What does individuality mean in the hotel industry? As far as boutiques are concerned, it’s not just about being a little bit quirky; hanging modern art on the walls, sticking some designer chairs in the rooms or making all the fittings stainless steel. It’s about a design theme that runs through the hotel from start to finish and affects everything from the cushions on the sofas to the dessert menu in the restaurant.
Where does the inspiration for this individuality and personality come from? For some hoteliers, it comes from the location. It’s unsurprising that boutique beach hotels are clean and simple, bringing the colours and textures of the coast into the building and using architectural design to allow guests to feel at one with the sea; large windows, folding doors and seawater pools for example. In contrast, small hotels that are based in cities often reflect either the present-day energy or the historic past of their location. Through the use of rich colours or minimal materials, antique furniture, period art and a variety of textiles, designers can create a hotel that truly reflects its location.
Many hotels show influences from different cultures – and not always from the culture that’s readily associated with the hotel’s location. Therefore, New England simplicity or Asian colours and textures can show up in hotels in London or Sydney and work well, as long as the concept is properly thought through and sensitively carried out. Extending a cultural theme to rooms and cuisine often requires a lot of research, particularly when it comes to sourcing the right furniture and accessories, but if the end result is a truly individual hotel, then the preparation is worthwhile.
A true boutique hotel becomes an intrinsic part of the local community, and this is part of its individuality. Chain hotels are just places to stay; boutique hotels are places to be – whether it is locals using the restaurant or trendy city workers drinking in the bar; using the produce from the farm down the road or sharing spa facilities with a local retreat, boutique hotels make a real effort to integrate into their local community rather than being set apart from it.