Year in Review 2018: Lessons from Hospitality

Our contributors comment on an event or a moment from the last year that demanded more of how we should practice, frame, and respond to design.
Year Review 2018 Hospitality

Earlier this year, as Cape Town approached “Day Zero”—the term given to the imposition of the city’s extreme water rationing plan— Ellerman House placed Dylan Lewis sculptures in tubs as a reminder to guests to practice water conservation. Courtesy Ellerman House


This past spring, I found myself in drought- stricken Cape Town, as the city was counting down to an apocalyptic “Day Zero” of extreme water rationing. The crisis had forced residents to drastically change their lifestyles, but as a visitor, I found it easy to revert to my American ways. After my long flight, I had been dreaming of a hot soak in one of the famed Ellerman House’s luxuriously deep tubs. You can imagine my surprise to find a bronze cheetah blocking the drain.

The hotel had placed sculptures by Dylan Lewis in all of its tubs as a not-so-subtle reminder that baths were off-limits. In less dire situations, this nudge might have taken the form of a door tag or a note placed on a nightstand. But in an over- stimulated world, such reminders can be easy to miss. Unlike a door tag, a cheetah in the bathtub is impossible to overlook. Hotels like Ellerman House have smartened up and are shrewdly employing design as a coconspirator in sustainability—first, by making us pause and say, “Wow,” and then by compelling us to reconsider our actions.

Year Review 2018 Hospitality

Courtesy Ellerman House

Hotels have accordingly become showcases for cutting-edge social and sustainable companies. The chunky, Pop Art–inspired bathroom fixtures at Lisbon’s new Casa Fortunato, for example, were my introduction to Fantini, an Italian brand that devotes a portion of its profits to digging clean wells in Africa. And the Shoreline Hotel in Waikiki, with its hot-pink recycled- vinyl flooring, put Swedish company Bolon on my radar.

Smart moves in hospitality not only help us make better decisions on the road— they can also inspire us to embrace green ideas at home. In my mission to cut back on my own plastic use, I’ve purchased cardboard hangers, an idea lifted from 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. I’ve also adopted candy cane–striped Aardvark paper straws, introduced to me by a barista at the Hoxton in Williamsburg.

Not every hotel (or person, for that matter) can go off the grid. But we can all make the planet a better place by being more purposeful—and even clever—with design, both at home and in our travels.

Jen Murphy is a travel writer and editor based in Boulder, Colorado.

Year Review 2018 Hospitality

Courtesy Ellerman House

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Categories: Hospitality Interiors, Interiors