CULTURE & COMMUNITY
17 years ago The Hoxton, Shoreditch opened its doors. Fired up to re-imagine the guest experience and break age old in-flexible habits of hotels lacking in humanity, it set out to design a better way. One that other hotel brands now follow and many look up to. We sat down with AboundStudio Co-Founder & Creative Director, James Huntly, to discuss the project that ignited his passion for hotels and the hospitality sector.
James, you once described The Hoxton Hotel project as the start of your love affair with hotels. What was it about this particular project that ignited this passion?
The Hoxton Hotel was my maiden project into hotel design. It was a unique project, one that was built on challenging conventions and breathing fresh life into the hospitality space. The process of reimagining the hotel experience, shaping an icon, and contributing to the evolution of the sector kindled my passion for hotels and set the path for my career in design.
How important was it to challenge the status quo in the hotel industry when you worked on The Hoxton Hotel project?
The hotel industry at the time was rather rigid and a dare I say it, boring. Many hotel brands had lost their soul and had become very transactional, more concerned with T&Cs and cookie cutter standards, than delivering a unique experience. So the project set out to disrupt that, with a focus on humanising the guest experience and design narrative inspired by the vibrant Hoxton neighbourhood, ensuring a strong connection with the locale and its unique character.
You mention the importance of designing a holistic guest journey. How was this bought to life through The Hoxton Hotel project?
The ambition was to reimagine the guest journey, by eliminating the often inconvenient surprises and unnecessary amenities guests were unwittingly paying for. In their place, thoughtful amenities were introduced, such as frictionless free Wi-Fi (not the norm at the time), mini-bars at supermarket prices, and a daily breakfast bag delivered to guests' doors.
Culture and community played a significant role in The Hoxton Hotel's design. Could you elaborate on how these elements were integrated into the brand?
The ambition was for the Hotel to become part of the community. The hotel was designed to tap into the vibrant and social spirit of the Hoxton neighbourhood, achieved through an open-door policy that invited locals to mingle with guests, a buzzing neighbourhood bar, and a brand voice that was direct and charismatic. By embedding the local culture and character into the hotel, it created a place where all were welcome.
How did the distinctive tone of voice contribute to The Hoxton Hotel's brand identity?
The direct and charismatic tone of voice was fundamental to the brand. It was a stark contrast to the staid, corporate tones prevalent in the hospitality industry at the time. This voice breathed life into the brand and sector, bringing character and colour to the guest journey, raising a smile at key guest pain points often overlooked by competitors.
Can you share some insights on the unique lobby design of The Hoxton Hotel and its role in the overall experience?
The lobby was a radical reimagining of what a hotel lobby could be, a welcoming, inclusive space for everyone, not just for hotel guests. This open-door policy created a warm, vibrant atmosphere where local residents were encouraged to mingle. The combination of lounge spaces, fireplaces, and the neighbourhood bar infused the lobby with a community spirit that still defines the brand.
Looking back at your work on The Hoxton Hotel, how do you feel about the project and its outcome?
Reflecting on it now, I feel a great sense of pride. It’s an iconic brand that’s grown somewhat of a cult following. Not only amongst guests but the broader hotel industry. The fact that it's being recognised globally and continues to influence other hotel brands is a testament to its disruptive approach. Following the merger between Ennismore and Accor, I'm excited to see how The Hoxton comes of age to travel the world.