When good designers go bad
I love hotels.
To stay and sleep in, more than to drink or eat in. Best of all I like really well designed hotels. Sure I value really good service, but I especially like things that hotel designers think of that I wouldn’t. Let me give you some examples.
At the Peninsula in Bangkok – amongst many other great ideas (you do need to be able to control the curtains from the bedside table) they provide a set of headphones with a cord that allows you to sit anywhere in the bedroom and listen to the TV or stereo – so you don’t disturb your partner if they are sleeping.
At the Hyatt in Kyoto the showers have small stools which are perfect to sit on, or to rest your feet on while your cleaning your toenails. They are also made of a wood that is naturally resistant to bacteria and fungus.
At the Westin in Melbourne the Doorman always notes down the numberplate/number of any cab you arrive in or leave in – in case you have to follow them up because you left something in the cab.
I’m also a bit of a fan of Dutch design. I had a very talented Dutch designer on my staff for a few years, and he sparked my interest. So when I was visiting Amsterdam, the Lloyd Hotel – involving some of the Netherlands most interesting designers in its renovation – sparked my interest.
I loved the concept behind the hotel – that it takes a mixture of people to make a good community, and also a good hotel – so it has 1 to 5 star rooms at appropriate prices for each class. And that works – when I stayed there, you got a great mixture of people, ages, ethnicities and interests, and it did make the public spaces interesting and engaging, and far more sociable than in other hotels. That part of the hotel works brilliantly – as does the restaurant which makes all its serves the same size, so you can mix and match – its like having everything ‘on the side’.
What doesn’t work is when designers work in unfamiliar areas without doing their homework – or possibly when architects/interior designers don’t do their job well.
At the Lloyd – we stayed in three different rooms [a way too long story to tell here]. I’m a 5 star kinda guy when I can afford it, so that was the room class booked. Our room in the roof, was dominated by a large dining table and chairs. Unusual, but quite practical for me who had some work to do. But no comfy chair – no lounge to curl up on? A bit of an oversight.
Don’t you love wifi that doesn’t work
The wifi at the top of the hotel – in the roof – where the 5 star room are – was a bit iffy. No problem – I’ll use the physical connection – which is located next to the bed, and the table is located at the exact opposite end of the long thin room. Fine, the cable is long enough – even though it has to snake over the entire length of the floor.
This is nothing compared to the main problem – the bathroom stinks. And the bathroom is a kind of fold out cube affair designed by Atelier van Lieshout and buro Lakenvelder. A nice idea very badly executed. On first use, the bath filled up with someone else’s old bathwater, including matted pubic hair. A man with a plunger was called. No improvement. The staff organised another room just for us to use the shower. This was located between the bedroom and lounge room of the suite, with no shower curtain, so that water splashed over the entire bathroom space, as well as into the lounge and bedroom. Water on a painted concrete floor does not make for the safe transit of bare feet. Using all the towels on site tomop up the water does help.
Now I love complimentary miniature hygiene products – but when the soap holder has a mesh with such large holes, that all the products fall through, I wanna give the interior designers a chinese burn!
We were offered a new room, and eagerly took it up. No smelly drainage, but still lots of problems. This time the entire side of one room was modular, incorporating toilet, bath/shower, bedhead, and basin.
The problems were many. First – the toilet was at one end, and the basin – for washing your hands, was at the other. Not really convenient. The bedhead had two reading lights – but only one power outlet – inconvenient, even when the light is funky.
Style over substance
So I suppose the story is – be careful of surface over substance. Duch design is a triumph, just not always practical. Bring me a hotel that has both style and substance, oh and the philosophy of the Lloyd. Oh an a gratuitous photo of some great information design: