Hoteliers Reinventing the Boutique Hotel
Rabih Hage wants to turn the definition of luxury on its head. The Lebanon-born, London-based architect and interior designer thinks the concept has become homogenized: “It’s now a word just used to sell more of something, with a higher premium.” Rough Luxe, the London hotel Hage created in 2008, operates by a different principle. “Luxury can be sitting in a small, well-lit room with a book and beautiful artwork on the walls.” At the nine-room Rough Luxe, in a Georgian building in the King’s Cross neighborhood, Hage left historical details as they were: some chipped paint here, a bare floorboard there. It’s an exercise in urban archaeology, and Hage cites wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic that values impermanence over perfection, as an influence. “I was searching for beauty in imperfection,” he says. With its shared baths and lack of telephones, the hotel certainly isn’t for everyone. But its success among a discerning group of travelers has convinced Hage to establish the Rough Luxe Collection, a worldwide network of hotels, restaurants, and shops—from Paris’s Shakespeare & Co. bookstore to the Cape Heritage Hotel, in South Africa—all stamped with the brand’s name. “It’s about an authentic experience. I hate it when I walk into a hotel and the concierge looks at his computer screen and calls me by name. That is fake. That’s not authentic,” Hage says.