Sleep capsules move into boutique

NEW YORK—Even in a time of experimental design, cutting-edge technology and creative F&B, guests still want the basics done right: a comfortable bed, clean bathroom and a place to safely store their items. If these needs are met, all of the extras are simply fun add-ons that enhance the experience.

However, things are getting even more basic when it comes to bedding, appealing to cost-conscious and no-frills guests who still want top-notch necessities at hotels.

Sleep capsules are nothing new in the business world, acting as a place for employees to nod off in airports, police stations, hospitals, fire stations and other offices—but they are now moving into hotels.

A tried-and-tested product in Japan, Architect Kisho Kurokawa had initially designed the sleep capsule and unveiled the concept back in 1970. Since then, Kotobuki Seating Co. Ltd. has gotten involved, now with more than 40 years of experience in sleep-capsule design.

“The sleep capsule product has evolved over the years to meet the specific needs of our clients,” said Keiko Sutton, CEO, Kotobuki Seating International. “The current model is minimalistic but provides customization options for clients looking to build a boutique hotel. Our sleep capsule products all align with the motto of safety, functionality and affordability.”

These capsules are essentially individual sleeping pods but come equipped with everything guests know and love about a traditional hotel guestroom: TVs, mirrors, power outlets, cup holders, security boxes, storage areas, hanger hooks and even small tables can be included in the capsules.

“The interiors have a lot of options in terms of colors to fit various design themes. However, when it comes to sleeping, most people are looking for the basics such as a quiet, private and safe space,” Sutton said.

In Japan, these are mainly used in workplaces as resting solutions for employees with 24-hour shifts, but now they are seeing new life in the boutique hotel space.

“About 10 years ago, the concept for the sleep capsule hotel in Japan changed from a simple, cheap and last-minute accommodation solution to that of a boutique hotel that caters to a price-conscious segment,” Sutton said. “It has been an exciting opportunity to work with the most well-known architects and industrial designers to refine the product.”

A new concept in the U.S., Sutton predicts that these will soon extend even beyond the boutique space, giving hoteliers an edge. Japan is home to the world’s first sleep-capsule hotel in Tokyo—for which Kotobuki provided the capsules—delivering both luxury and functionality.

“People are aware of the fact that rest is essential to wellness, and the sleep capsule can act as a great solution that provides enough privacy while staying efficient on cost and space,” Sutton said.

The capsules are nonflammable, fire retardant and customizable with different materials and accessories, making them suitable options for all kinds of hotel stays, even the trendier ones. The capsules can also provide a possible solution for industry disruptors.

“I think glamping [glamorous camping]is an expression from consumers that are looking for more exciting and new experiences in places they have not visited before,” Sutton said. “With the rise of companies like Airbnb, people are rethinking what it means to stay away from home. I think sleep capsules fit very well into this new trend. In Japan, this is already happening, as people are looking to travel and experience the local culture. We often are requested to fit our sleep capsules in existing older buildings because our products are modular, meaning we can fit into regular doors.” HB

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