Element's Studio Commons

At a recent stay at the Element Edmonton West, I was pleasantly surprised by the property’s sleek, Scandinavian-style design flair and its clear commitment to sustainability. But Element isn’t sitting on its heels, and the brand is continuing to evolve to better suit different extended stay travelers’ needs.

Element has launched sort of a “Generation 2.5” of its design scheme. According to Marlon Whyte, Global Brand Leader, Element Hotels & AC Hotels by Marriott, changes in the public area for Gen 2.5 were driven by two key factors.

“The first was an opportunity to revisit the design strategy for the Element brand to better incorporate the new F&B offerings,” he said. “We transformed the traditional buffet set up into a space that transitions seamlessly from food service and prep to a space that could just as easily be used to work in or sit in and have a glass of wine. Creating a comfortable space that feels residential for the evening was an objective.”

Additionally, the grab-and-go retail was reimagined, so as to feel more casual than a cafeteria-style kitchen. Adjustments in art and styling help to soften this space and make it feel more welcoming.

Element Edmonton West kitchen

The other big part of Gen 2.5 is an innovative new room concept the brand calls “Studio Commons.” This room type blends the convenience of a hotel room with the flexibility of a private home rental. The rooms are designed for groups looking to spend time together in a more private setting—while still enjoying the comforts of a hotel room.

Anchored by four private guest rooms, guests can cook, convene and relax together in shared kitchen and living room areas, allowing them to live as they do at home without having to compromise space, convenience or amenities. The Studio Commons communal spaces will range from 600 to 650 square feet, while each of the four adjacent guest rooms will range from 250 to 280 square feet.

“Element’s Studio Commons are designed to appeal to a variety of different needs—whether that be coworkers looking to collaborate on a project, or friends and families traveling together to celebrate a special milestone such as a family reunion, graduation, birthday celebration or a bachelor/bachelorette party,” said Whyte.

Studio Commons game watching

Element first teased this new concept at Marriott’s first-ever pop-up innovation lab two years ago at the American Lodging and Investment Summit in Los Angeles. The interactive model hotel experience allowed the brand to crowdsource real-time feedback from industry professionals, hotel guests, associates and the general public. Through this research, Whyte said they learned that Element’s guests value being able to replicate their home environment while traveling, so separating their sleep and workspaces were particularly important with this new offering.

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“Studio Commons is meant to be sold as a group,” he said. “If there are additional rooms (beyond the four) that are part of the group, keycard access to Studio Commons will be granted. So, in essence, Studio Commons isn’t limited to the four guest rooms surrounding it—it can be used for larger parties.

“Having said that, if the hotel needed to sell these as individual rooms, guests wouldn’t necessarily know they were part of a larger communal room area. There is only one out of the four bedrooms that has open access through the Studio Commons communal area, which would then be closed off to the other bedrooms. Due to the design model, guests in those other three bedrooms would not be aware they did not have access to communal area and would have a standard guestroom, aside from an in-suite kitchen.”

Studio Commons debuted at the new Element in Boulder, Colo. in June. The new 121-room hotel features four groupings of the communal rooms concept, each anchored by four guest rooms. Studio Commons nightly rates at Element Superior Boulder start at $600 for the four guestrooms, private kitchen and living room.

Whyte said that thus far, the hotel’s Sales and Revenue teams have been busy conducting site tours to familiarize their group and leisure businesses with the Studio Commons layout and the various uses. The focus from a larger brand perspective is to socialize the offering digitally and socially to customers and internal sellers by conducting a photoshoot that will provide rich photography and video further bringing the space to life for the consumer, he explained.

Element is expecting another four hotels to open with the Studio Commons concept by end of 2019, one in Arizona, two in California and one in Minnesota. By the end of 2020, based on construction timelines, the brand anticipates about 25-30 Gen 2.5 hotels to open—bringing the total operating number to about 30-35 hotels.