If you've ever been on a long-term assignment out of town and forced by the bean counters to decamp in an extended-stay hotel, take heart: Your days of confinement in a room with a laminated wood table as a desk and bad art that's not even ironic are nearing an end.
Extended-stay hotel brands are getting a much-needed update, and the result will be rooms that feel a bit more like home, with more of a design-conscious aesthetic.
Most important of all, though, the new extended-stay joints will rehab the public areas that today make them feel so… tired. Project ESW will include a large gym, an outdoor area with a barbecue, and a communal lobby more akin to an urban lounge. "You'll be around other people, so you can socialize or not, but you won't feel isolated," says Westin senior vice president Sue Brush. Marriott plans to install 8' x 10' maps in the lobbies of its TownePlace Suites, highlighting places where locals eat, jog, or take their dry-cleaning. And "you won't see something like the Olive Garden or Bennigan's," says Laura Bates, a Marriott senior vice president, explaining that the picks will come from staff and guests. No one will ever love staying in an extended-stay hotel, but high-thread-count sheets, warm colors, and a sense of community may get us that much closer to like.
A version of this article appeared in the October 2006 issue of Fast Company magazine.