How the world’s best hotels make you happy

How luxury hotel designers provide that unexplainable sense of relaxation and happiness

Mar 23, 2023

You can’t quite put your finger on it, that feeling, as the stress of flight delays, immigration queues and rush-hour traffic lift like the luggage from your shoulders. You won’t be aware of the pacifying effect of the reception desk’s symmetry, the Gestalt principles behind the pleasing geometric pattern on the walls, or that the activity in your amygdala – the brain’s fear centre – is diminished by the gentle curve of the banquettes. All this, when executed well, will just feel like happiness. Like a delightful accident.

It’s not, of course. In fact, every element of your surroundings, from the crystal chandelier to the towel hook by the shower, has been meticulously calibrated by a team of hotel designers who tap into the psychology behind guest behaviour. “The study of psychology goes hand in hand with the discipline of interior design – it’s profound how the environment affects the way we act, never mind the way we feel,” says Jo Littlefair, co-founder and director of London-based design house Goddard Littlefair.

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