Has any designer of a designer hotel ever actually bothered to stay in the designer hotel they designed?
The reason I ask is that Sugar Magnolia and I have just spent a few nights in a designer hotel in Bordeaux (it actually called itself a ’boutique’, but the term is effectively interchangeable with ‘designer’) .
This is by no means the first time that we have stayed in a pension with such a designation. Indeed, it’s by actively seeking-out ‘something different’ that I have now gathered a statistically significant amount of experience of designer hotels.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t some grumpy old man’s rant against all things new or in any way different. I have absolutely no problem with tasteful modern furnishings that don’t look like those you could find in any cloned hotel of a big chain anywhere in the world.
It’s just that I prefer it when they actually work.
Sadly, though, all that accumulated experience has led to the conclusion that there are two ineluctable, but entirely perverse, rules of designer hotel design that together contrive to nullify all the positives.
The first rule is that, apart from the bed, all other furniture – that it would be reasonable to assume is meant to be sat on – must be excruciatingly uncomfortable.
A few years ago we got a cheap off-season deal at a new hotel on Yas Island. It was so cheap that we opted for a suite. The separate sitting room looked terrific, but the sofa had been artfully deconstructed so that, if you leant back on it, the cushion – a long cylinder with the softly yielding consistency of a tree trunk – fell off.
Then there was a far-from-cheap designer hotel in Paris where the non-bed furniture consisted of nothing more than a three-legged stool. Although, to be fair, one wall was entirely given over to a picture of the Moulin Rouge. So that’s alright then.
The second, and even more annoying, rule of designer hotel design is that the sanitary arrangements must be ludicrous.
We once (and it was only once) stayed in a designer hotel in Abu Dhabi which had a separate shower cubicle. All well and good – except that it was impossible to open the door to exit without sweeping all the water out with you, thereby flooding the bathroom.
When we pointed out this fatal flaw at checkout we got a weary sigh and an admission that all the other rooms had the same problem. It was ‘a design flaw’. Uh huh.
But the place in Bordeaux has taken this second iron law of designer hotel design – quite literally – to new heights. For some inexplicable reason the toilet bowl was set about halfway up the wall, such that anyone of even average height would struggle to maintain contact with the floor when using same.
Listen, self-important pony-tailed man in black t-shirt, there are critical times in everyone’s daily life when they need to have their feet firmly on the ground. What were you thinking of?
As if that wasn’t enough, the bath was actually in the bedroom. Are you having a laugh?
Most French hotel rooms are pretty small at the best of times. The walking-around, cat-swinging space in this one was further limited – almost to the point of extinction – by the presence in the body of the room of not only a jacuzzi bath but also two hand basins . There was no separate shower and nothing but parquet on the floor. Turning on the jacuzzi resulted in jets of water flying in all directions all over the room. What exactly was the thinking behind that, Mr Pony-tail?
So I think maybe I’m done with designer hotels. After all, if insanity can be defined as doing things over and over again and expecting different results, then to avoid being sectioned by well-meaning relatives perhaps we should stick to less ‘aspirational’ accommodation in future.
Now, where’s the nearest Premier Inn?
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