Friday, January 25, 2008

Yabu Pushelberg

The firm I work for was recently awarded a very high profile hotel job in which we will be collaborating and working directly with the well known interior design firm of Yabu Pushelberg. This firm has offices in Toronto and New York and is known for their very high end, luxury hospitality projects. This is a great honour, and I am very excited to work with some of their genius minds on the project.
(Glen Pushelberg left, George Yabu right)

Here is a snippet of photos of some of the hospitality projects of theirs that I really like:

W Hotel Times Square New York
This staircase is just breath taking. That's something anyone would want to be seen walking down on.

Le Meridien Minneapolis

I love the play on cool and warm tones and the transparency of the acrylic panels.

Graves 601 Hotel Minneapolis
These corridors make an impressive first statement before entering the room. The cut of the wood on the entry doors is gorgeous. I also like the Atlas carpet.

W Hotel South Beach
This hasn't been built yet, but talk about selling glam living!

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo
Warm, earthy, and textural.

Hazelton Hotel Yorkville
I like the feel of these suites...contemporary but warm. And the tile pattern on the pool bottom is amazing.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hotel Review - Westin Pittsburgh

Because I missed a post last week due to being very busy at work, I'm doing 2 this week. I thought it would be fun to review some hotels that I've stayed in, throw some pictures up of them, critique them, and rate them according to a rating scale I'm calling my "Mini Shampoo Bottle Rating"

Since I design hotels for a living, I tend to be a little more particular than the average guest, and therefore am harder to please, so if my ratings are harsh, factor that into the equation.

Westin Pittsburgh

Centrally located in downtown Pittsburgh, the location seemed both good and bad. Ideal in that it is in the heart of the city supposedly close to everything, but I really felt unsafe wandering the area a couple blocks in any direction.

Photos from their website:

I have worked on a few Westin Hotels and know that their looks is decidedly contemporary, with focus on quality finishse and furnishings. So I had a pre-conceived notion of what to expect.

This Westin was obviously a renovated Westin from a different chain previously. The lobby was half done up, with the old wood panelling still in place. I'm all for keeping features where possible, but it still seemed a little dated. The furniture was simple, but the fabrics were already wearing out and fraying. Another thing that really bothered me was the sweet fragrant cigar like smell that was being purposely pumped into the air. Or maybe they were covering it up with all their White Tea scent infusion sticks on every table...I don't know. I'll give them that the fresh flowers artfully displayed in fishbowl type vessels were nice at all elevator lobbies. The corridors also looked a little dated and neglected. I didn't see much of the other publice spaces as the 2nd floor was under renovation.

And now the rooms. So the Westin big sell is their Heavenly Bed. I was excited to try one out for the first time after hearing so much about it, and how they've made a new empire on this room amenity alone. I thought that I would be in heaven too, with a king bed all to myself...and all that Heavenly Bed bedding. Well it was ok..and that's about it. I had a good enough sleep, but I found the duvets quite heavy, and the presentation was a little sloppy to me. Perhaps more pillows or larger pillows with some detailing on the sheeting or pillow cases would have helped it not seem so hospital like. I also didn't like the white bed skirt, it just seemed like a sheet at the base, so I personally would have liked a contrasting fabric (those little things!) A pillow top mattress would also have made it felt more "heavenly" to me. This is how it looked when I entered:

The overall scheme was green on green on beige on brown on green. It was somewhat soothing, although the round hunter green leather ottoman seemed a little out of place with the light, boxy lounge chair. The artwork was also hung too high. I did however like the case goods quite a bit. They had nice simple lines, and looked very well made. I liked the wood end table by the lounge chair the most as it was different in it's shape.

The bathroom was a little dissapointing as well. The mint green painted vanity apron was chipping in places, and the bathtub surround was obviously salvaged from the previous re-incarnation. Lighting was underwhelming, and the double shower heads, while a great concept, were somewhat dirty and stained.

Overall the experience was a little bit of a let down. Maybe I was expecting too much, I don't know. Service was friendly though, and although dated, most parts were clean. The nightly rate was $249.00 US per night.

I give this property six mini shampoos out of 10.

Vegas Pool Blues

I have the mid winter blues, and can't help but fantasizing about the allure of stylish Las Vegas poolside living. A few of my favorites:

Mirage Pool
Bare at Mirage

Mandalay Bay Beach Pool

Caesar's Palace
Wynn Resort Private Cabanas Hugh Heffner Suite - Palms Las Vegas Red Rock Resort Pool Red Rock Resort Plunge Pool

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Micro Hotels

One of the trends in hotel design I see emerging is the rapidly growing number of hotels opening with smaller than average rooms. They are sometimes referred to as "Micro Hotels" or "Pod Hotels". It makes me question what is really important when staying in a hotel room. Comfort, location, and price seem to all be standard requirements for most travelers. But what if you could get a hotel room in a very expensive city that was in a great location, at a great price (often under $100), and had comfortable modern conveniences? Perfect right? The catch is that the room is only 100 square feet and doesn't have a window. Would you go for it? Do we always need 400 square feet and a view?

Here’s a look at some of the newer “Micro" or "Pod" hotels being offered to the everyday traveler.

One of my favorites of the micro hotels, these rooms look stylish, comfortable, and just the right size for an overnight pit stop. Although if I was vacationing in New Zealand for any length of time, a window would be nice!

Microtel Inns & Suites (US)

The Microtel brand of hotels is a growing chain in the United States. This is the least extreme of the "micro hotels" shown, as they are still a relatively decent sized rooms, only slightly smaller than the average North American hotel room size (Lots of built ins like window benches instead of lounge chairs, wall hung night tables, etc.). They also have regular sized windows. My parents have stayed in one of these hotels while travelling on the road to and from their winter home, and it provides and in-expensive refuge for the night. I thought it was important to show this hotel, as it is the beginning of a safe transition and acceptance into a new concept slowly being embraced by the fairly conservative North American Market.

This pod concept hotel room reminds me of a tight, funky, cruise ship cabin. Again, like on a cruise ship, one has to question if the window is important, or are you just staying in your room for strictly sleeping purposes. The 3 locations so far are near airports, so you can guess their target market.

These hotels have garish, GARISH exteriors, reminding me of a giant advert for Coke. But for under $50 / night, this "no frills" hotel chain can provide excellent value for the budget minded traveller in Asia. And they have small windows!

Reminding me of a night club atmosphere, these rooms make me think that you stay at these hotels for the cool / hip factor more than anything else.

Nite Nite Hotels (England, New York, Germany)

Compact, modern,clean rooms....and did I mention compact? But then again if I'm in London or New York or Berlin, how much time would I spend in my room?

I think I could still see myself staying in any one of the types of rooms above. As long as the bed is comfortable, the conveniences are all there and finishes and fixtures are new and clean, I’d be happy. As long as it doesn’t start to feel like a camper, or a sterile and uninspiring shoe box like this one reminds me of:
Founded by Easy Jet, these rooms are again geared to the airport layover / business traveller, but they still remind me of tight airplane seats and airplane washrooms. Do you really want more of that after a long flight?

I think this one is clean and modern and funky (you can change the lighting and music to create different moods and atmospheres), but I don’t like the fact that the shower and toilet are staring you right in the face at all times. I think a separate bathroom still is one of the standards I’d require in a hotel room selection. At least therooms have windows, but why shouldn't they? The building is a free standing structure in the middle of nowhere.

Capsule Inn (Japan)

Finally this is the most extreme form of the micro hotel concept is and actual pod. This concept was invented in Japan. Definitely not for the claustrophobic! You enter feet first, like a turkey going into the oven. Each pod provides a bed, tv, and little else. Disadvantages are shared washrooms and obviously the lack of room, but perhaps perfect for a single individual who is stuck in an airport on a layover that could provide time better spent getting sleep? The only weird thing is that these rooms are not at the airport, but in a business district in downtown Akihabara. I often thought it would be a great idea to have these in shopping malls for men, or those who loathe shopping, to rent by the hour while their significant other shops, but then again, why not just stay at home.