Hotels – Strange Closets people, homes, travel and stuff Mon, 29 Apr 2013 17:29:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ace Hotel Palm Springs design lessons Thu, 25 Aug 2011 05:53:17 +0000

I just returned from 11 days in California, four of which were spent in a very smart, super comfortable, uber-cool two room suite at the Ace Hotel, which is my new favorite place to stay in Palm Springs, which is one of my all-time favorite places. Although it’s hotter than hell in the California desert at this time of year (114° F hot), lounging by the pool under a cooling mist made the heat tolerable. Eminently so. The people watching was fun too. The Ace attracts a diverse crowd that includes the youngish and the oldish, the coiffed and the grungy, the parents and the kidless, the gays and the straights, the bears and the waxed and even a few people with no tattoos. Everyone was friendly and laid back. It was great. (Granted, it’s easier to be chill in such a setting). And I love the room so much that I want to copy every idea. To see what I mean, continue below. What say you about the Ace? Like? Or no?

Brown linoleum floors are cool in more ways than one.

Slatted wood panels dress up simple drywall. Simple, interesting and cost-effective. I’m swiping this idea for my own place. But where?

Drapes between the two rooms take the place of French doors and create the feeling of a tent in the desert.

The record player adds appropriately retro flair.

I’m pretty sure the upholstered headboard is actually a twin bed, but I forgot to measure so I could be wrong. The denim cover had magazine pockets sewn in.

If you know where I can find these sconces, please let me know.

The bathroom was clean and clutter-free. It became absolutely imperative to keep it that way. See the black bar running along the edge of the vanity counter? I thought it seemed odd until right after I washed my face with a small towel. Then it made perfect sense.

One not so good point – the couch was not comfortable and while I appreciate that coffee table, my big toe did not.

Every area had its own outdoor lounge with a fireplace.

Like so.

Some suites also included a private outdoor living area.

The cafe outside the gym. There’s a $20 per day spa fee, which includes use of the big pool, gym and sauna.

Time goes slower out there in the desert heat, at least that’s what I used to think; this trip went all too fast.

This is the lobby. That rope hanging in the windows is way 70’s huh? I kind of love it, but I probably won’t steel that idea.

Check out the display case above the front desk.

This is the onsite restaurant, which was excellent. Seriously, I ate the chicken club three times. The fries were good. The sirloin white bean chili was amazing as well, as was the spaghetti.

It was a little Pulp Fiction-y, which I dug.

Somebody tell me the name of the fab fabric artist who made this elephant bust.

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The Jane Hotel: New York Neo-Victorian Mon, 02 Aug 2010 05:52:45 +0000

The first time I visited Europe in 2000, I took an overnight train from Copenhagen to Paris. My tiny, beautiful, old-fashioned cabin had wood paneling and bunk beds, and it was the first thing that came to mind when the uniformed bellhop opened the door to my itty bitty room last week at The Jane Hotel in New York City. Which makes sense, because until the YMCA bought the building in 1944, it was called the Seaman’s Relief Center and meant to house sailors. (Interestingly, according to The Jane website, the survivor’s of the Titanic were housed there in 1912. I might have selected a place with less cabin-y rooms, but society was less sensitive back then). Even though I knew what to expect, I still gasped out loud at the room’s 50 square feet (my dream closet is larger). But there’s ample storage above and below the bed, and once I stored my belongings, the room felt cozy and comfortable. Even sharing a bathroom posed no problems, although there are larger rooms with private baths for those so inclined.

Restored in 2008 (the building’s centennial), The Jane’s lobby features wood paneling, period wallpaper and lots of taxidermy. There’s also a spectacularly opulent onsite bar that ensures a lobby full of hipsters most evenings, and the excellent Cafe Gitane, where I ate several meals. (I highly recommend the avocado toast with red pepper flakes, a delicious, filling and healthy breakfast)(and they make a mean americano). All in all, my experience was equal or better to that of most hotels and I’m sure I’ll stay at The Jane again next time I visit Manhattan. In fact, at less than $100 per night for a room in the very cool West Village neighborhood, The Jane Hotel practically ensures I’ll be visiting the Big Apple more often. Although I must admit, when I spent a couple nights at my friend’s place after checking out of The Jane, his 170 (ish) square foot guest bedroom seemed positively palatial. What do you think? Is 50 square foot enough room for you? And how about that Neo-Victorian decor in the hotel lobby?

The Jane Hotel. 113 Jane St., New York, NY. 212.924.6700

White marble adds an elegant touch.

Room #2 (bunk bed room – $115).

Anaglypta wallpaper in the stairwells adds to the Jane’s Neo-Victorian vibe.

The bellboy was very speedy.

Guests have access to the hotel’s fleet of bicycles for getting around Manhattan.

Cafe Gitane.


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Hotels Amenities: How important are they? Tue, 09 Feb 2010 03:38:29 +0000

Work took precedent on this rainy day, but after slogging through a few rough drafts, my brain was fried, so I took a walk around San Francisco’s Union Square, surprised to observe the large number of hotels where I’ve stayed on past trips. In fact, thanks to Priceline, I’ve stayed at several different hotels on this trip alone: the Courtyard Marriot (South of Market)(or SOMA), the Parc 55, the Prescott Hotel and the Hotel Nikko. While the four hotels are rated similarly, they offered very different experiences based on their service, design and amenities, most dramatically exemplified by the most recent two hotels, the Prescott Hotel, which I left on Saturday and the Hotel Nikko, where I’m staying until Friday. Full Disclosure: I am typing this post while lying on a comfortable bed at Hotel Nikko.

For example, the Prescott Hotel’s vintage charm and excellent lounge made my stay earlier this week feel homey, almost more like a studio apartment than a hotel. But the small, boxy and fuzzy pre-flat screen TV also felt “vintage” (note the quotes to denote irony), the noisy elevator was right across the hall and worst of all, the CFL bulbs used in my light were too bright for the cream silk lamp shades, which made my pale complexion appear pasty white – like a young, male Baby Jane.

Blinding, cold CFL at the Prescott.  Keep reading for my ingenious fix.

On the other hand, Hotel Nikko’s a much more modern hotel with a health club, flat screen TV’s and a big, roomy bathroom. Even more exciting, the light fixtures next to the bed have halogen bulbs. On dimmer! While the floor lamp next to the chair (pictured above) and the desk lamp both use CFL bulbs, they’re dimmable as well, which combined with brushed nickel shades that direct the light downward task-style, creates a warm light akin to incandescent or halogen.

Like so. When used with a brushed nickel shade, this dimmable CFL at Hotel Nikko creates a warm task light.

While both hotels are lovely, neither offers particularly surprising or stellar design, so it’s the dimmable lamps that makes Hotel Nikko my favorite home for this stay. Hoteliers, keep your mounds of pillows and granite topped bedside tables; chuck the flat screen and don’t worry about the separate stand-alone shower. But for the love of God, don’t skimp on the dimmers, which give your guests the power to wield light itself! Cue the thunder.

After an hour or so walking around Union Square, I walked back to the Nikko – at least that was my intention. It wasn’t until I approached the Prescott Hotel’s double doors that I realized that dimmers or no dimmers, all the hotels had started to blend together in my head. By then I was soaked, but I knew my large, comfortable, perfectly illuminated room was only two blocks away.

Of course, I improvised. What? Too weird? Or a good invention for design-minded, light sensitive road warriors?

And the views aren’t bad either:

That’s the Parc 55, the second place I stayed (I crashed with my buddy who was there on business, an extremely affordable option I highly recommend). Somewhat oddly, the room at the Parc was on the 17th floor facing the Nikko, and now at the Nikko, I’m on the 17th floor facing the Parc. Full circle. Circling the drain? It is very Rear Window-y. I’ve seen arguments, dancing and lots of packing and unpacking. Please don’t judge me for taking a peek every now and again.  After all, everybody stands at the window looking across at their fellow travelers eventually. At least that was my conclusion after hours of observation.

And now, more San Francisco hotel photos:

The Prescott Hotel lobby.

Parc 55 lobby.

Parc 55 lobby.

Parc 55 lobby.

Parc 55 lobby.


Triton Hotel lobby.

Triton Hotel lobby.

Triton Hotel lobby.

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The Secret’s secret: It doesn’t work on design Mon, 01 Sep 2008 15:00:00 +0000

Have you ever dreamed of spending the night at Caribou Coffee?

Well, I haven’t either, so I was perplexed when, on a recent business trip, I walked into what looked like the largest Caribou I’d ever seen (the Starbucks near the lobby made that observation all the more confusing).

While I haven’t actually read The Secret, my conversations with Oprah, although admittedly one-sided, had instilled in my heart a quiet confidence that I understood the basic tenants. So the faux boulders in the lobby shook me to my very core – I had certainly not visualized this.

Continued . . .

At the reception desk, I was surprised to see liquid hand sanitizer. What the? Then I heard the kids. Armies of kids running around screaming. The desk clerk seemed to sympathize. “If you were a kid, you’d love it,” she whispered. She had no idea who she was talking to; at four, I was critiquing the sets on One Life to Live. Vicki Buchanan is rich; her secret room would never look that bad.

My pulse quickened as I hurried to my room passing one bad design element after another. I breathed a sigh of relief upon entering; hotel rooms are basically all the same, right?


They put me in a kid’s suite. If you think life is passing you by, I suggest you book two nights at a place like this – I promise time will crawl.

How important is design in your choice of hotel? Are you willing to spend more to get it? What’s your favorite hotel? Maybe I’m being unfair – after a year where I stayed at Hotel Bourg Tibourg in Paris, the Soho Hotel in London and the Ace Hotel in Portland, anything would look bad.

This is not a TV, it’s “art” in the hallway

What? A red dragon?

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Travel: London’s Soho Hotel Sun, 31 Aug 2008 03:00:00 +0000

I first posted this in early April but I’ve been traveling a bit lately (visit next week for a report on my latest trip to Dallas and the . . . interesting hotel I stayed in – not exactly a design lover’s dream), and I find myself comparing every hotel to the Soho Hotel in London.

I first experienced London last summer. Pathetically, one of my favorite things about Britain was the TV lineup (I particularly enjoyed “Sex Change Hospital”). But the city beckons, and it’s difficult to sit in front of the telly when outside the streets of Soho and the Theater District are bustling. If you’ve been to London, you know that the people are friendly, the fashion forward and the codeine blissfully legal. The only drawback is that hotels are expensive and the rooms are small, which is why the Soho Hotel was such a surprise.

Continued . . .

Unfortunately, I’m not paid in Euros (can that be negotiated?), but I love good hotels, and this one was REALLY good. Unlike the earth tones I favor for my home, the Soho Hotel was all bright colors – lime and hot pink and electric (literally) blue, tempered with whitewashed wood and neutral beige. Interestingly, a giant black cat sits just inside the front door, a choice that didn’t photograph very well. But surprise! It works; “This is not just a hotel.”

And the lobby is part of the experience, teaming with the media elite and style mavens. I hate clubs and places people go to see and be seen. But it was London and who would know? So I allowed myself to be carried away by the colors popping and people posing and the music pulsing and the see and the to be seen.

Continued . . .

Every evening when I returned from dinner, I’d stroll through the lobby and instead of retiring to my room, head to one of the two large drawing rooms. I wanted to experience every second, hear every note, see every smile and savor every sip (at least until it was time for Sex Change Hospital).

What was your favorite hotel? Or was it a hostel? Or an apartment you swapped?

Have a great weekend.

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Travel: Portland’s Ace Hotel Fri, 02 May 2008 05:00:00 +0000

I have seen the future, and I didn’t need a Flux Capacitor, just a plane ticket and a (very affordable) reservation at Portland’s Ace Hotel. Ace is a game changer, a new category in American hotels, a place where style and utility and sustainability and art coexist peacefully because in the future, it has to. At some point we’ll realize – there’s no other good way.

At Ace, the style rules, the artists are the stars, the vintage exalted, the restrooms shared, the accomodations affordable and the coffee always available. (And if I were a betting man, I’d lay odds that the bud is celebrated, available and very very good.)

Every room is designed by a different artist, fostering a sense of creativity while unshackling the binds of uniformity so common in most chain hotels (and many “boutique” ones). The shared aesthetic that does exist is one of modest utility – a comfortable bed, a small sink and desk, clean lines and simple muted colors.

I love this one. Amazing shots, HulaGirl.

There’s a loft area above the lobby with a long table, a comfortable chair, magazines (think Believer, not US Weekly) and a terrific view of the gorgeous wood paneled lobby. And flanking that lobby, Clyde Commons, an excellent, noisy, happening restaurant and bar (cuisine excellence not typically a characteristic of even luxury hotels) and Stumptown Coffee Roasters, as similar to Starbucks as silk to yarn. Powell’s, one of the greatest bookstores in the world, is a block away. Have you booked your ticket yet?

Maybe it’s not our future but an alternative future, a future where cold war ended with a US/Soviet handshake and an agreement to cooperate, take what’s best about both systems and fix the world.

Flickr member Wizmo, this is cool. Thanks. To see more, click here.

Thanks Zutterbug. For more, click here.

Courtesy, Arugulapress. Cool shot. I think we missed each other by a month. For more, click here.

Thanks to Flickr member, *Ambika*. For more, click here.

Thanks Jasminepark. For more photos, click here.

Thanks ccjosh.

Thanks to Sprizee. I love the black tub and inexpensive molding. For more, click here.

* Above photo: GirlHula, a Flickr friend, took this unbelievably beautiful photo. To see more of her photos, click here.

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Open House: House 5863 Thu, 01 May 2008 13:00:00 +0000

In most cases, I like the concept of Bed and Breakfasts a whole lot more than the reality. Sure, it sounds cozy and “real”, the idea of staying in an actual home instead of a sterile hotel, the informal shared breakfasts, meeting new people, helping a real person make their living.
But my, admittedly anecdotal, experience typically involves Victorian decor, misleading photos, small showers, bad food, awkward breakfasts and uncomfortable beds.

So when House 5863 opened in my neighborhood, I was dubious.

And I was wrong.

House 5863, in Chicago’s Edgewater Glen neighborhood, is light and clean and modern (no doilies, no floral prints); the facility is what a good home away from home should be, a relaxing respite, a place to experience a real city neighborhood within walking distance of shops (like Scout), restaurants and the El.

The owner, George Brown, has transformed what was once an unusual building (one of a number of formerly commercial buildings that lined the otherwise residential Glenwood when the neighborhood was built in the early 1900’s) into a guest home, a source of pride for the neighborhood, a space to reflect, to meet new people and to fall in love with Chicago.

When I arrived to take photos, I chatted briefly with a visitor from Brooklyn. She was thinking of moving to Chicago “because there’s too many strollers in Brooklyn.” I lied and assured her that we don’t have that problem, but advised her to avoid Andersonville until her next visit.

House 5863 is located at 5863 (hey weird) North Glenwood in Chicago’s awesome Edgewater Glen neighborhood. For questions or to make a reservation (which I do recommend), call George at 773-944-5555.

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Travel: Hotel Bourg Tibourg Fri, 29 Feb 2008 21:24:00 +0000

I enjoy staying in hotels just a bit off the beaten path. I can’t imagine staying at a Hilton when for about the same dime, one can have a truly unique experience. One excellent example is Hotel Bourg Tibourg in Paris, France. Hotel Bourg Tibourg sits on a bustling street, Rue Bourg Tibourg, in the bustling (and rapidly gentrifying) Marais neighborhood.

Designed by Jacques Garcia (who also designed a line of furniture for Baker), Hotel Bourg Tibourg is a feast for the senses; colors, sound and scent creating an atmosphere of absolute luxury. The color scheme consists of deep blues, reds, oranges and yellows; the rich hues seem tasteful and sophisticated.

The ambiance was so intoxicating that I barely noticed I could touch 3 of the room’s 4 walls from the center of my bed and that the only escape in the event of a fire was either down the single-person spiral staircase or out the window and into the concrete courtyard.

As my very Tallulah-like friend, Sharon, likes to say, the room “was the size of a postage stamp,” (only she didn’t say it about a room). But would I stay there again? You bet. In fact, I’m planning a trip.

When I returned to Chicago, I found that my home’s neutral interior taupes, browns and creams seemed positively dreary by comparison. I’ve tried to think of ways to inject color, but I have a mental block. How do you use deep or bright paint and fabrics without entering the garish zone?

What do you think? Does this appeal to you? How do you use color in your home?