Sensory Design: Making Hotel Guests ‘Feel’

Ovolo Hotel Reception
Ovolo Hotel Reception

Susan Standring leads HASSELL’s international design practice’s hospitality sector.

I believe the secret to hospitality success lies in a venue’s ability to evoke a strong emotional response and develop a true sense of connection with its guests.

The world of hospitality is competitive. Thousands of new restaurants, hotels and bars open their doors each year and so too, many close. So what is the key to creating a thriving hospitality venue?

For a new venue to be embraced, it must be more than just a place where people can stay or that has a great food and beverage offering. It needs to make guests feel at ease and comfortable and deliver a sense of theatre and engagement that will create a lasting memory.

For designers, the starting point is to develop a deep understanding of the operator’s brand identity and culture and translate that into the local context. It’s only when a designer understands the character of the brand and community that they are able to create design a space that is functional, emotive and socially relevant.

One such example is the Ovolo Hotel in Melbourne. As a boutique hotel for young, tech savvy guests, Ovolo speaks directly to its target audience by stepping away from the corporate feel of many inner-city venues and offering a quirky, fun experience full of surprises. Designing a hospitality venue that stimulates a sense of curiosity and discovery is vital to ensure guests will want to return.

Parkroyal Darling Harbour guest room
Parkroyal Darling Harbour guest room


At Ovolo, the journey starts as soon as people walk through the door. Guests are greeted by a playful lobby space that uses a rich and contrasting palette and quirky lighting to emphasise unexpected elements of the design. A sense of curiosity and discovery continues to build as they move down dim corridors lined with brightly coloured doors and illuminated custom artwork.

In the bedrooms, guests are greeted with fun details including chalkboards and pinball machines, continuing the sense of playful adventure and individual experience. Another important element is acknowledging and embracing the surroundings of the venue — creating a strong connection with its architecture, landscape, climate and culture.


The ParkRoyal Hotel Darling Harbour has achieved this through a design that reflects its location. While complementing the existing hotel brand — already well established in Asia — the light and airy interior embraces organic, curved forms and a vibrant fresh colour palette to reflect the natural Sydney surrounds of beach and bush. It evokes a sense of place, connecting with the locale and waterside location.

The hotel caters to a diverse range of guests travelling for both business and leisure. As such it was important the design reflect the sense of excitement and adventure people have when exploring a new city for the first time. The varying nature of guests passing through the ParkRoyal Hotel necessitates the delivering of a world-class hotel experience that is able to meet diverse needs and expectations. We were keen for the venue to be adaptable and offer a range of spaces that meet a variety of needs, ensuring it doesn’t lay dormant.

Underpinning all the creative and surprising design approaches, the design emphasises there is one element that remains fundamental to the success of any venue: regardless of how breathtaking the design is, it must always be functional and practical. The design has to support a smooth and seamless service offering, whilst also equipping staff with the facilities required to exceed customer expectations. This will ensure the experience measures up to the surroundings and respective brand reputation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *