Professional Comment

The Importance of Interior Design in the Hospitality Sector and its Impact on Customers

By Mara Rypacek Miller, Managing Director at Industville Ltd (

From colours and lighting to acoustics and architecture, the interior design of any hospitality setting is vital to get right in order to help ensure the customers’ experience is a good one. Mara Rypacek Miller, Managing Director at Industville Ltd, gives her expert advice on how you can influence your audience’s psychology with interior design to help grow your business.

Whether you’re running a hotel, bar, cafe or a restaurant, interior design is more important than you think, as Mara explains “Interior design in the hospitality industry is of vital importance when it comes to creating a positive experience for your guests, your staff, and anyone else who steps foot into your establishment. Great hospitality settings don’t just happen; they are meticulously designed that way. The design represents the audience that you’d like to attract, communicates your brand, and ensures you achieve your business goals and objectives.”

Find your Interior Design Focus
As you work on your concept, remember to tie together the style and feel of your establishment to your branding. Mara explains “The interior design must never lose sight of three important factors; the customers, the space and the brand philosophy. A great design will achieve synergy between these three elements. Decide who is your core audience and what do they want from their time spent in your establishment? How can you deliver on your brand promise in a visually appealing way? Keep these questions in mind as you decide everything from your overall aesthetic to colours, furnishings, artwork, fixtures, and so on.”

Use Psychology to Choose Colours
Psychology plays an important role in choosing the right colours for your interior design. “For hotel bedrooms and bathrooms, cool colours such as blue and green work well as they are known to promote relaxation and calm,” comments Mara.

She continues, “Small accents of yellow have also been proved to stimulate conversation and therefore work really well in cafes or bars. Bright red, orange, and yellow are regarded as the best colours for restaurants because of how they help in stimulating appetite. Furthermore, orange and yellow are also associated with happiness and warmth making them popular choices within hospitality settings”.

Saturation and shade also play an important role in colour psychology. Mara says, “As a rule of thumb, light colours are perceived to make rooms feel brighter and more spacious. Whereas dark colours, lend themselves to creating a sophisticated and intimate environment. An intimate space such as a bar may wish to concentrate on darker tones, whereas by contrast an open lobby in a hotel will look most welcoming with light colours like gold and cream to create a sense of luxury and grandeur”.

Pay Attention to your Lighting

From the moment guests walk through your door into the reception or entrance, they notice various aspects that contribute towards shaping their all-important first impression; therefore, your choice of lighting can significantly affect the way they view your establishment. Mara advises “The key here is to maintain the brand concept of your hotel, bar or restaurant. The correct blend of layered lighting is vital to get right as it influences human moods and emotions, resulting in many commercial benefits. Not only will it ensure customers enjoy their experience and ultimately spend more time and money within the establishment, but it will also mean they are more likely to return and give good recommendations to family and friends”.

Lighting is one of the most important aspects to think about in any space, as the right light can change the dynamics of a room to create the perfect ambience. There are three main types of lighting: ambient, task and accent, each adding a different layer to the interior. Mara explains, “To accomplish a well-thought-out, welcoming space, you need to embrace the complete range of lighting sources available: pendant lights, recessed lights, chandeliers, track lighting, tall floor lamps, small table lamps, wall sconces, under cabinet lighting, and other spot lighting. My advice is to vary the lighting sources to create little pockets and pools of illumination. Ambient lighting is the most prominent type as it sets the mood and overall atmosphere of a space, whilst providing a room with sufficient lighting. Task lighting helps guests and staff to accomplish basic tasks like reading the menu in a café or restaurant or applying makeup or shaving in their hotel bathroom for example. Accent lighting can then be used to highlight points of interest in a room such as artwork, plants, or architectural features. This type of lighting requires three times as much light as the surrounding areas to create a focal point”.

Think about the function of the space and how you could enhance or compliment it. Would you like warm lighting to create a cosy atmosphere in a hotel, or bright lighting to create a lively mood in a quirky bar or café. Would you like the lighting to wash the wall in a decorative fashion or do you need focused task lighting by a bed or armchair for example? Different functions will demand different types of lighting. It is also important to ensure the lights are independently controlled, as well as installing dimmer switches for each light source, to allow for a wide variety of moods to be created throughout the day.

Your lighting should reflect your brand story and hence you will want to use lighting made from the highest quality materials. Not only will this enhance the overall atmosphere, but it will also improve perceptions of your brand, giving it individual flair. Mara explains, “At Industville all of our lights are handcrafted from quality materials such as pure brass or copper. Investing in quality also means the lights will last longer and with energy consumption levels likely to be high in hotels, bars and restaurants, this is something to bear in mind. Industville bulbs utilise eco-friendly, cost-effective LED technology making them both practical and stylish”.

Scent and Acoustics
Scent is one of the senses that is closely linked to memory, so it has a huge impact on how guests remember their experience and has the power to change the entire perspective of a place. Mara explains “Studies have shown that apple and cucumber scents, for example, make a room feel spacious whereas barbecue smoke makes a room feel smaller than it actually is. Scents such as lavender relax the brain and vanilla and chamomile are known to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression.

Citrus and peppermint scents, on the other hand, increase alertness”. Mara continues, “Think carefully about the emotions and memories you wish to evoke in your guests and pick a scent accordingly, believe it or not, the smell of your establishment is part of the way your customers form opinions of your business, and will also affect their spending habits”.

Similarly, the acoustics have a profound effect on a guest’s experience. “The type of establishment will determine what type of sound it should have,” comments Mara. She continues, “Different spaces will require different acoustics and getting it right is key when designing a comfortable hospitality environment; one that will deliver a great experience for customers, and appropriate return on investment for the business owners. For example, in a café setting guests don’t want to have to shout to hear each other, and similarly they don’t want to whisper to ensure the customers at the neighbouring table can’t hear them. On the other hand, a lively, young, contemporary bar may opt for louder music to evoke a party atmosphere and increase sales of alcoholic beverages”.

Think about your Surroundings
More and more businesses within the hospitality sector are designing their premises to blend in with their surroundings in a complementary way. “This can be accomplished by creating open plan spaces where large windows and doors merge indoor and outdoor areas, bringing the outside in. Focusing on biophilic design is another way to create a harmonious space, take inspiration from elements found in nature such as natural light and materials and reflect these in your interior design, architecture and style,” suggests Mara.

Mara continues “Our natural circadian rhythm is vital in ensuring general wellbeing, affecting everything from our all-important sleep patterns to the molecular clocks that regulate the timing of our cellular activities. Keeping this rhythm in check, means we not only feel better but also perform better too, hence businesses are keen to ensure they provide the right environment for their guests”.

If your hospitality establishment is fortunate to have an outdoor space, it is vital you make the most of the area. Mara explains, “The exterior of your establishment holds the same design opportunities as interiors and having the correct lighting is vital to making the most of any outdoor space. Not only should lights be stylish, but they also need to be functional and can even be used to create different zones depending on what the area is to be used for. Lighting plays a key part in ensuring an outside space comes together and can really take a design to the next level. When used in the right way, lighting can be used to make stylish, thoughtfully designed spaces, creating just the desired atmosphere whether it is for an informal alfresco lunch or a chic, bustling outdoor cocktail bar”. Thanks to technological advances, IP65 rated outdoor lighting designs are available in a wide range of finishes, fittings, and styles, meaning there is an outdoor lighting option to suit any outdoor space from modern, state-of-the-art hotel terraces to brick, wood, or traditional gardens.