Epiphany Hotel: A Comfy Big-Idea Garage
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because do you really want to endure another off-site retreat in some stuffy hotel conference room?
By Christine Ciarmello
In Silicon Valley, it’s a known fact that billion-dollar brainstorms happen in garages . Hello HP. Apple. Google.
But when is the last time a groundbreaking idea was hatched in a hotel meeting room? Even if it has, it’s certainly not something companies romanticize in their origin stories. An oval conference table just doesn’t sound sexy, does it?
So when Joie de Vivre, a San Francisco-based hotel group, was opening its first property in Silicon Valley’s start-up paradise of Palo Alto, it turned to local firm IDEO to design its meeting spaces. “EYE-Dee-O” espouses the same new-century beliefs as Apple: design, innovation, creativity and collaboration.
To name your hotel ”Epipha ny ,” and be where we are, explains general manager Lorenz Maurer, it made sense to tap IDEO — and, together, reimagine what a hotel meeting room can be. Everyone knows, in 24/7 Silicon Valley, a hotel’s meeting space is arguably as — if not more — important than its sleeping space.
The eight-story building on Hamilton Avenue, splashed with a giant mural a redwood tree, was initially constructed to be a hotel, but its last use was as an assisted nursing facility. The creatives from IDEO and JDV, along with the design firm McCARTAN, had work to do. They retreated into the folds of Palo Alto with the hoodie-clad principals from start-ups like Yummly, Pulse and Orchestra. Everyone whipped out their Moleskins and tooled around town doing research at lunchspots like the iconic Palo Alto Creamery (FYI, Friday is lobster roll day) and new-kid-on-the-block LYFE Kitchen (which has a menu based on a set of beliefs and values ) — before they made their way to ground zero: Stanford’s d.school , aka Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.
“At the d.school, we discovered how to promote collaborative learning,” says IDEO’s project lead Kris Woyzbun. Those blank boring walls and uncomfortable and inflexible furniture of the typical mind-numbing hotel room don’t foster creativity. They are, in a word, a joke.
“We wanted meeting spaces to be dynamic, to support a range of behaviors” explains Woyzbun. “To feel more like the bustling cafes and creative workspaces that make up Silicon Valley. Variety spurs creativity.”
Brainstormers, behold! Introducing “Tinderbox” and ”Accelerator,” aka Ephiphany’s meeting spaces. Here’s what you can expect:
* Flexible furniture arrangements: On Epiphany’s mezzanine-level, fold-down tables flip open to reveal white-board tops. Sliding doors throughout allow planners to open or close spaces for peace and quiet and small-groups work.
* Outside decks: Attached to at least a few of the meeting rooms. Can we get a vote for fresh Northern California air?
* Seamless connectivity: GM Maurer jokingly found that “hot water is nice, but Internet connectivity is essential.” So, flawless WiFi. Plus, an outlet for every laptop! They are everywhere: in the walls, the chairs, the benches, the desks, the hallways, the lobby couches… the bathroom.
* “Hoodie” chairs: Seriously, this is their name and I want one. Picture Bose noise-canceling leather headsets super-sized to fit your body. Epiphany has four custom-made hoodies — with pop-up tables and, yes, more outlets.
* Seating and desks for all heights: Between benches, stools, felt armchairs, hoodie chairs, the floor (what? no bean bags?), Epiphany has an actual comfy spot for everyone.
Oh, including 86 rooms stocked with plenty of Post-It notes—and Frette-linened beds, should you need one.
Meeting spaces rentable by the hour or the day, rates vary. Introductory room rates from $199. (Book now — eventually they’ll increase to $400 nightly.) epiphanyhotel.com
* Story has been updated to correct an error.