Shelter media junkies know the ins and outs of House Beautiful's evolution well, from the magazine's very first cover star through its documentation of the colorful and forward-thinking American decor of the 20th century. In 2006, House Beautiful launched Instant Room, a column that pairs interior designers with artists to conceive and sketch out virtual rooms.
Here House Beautiful editor in chief and Hearst Design Group editorial director Newell Turner presents his dream hotel room (above), sketched out by artist Aija Gibson (with help from Turner's rather detailed Pinterest board). Below, Turner talks about the best hotel experience he's ever had, his major hotel pet peeve, and bad hotel artwork, and offers a point-by-point breakdown of the space.
What's the best hotel experience you've had?
Last summer I stayed at the newly opened Castello di Casole in Tuscany, southwest of Sienna. It's on a spectacular property of about 4,200 acres that once belonged the legendary Italian film director [Luchino] Visconti. The buildings on the estate date back centuries and have been restored with all modern conveniences without losing any of their character. The service was spectacular, too. I like staying in a hotel that belongs to its locale. One of my biggest pet peeves is a hotel room that looks like it could be anywhere. If I'm staying in London, I want certain classic British elements, from the color scheme to the linens. There has to be a sense of place.
What's the worst hotel experience you've had, and how will did you make sure none of the bad parts infiltrated this design?
The worst hotel experience involved service, or the lack of service. As for design, the windows always have to open. I can't stand a hermetically sealed room. I feel like I'm suffocating if the windows can't even be cracked.
What unalienable features must every hotel room have, no matter where it's located or what its aesthetic style is?
1. A comfortable bed, which is tricky because that tends to be subjective.
2. A clean, spacious bathroom.
3. Good—plenty and easily accessible—electric outlets.
Is a hotel room an escape from real life? If so, would you be more excited about a room whose interior design is different than your home, or one where the aesthetic somewhat matches yours?
I like to escape from real life in a hotel, because I like the service that comes with a good hotel experience. Room service and maid service, particularly fresh sheets every day. I find it annoying when a hotel leaves you note cards asking you to skip the daily fresh sheet service under the premise of some noble "green" concession. In those instances, I know it's more about the hotel saving a buck. Now, if it came with a small rebate on my hotel bill, I might consider. Otherwise, a big part of the hotel experience for me is the luxury of full service.
All too often hotels striving to be stylish go overboard with the crazy modern pieces, pods, neon colors, etc. etc. Should there be a mix?
There's a creeping trend for hotels to offer all sorts of things for sale in a room—beyond the things in and around the mini bar. Who wants to sleep in a retail store? I had that experience at an upscale chain hotel in Washington, DC, and I'm guessing they sell stuff in the rooms of all their hotels, but I think it's tacky. I also think that many boutique hotels that were hot in the '90s haven't done enough to update their looks. The designs are too gimmicky. At one time, they felt like the chicest experience around. Today, they feel like they're trying too hard to impress. In most cities, we have innumerable choices for where to stay. Design is an incredibly important element in making the hotel experience a pleasant one. To stay competitive, hotels need to give a lot of thought to design and work with good designers. It's not something to skimp on. The pods and gimmicky pieces don't fool anyone and don't take the place of good design.
And color palette?
It's whatever feels good locally. The color and light story is one, meaning colors work or not depending on the quality of the local light. The light of London is entirely different from the light in Miami?and the colors that work in one place don't necessarily work in the other. That being said, calm soothing colors for hotel rooms are always a good idea.
Any high-tech features—iPad docks, for example—that are a must have for you?
I don't like to link or sync my devices with anything that the public has access to. So, I'm not interested in iPad docks or even docking my phone to the TV. I do expect rooms to have a great large flat-screen TV, and rooms with easy-to-operate heating/cooling systems win high marks. I wish more hotels invested in better lighting technologies. I just stayed in a Sofitel in Lyon, France. The rooms had soffit lighting around the perimeter of the ceiling that looked great at night. I was in the city shooting a TV pilot, and every night we all retreated to our rooms for peace, quiet, and room service. I'm sure it sounds a bit ridiculous, but those soft soffit lights really made dining in a nice experience.
If there was a bottle of Pellegrino on a bedside tray, where would the tray be from, and the flutes would be which brand? Are these little details—which water glasses are chosen for the bathroom, whether there's Sferra linens, the type of towels available, the brand of chocolates, etc.—important?
I think all the details in the design of a room add up. And, I really like it when the details, like the type of chocolate or the manufacturer of the linens, is known for quality. Even the toiletry samples—I notice when they're from someplace interesting like Kiehl's or Naturopatica. These are good indicators that they whole experience you're going to have will be special and full of that level of attention to detail and service. Very few hotels are inexpensive these days, and the design and service should reflect how much rooms cost.
How can we avoid bad hotel carpeting and art?
Please tell me! Carpet?that's a hard one. But, while art is very subjective, there's so much good, interesting, inexpensive art in the market these days. I'm always amazed that hotels don't find better art that reflects or tells something about where the hotel is located. And, that doesn't have to be as "regional" as it sounds.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, where on Earth is this hotel room located? What's the view look out to?
I have a weekend house in Delaware County, New York, in the northwest Catskills. I've been thinking a lot about hotels lately, because several large resorts are in the works nearby. The Belleayre ski park is finalizing approval on two large and fascinating resorts. One will be in the classic mountain lodge style and the other will be a very green facility literally embedded into the side of a mountain, like elevation contour lines on a map. Much closer to my house, the renowned Aman Resorts purchased a 1,000-acre property about five years ago, and everyone in the area has been wondering...what will it be? Last summer I had an opportunity to see part of the property where an empty estate house is waiting to be transformed. It's a fantastic property that was once part of a 3,000-acre land grant to the colonial-era Livingston family.
I've been intrigued with the Aman property, because they're known for spectacular resorts, mainly in Asia but two others already operating in Utah and Wyoming. So, I decided to imagine a room for this new property. The French doors look out onto unmarred views of the gentle Catskill Mountains. Green in summer. Flaming colors in fall. And brilliant white with soft grays in winter.
And now, the (shoppable!) item-by-item breakdown:
1. Hand-painted scenic mural wallcovering: "Woodlands" (PDF) Stark.
2. Bed: antiqued pine Provence bed from Sundance.
3. Club chair: Ahmad Sari armchair from Sundance.
4. Cocktail table: hand-forged martini table in aged iron from Visual Comfort Studio.
5. Pendant light: Thomas O'Brien 2 light pendant in handrubbed antique brass from Visual Comfort.
6. Sconces: decorative wall light in bronze with wax from Visual Comfort.
7. Desk light: Thomas O'Brien 1 light task table lamp in antique brass from Visual Comfort.
8. Desk/Table: Parsons desk in blue-gray diamond grass cloth from West Elm.
9. Desk chair: Hans Wegner Wishbone chair from Design Within Reach.
10.Bedside tables: Bobbin side table in hand painted robin's egg blue with hidden drawer Bunny Williams Home.
11. Pair of small square ottomans: Empire ottoman from Bunny Williams Home.
12. Pair of bedside lamps: Gooseneck Gourd lamps in gold luster with mahogany bases from Christopher Sptizmiller, Inc.
13. Chest of drawers: Button-Down chest finished in natural honey stain from Bunny Williams Home.
14. Deer hide: Axis deer-skin rug from Wildlife Etc.
· Hotel Project [Newell Turner/Pinterest]
· All Hotels Week 2013 posts [Curbed National]
· All House Beautiful coverage [Curbed National]
· House Beautiful [official site]
· All Instant Room archives [House Beautiful]