Boutique hotels are gaining in popularity in recent years and new properties are appearing the most unlikely places. They are associated with high prices, fashionable designs and a discerning clientele, yet there is no definition that neatly captures what a boutique hotel should look like. Having stayed in several such places I thought I would offer a checklist of the essential ingredients of a boutique hotel, in case it is useful to anyone about to open their own prestigious hostelry.
1. Loud exterior signage betrays a lack of class and may provoke a last-minute change of heart from the more refined connoisseur of boutique hotels. A small brass plaque in the entrance is more than enough to let guests know where you are. Those coming by car and negotiating a tortuous one-way system will be particularly appreciative of your discretion here.
2. Do not install a reception desk at any cost. Opt instead for an inconspicuous workstation, barely big enough to hold a vase, where a member of staff can check you in while you search for a flat surface on which you can fill out your registration form.
3. The decor within the main lobby speaks volumes about the character of the establishment and great care should be taken in its design. Minimalism is the rage here and the space should appear at all times as if ready for a magazine photo shoot. If guests do insist on sitting in the lobby area despite your best efforts, they should be encouraged to wear an outfit that complements your carefully chosen colour scheme.
4. It is to their great shame that traditional hotels expect their poor guests to make their own way to their rooms without any expert assistance. The boutique hotels excel in this regard with a member of staff always on hand to guide new arrivals safely to their room (those numbers on the doors can be very confusing).
5. If you are unsure whether your hotel is actually a boutique hotel or not, you can check simply by counting the light switches within your room. If you get much above twenty then you know you’re in a boutique establishment. All switches should have a slightly different function and a coordinated sequence of actions should be required to make any noticeable change to light levels.
If a master switch must be used to allow guests to switch of all lights when going to sleep, this should be placed at the farthest point away from the bed. Extra credit is awarded for having a random arrangement of sharp-edged chairs and knee-high tables between the bed and light switch.
6. In the case of hotel showers complexity is synonymous with classiness. Units should have multiple functions and at least a dozen handles and switches. A detailed instruction card should be included in the welcome folder, with a small sign on the shower unit advising guests to read the card prior to washing.
7. Staircases should not be required except in the case of emergency and the use of lifts should be non-negotiable even when descending one floor. Stairwells should remain unsigned, or be marked ‘staff only’, to discourage trespassing guests from attempting to take any short cuts.
I’m sure I’ve missed a few obvious tips here. What else would you suggest a hotel needs to do to earn the ’boutique’ label?