Designing a hotel to be both functional and full of surprises is no small feat, but that's exactly what Tobias Koch of the Dutch design firm Concrete took on as his guiding principle as Project Architect for the newly opened Roomers Munich, an Autograph Collection Hotel in Munich, Germany. “Seduction, surprise, and the unknown are the key words behind the design of the hotel,” says Koch.
As a part of Autograph Collection Hotels—a portfolio that celebrates individuality by curating one-of-a-kind travel experiences at more than 130 distinctive hotels worldwide—Roomers Munich demonstrates a unique character, full of uncommon details. Located in a space that once housed an office building, the hotel was redesigned from the ground up, transforming a workday space into a hotel that challenges your senses, all while offering 281 rooms and suites, a hidden whisky room/event space, a modern Japanese restaurant, and a bunch of luxurious nooks and crannies in which guests can relax and enjoy the unique features of this one-of-a-kind hotel.
Koch and his team at Concrete reimagined every detail in the guest rooms (including the bathrooms) to not only provide comfort, but also add glamor and reimagine what it means to lounge. Color was an important design consideration, and is used throughout the hotel to create original, yet comfortable spaces, as well as trick the eye into seeing something different than the expected. Rather than a hall of mirrors effect, color (or the lack of it) in the hands of Koch becomes something new—an engine to drive discovery and leave guests with a sense of wonder.
Here, Domino sits down with Koch to get a sense of his vision for the space.
Let’s start with the bathroom in each guest room. So often, hotel bathrooms are light in color, but in Roomers Munich guest rooms, the only light color element is the sink. The rest of the room is black or very dark grey.
Black creates a sense of mystery, and the bathroom becomes a place with a bit of hide and seek. In your bathroom at home, you want to see clearly how you look. But the way we used tile and light creates something of a dark reflection. It’s like coming home after a party—you always see the silhouette.
Tell me about the black tile that is used throughout the bathroom. What did you need to consider when choosing the tile?
It is a black Italian marble with white veins. This marble is the opposite of the standard marble, which is typically white with dark veins. Basically, we tried to invert the marble concept of white with threads of black. We wanted something memorable, something that looked like a jewelry store and felt like a high-end fashion boutique. We also built in a lot of vertical elements—the portal of curtained French doors when you first enter the room, and the shower, for example—and marble underlines that structure.
The floor tile is the same as what is used on the wall, but it seems darker. The difference in tone is only a trick of the eye. By layering dark on dark, we could create accents in the dark so that all the important elements like the faucet, mirror, sink, and hooks stick out, and the black tile feels like a backdrop.
There is even a darkened mirror in the shower. Why?
We wanted to play with this idea of seduction and confusion by adding another dimension. The dark glass makes more of a silhouette of the body, so the reflection you see is always abstracted. We wanted to inspire the guest to think, “I don’t need to see myself,” but to see themselves as a silhouette. By using this darkened glass, you can see what you want or what you like to see. The glass gives you possibilities to get a different impression of yourself. It’s sheer and playful.
So, if the bathroom is dark, you must then add some light. How do you need to lighten up a dark bathroom?
We set the lighting so that it creates a focus on important items. There is a pendant next to the sink/main mirror/makeup mirror that casts an overall light. Stainless steel elements on the sink are glossy, and create a strong contrast. And the white sink bounces light up. The makeup mirror also has a halo of light around it. In this lighting scenario, the guest is the only focus, the bathroom is "disappearing." We added a spotlight in the shower to put the guest in the light.
The bathroom is no longer humdrum; it becomes a room of glamour. Let’s call it a spa room. Though the focused lighting enables you to still take care of the functional tasks like shaving or putting on makeup, the bathroom is now more about feeling good in your body.
In general, could you talk about how lighting needed to be adjusted in order to compensate for the dark surroundings?
LED lines help to outline the main elements, and the other lighting in the room needs to be strong and sharply focused. The most important thing is to add very warm LEDs. LED 2700, which is what we used in Roomers Munich, is the warmest standard white you can get: You will not look pale, or like you are at the dentist.
In the bedroom, we used spotlights to project directly on the artwork, like a light cone. Many of the lights in the bedroom are recessed, so you only see the cone on the wall—not the light itself.
In many hotels, there is a general sort of beige illumination. We tried to cut that out and create islands of light in a dark background. At Roomers Munich, the lights have pre-sets so the guests can design the lighting the way they like. Pull on the tassel over the bed to explore the pre-sets. At home, it’s great to have pre-sets that have "cozy mode" or "bright mode."
One of the other surprises in the guest rooms at Roomers Munich are the bathtubs. They are not in the bathroom, but in the bedroom. What do you need to consider before putting a tub in a room other than a bathroom?
The goal was for the tub to have the same importance and appreciation as a way of relaxation as the bed. We wanted a location for the tub that was dramatic and the center of attention. It’s the same idea as having a hot tub on a porch or deck. The guest can simply lounge in the tub or watch TV, or even roll right from the bed into the bath. Of course, there were some technical considerations, such as flooring and drainage.
Let’s talk about how you use color in Roomers Munich. Gold is an important color in the Roomers Munich guestrooms. What do you like about using the color gold in hotel rooms?
Gold exudes elusiveness and luxury.
Yes, but gold, when not incorporated properly, can be, well, tacky. When designing a room using gold, how do you avoid making it look tacky?
Stay minimal and focused on utility. We tried to use gold in a more industrial way and avoid "decorational" shapes: no gold-leaf sculptures or dying swans! When working with any metal, it can get very technical. We created gold rods for the furniture; they look serious, but understated. We used gold in the lobby, too—in straight panels.
One of my favorite features was the golden box that held the edible treats. What was the inspiration for including this design feature?
We liked the idea of secrecy, and that these woven boxes contained an element of surprise. They were inspired by modular systems. We added cubes to the vertical rod elements. The mesh box is very architectural, and it's purposefully placed at eye height so that the guest can see the quality of the finely woven mesh. A light pendant was placed inside so that the light could shine out through the mesh and create an interesting shadow on the wall. The light also can bounce off the wine glasses hanging on the wine rack for a kaleidoscopic effect.
The shag rug is also gold.
The shag rug is a warm island on the parquet floor. It’s also a trick—if you have a golden material in the room, light becomes a lot warmer and more human. You can see that there is not really color in the room except gold and two green chairs. Gold creates a warm footprint—the rug is warm when you touch it, and visually warm.
Black, gold, and white is a classic color combination. What makes it look fresh?
The well-proportioned use of the color combination.
The Whisky Room is red—eye popping red. Why?
Let’s start with the idea that it is a hidden room. Guests need to open something like a cabinet door to find it. We took inspiration from Adolf Loos’s American Bar in Vienna (also called Loosbar). That classic bar has a wooden grid ceiling, and we wanted to create a space where a guest might understand the reference, but also change it up. We moved away from dark bordello red to lipstick red. Then, we went for a lacquered look on the tables, and velvet on the walls, niches, and booths.
Since everything is red except the ceiling, the human eye adjusts after 10 minutes and sees red as neutral. At that point, everything else becomes desaturated, and the feel is like in a black and white movie.
If you think of it like American Bar, it’s a bar and features a "classic club" setting submerged in scarlet tones with red wood and soft red paneling. The fully programmable illuminated cassette ceiling can transform the elegant whiskey room into a mesmerizing private club. It invites guests to stay longer, and perhaps be surprised by what the evening may bring. Mirror elements along the upper portion of the walls act like an infinity mirror. The mirrors reflect the light of the ceiling cassettes, and the effect is a blurring of the boundaries.
Lamps on the wall add a small amount of illumination, and there are lights in the ceiling. Every cassette has its own LED, and can animate and create effects individually. We also built in sound elements—each cassette has its own IP address (there are 24)—so DJs can adjust to suit.
We really wanted to make it "wow." Red only works because everything is red—the desaturation effect is the interesting thing. After your eyes adjust, the ceiling becomes the active part. We wanted to create a special experience that you don’t typically have at home. Light is essential to creating the sensory experience of this room.
Lastly, I want to talk about the hallways, as they are also dark.
We wanted to create an off-the-radar moment during the transition from the lobby to your room. If you feel loosely oriented or feel something like distance while walking in the hall, then you will be "wow-ed" when you enter the room.
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