the unique and authentic. Devised for travellers ‘for whom a bed and shower in a shoebox isn’t enough’, Locke aims to immerse its guests in neighbourhood culture through spaces that connect to a community of like-minded locals and travellers.
Expansion has been swift and there are no plans to ease up the momentum. Complementing three new UK & Ireland openings planned for the next six months (two in Dublin and one in London) the Edyn Group sub-brand is keeping the throttle on with debuts of two further properties in London, one in Cambridge, and confirmed European openings in Munich, Berlin, Lisbon by 2023. The Lisbon property (launching in 2022) Locke de Convento de Santa Joanna will be housed in a former convent dating to the 1600s. The Berlin Locke is set debut in 2021 and is in the East Side Gallery development by the River Spree.
View the Studio 104 client portfolio here.
Written by Ian @ Studio 104