Hotel Design Trends – Vintage is the New New

It wasn’t so long ago that thrift stores and flea markets were a great place to shop for a deal. Those old chairs with out-of-date upholstery could be picked up for pennies, and a great period-specific Halloween costume could be put together with ease. Those days are gone now, as the vintage and retro aesthetics have roared into the popular mainstream.

This love of vintage has permeated all aspects of modern life, from fashion to food to home decor. The vintage trend encompasses a broad swath of styles and evokes various decades in the 20th century, but there are a few overarching themes: handmade (or the illusion of it) is better than mass produced, pieces are carefully curated, and everything old can be made new in the right context.

It’s hard to nail down where the current love affair with vintage came from, but the downturn of the American economy following the subprime mortgage crisis in the latter half of the 2000s caused a significant change in how the middle class viewed shopping second-hand. Conspicuous consumption was out. Frugality was now hip.

This trend has only strengthened as the world economies continue to struggle along, and the vintage and retro aesthetics can now be seen popping up in hotels around the world.
The Excelsior Latin Hôtel is located in the heart of Paris’ Latin Quarter, and when tasked to redesign their brand identity designer Fabien Barral took cues from turn-of-the-century Paris. Old newspapers and hand lettered signs served as inspiration for a look heavy on careful typesetting and hand-flourished designs. Old photographs and a sepia-toned color palette can be found throughout the hotel, bringing the best elements of the past into the modern future.
The Ace Hotel exploded onto the hotel scene with their Pinterest-friendly decor. While their first hotel in Seattle opened in 1999, it was their second hotel in Portland that established this group as the arbitrators of cool and set a new course for boutique hotels to follow. Take the Ace Hotel & Swim Club in Palm Springs for example: the hotel group has transformed a former Howard Johnson’s into a hipster Mecca with a funky mid-century vibe. King’s Highway, the on-site restaurant, occupies a former Denny’s, and the 60’s diner atmosphere is everywhere from the decor to the menu.
While the Ace Hotels go for the effortlessly cool shabby-chic aesthetic, the Hotel Sax in Prague goes completely the other direction. Step through the front doors directly into 1960’s Swinging London, with bright solid colours heavy on the greens, yellows and oranges, asymetrical doorways, and bold wallpaper with large repeating patterns. It’s especially jarring when you look out the window to see it compared to the Czech Baroque and Gothic architecture surrounding you.

While boutique hotels have been the first to embrace vintage design, it’s likely we’ll see some of the bigger players incorporating elements into their designs. Vintage may be based in the past, but it’s absolutely the trend of the day.

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