From guestrooms to bathrooms, guests crave bigger spaces that offer unique designs
When interior designer Alessandro Munge discusses Georgia, he doesn’t hold back. He gushes over her class, elegance, grace and curves in the tone of a man smitten by his lady love.
Not quite. Georgia is beautiful, but she’s actually the restored Rosewood Hotel Georgia in downtown Vancouver, which reopened in July.
So, if anyone knows the beauty of guestrooms and their accompanying bathrooms, it’s Munge. Five years ago, the designer’s Toronto-based firm, Munge Leung, was hired to restore the derelict hotel. Once a dilettante’s playground, the hotel, which opened in 1927, housed Hollywood stars, music legends and British royalty.
Today, the revamped hotel — complete with new bedrooms and bathrooms — pays homage to the prestige of years past. And, while most hotel developers, and by extension condominium developers, do their best to maximize a building’s room count for profit’s sake, this wasn’t the case at Hotel Georgia, where the original 300 rooms were pared back to 155.
The reason for the change comes down to guest expectation. “Today’s standard room needs to be at a five-star level,” Munge explains, which means offering a larger room. The ones at Hotel Georgia hover at around 400 square feet and are multi-functional. “You don’t feel stuck in a tiny space,” he says. “The beauty of our standard room is that it’s laid out like a suite. There’s a living space within it. As a business traveller, you can entertain guests, hold meetings or enjoy cocktails before going out.”
Kitted out in Deco design, rooms are inspired by the Jazz Age. Curvy sofas — a quintessentially ’40s feature — are set in a space outfitted with elegant café au lait browns, honey and vanilla tones. Flanking the bed and undulating headboard are sconces that bathe the room in soft, golden light; a graphic carpet, custom-designed by Munge Leung, spreads across the floor like art. Polkadot drapery and patterned wallpaper behind the headboard add a textural feel, distancing it from the flat, boring feel of other hotel rooms. (We’re looking at you, overly slick, sterile guest suites.)
Even better are the suites. The Rosewood (and the other suite, the Lord Stanley) feature a private rooftop terrace, outdoor hot tub, fireplace and view of the stunning skyline. It boasts another striking carpet, more of that Deco furniture, but has the bonus of a fireplace. If it looks like someone’s comfortable, upscale apartment, that wasn’t a mistake, Munge says, explaining hotel rooms should invite guests to stay awhile.
One way to do this is through the bathroom. Hotel Georgia’s flaunt spa-like ensuite bathrooms feature a generous white tub set in a room enveloped “in a dark mocha background with beautiful veining that looks like leather.” The result is a warm and inviting timelessly elegant washroom. But isn’t the tub passé? “Not in fivestar properties,” says Munge. “Women still love to bathe.” Another important feature is the enclosed water closets, he notes, and hisandher vanities, so there’s no squabble over counter space.
Preserving the beauty of heritage architecture was also critical at Montreal’s Hotel Nelligan, which was originally two 19th-century warehouses. The buildings were purchased by The Antonopoulos Group in 2001 and became the 65-room Hotel Nelligan in 2002. It was such a success the developers bought the third building beside it, expanding it to 105 rooms in 2006.
Named in honour of Quebec poet Emile Nelligan — note its Verses restaurant and large array of local artwork — the hotel exudes a European elegance. Rooms have a warehousecool residential vibe, created through the use of shuttered windows, white drapery and lamps that emit a mellow glow that seems more suited to someone’s sophisticated, funky pad.
“We wanted clients to feel like they’re in someone’s home,” says Maria Antonopoulos, marketing manager, who notes that during the expansion in 2006, new iPod docking stations and LCD TV screens were added. “A sense of place is important, especially since we’re in Old Montreal,” which is steps from the Old Port. “People like the preserved stone and brickwork. The room’s warm, earthy tones encourage people to feel comfortable,” she says. “And, all the windows open — guests love that.”
But the most important feature of a hotel room is the bed, Antonopoulos notes. “People consistently compliment our mattress, duvet and bedding, because they’re supremely comfortable,” she says. The bedding is from local luxury maker Marie L’Oie, who specializes in the hospitality sector.
Meanwhile, guest bedding west of Quebec in Ontario’s cottage country, at The Residences of Muskoka Wharf, feature beds with extensive millwork on the headboard that reference the hotel’s surroundings. The two-year-old 106-room condo-hotel by Marriott embraces a traditional design aesthetic that references its surroundings. Bereft of the shiny surfaces you’d find in a contemporary suite, in these guestrooms the rustic look is king.
“It’s got a real Muskoka feel,” says Roman Bodnerchuk of the Toronto-based Condo Outlet, citing the stone fireplaces, woodaccentuated features — there is generous, eyecatching millwork behind the bed — in the rooms and granite in the kitchen (this is a condohotel, after all) as prime textural examples. “Even the carpet has that reddish woodsy Muskoka-type feel,” he says, referring to the striped broadloom that lends a warm feel to the room.
Echoing Munge, Bodnerchuk notes the Musoka Wharf is known for its larger-than-normal hotel suites. “Even the smallest studio is 424 square feet — 50 per cent larger than most hotel rooms,” he says. People like to spread out in their hotel rooms or cottages,” he says. “They want to feel comfortable.”
The cosy vibe extends to the loo, where a traditional, no-nonsense scheme reigns. A dark-wood vanity is topped with granite countertops. Just beyond is a wall-papered water closet for an artful touch. There are no hidden light switches, confounding artwork or flashy decor. The emphasis throughout the Muskoka’s design is on homey comfort. And, sometimes, that’s just what a guest needs to get a good night’s sleep.