The best hotels have human fingerprints.
I don’t need to like the person’s style, but I want to feel their presence and a sense of place. The Grand Hôtel Nord-Pinus, in Arles, France, is so French, but it also has a strong Spanish influence that reflects the owner’s quirky taste: a vintage bar and furniture mixed with bullfighting memorabilia and Peter Lindbergh photographs. At the Saint Cecilia, in Austin, Texas, you feel Liz Lambert’s heartbeat throughout the hotel. The mini-bar, for example, has personal choices such as salted-caramel galettes, prosciutto, and Mexican Coke.
A hotel should tell a story.
Bemelmans at the Carlyle in New York is the benchmark for all hotel bars because it has that history—with Ludwig Bemelmans’s murals and the Kennedys drinking there—yet it’s still very much alive with music and performers. It’s not a bar that could ever exist in, say, L.A. My newest property, the Ludlow Hotel, is inspired by my time in New York during the 1980’s. There was this tremendous art scene, with Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat running around. And they weren’t mythological characters like Hemingway and Picasso in Paris; this was in our lifetime. Plus the music, like the Ramones, Blondie, and early hip-hop. There was a vitality to the city and you could still get an apartment for $400 a month. So I gave the Ludlow that feeling of loft living, not in a literal way but the sensation of it. I imagined a kid that may be down and out, living on the Lower East Side, but he had some nice furniture his parents gave him and a cool place, so it was going to be okay.
Don’t state what’s already implied.
Let the product speak for itself. If you allow the guest to interpret the hotel, then it will be exactly what they want it to be. Give room for people to make it their own. At some hotels, the first thing they tell you is how cool they are. That’s like someone telling you they’re smart. "Cool" is almost invisible when it’s done well. You don’t even notice why; you just feel it.