7 steps to creating your own boutique hotel

Bathroom complete with TV, faux fire, disco lights and multiple remote controls

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?

Author Information

Freelance travel writer

8 Responses to “7 steps to creating your own boutique hotel”

  1. Ha Ha Ha. Super stuff Andy. May I also add the necessity of a tome-sized ‘Pillow Menu’ and of the course the instructions on how to get a good night’s sleep – you know what idiots we are about such things.

    The light switch confusion is one that has kept me awake way past my bedtime on many ocassions. Instead of the instruction manual on how to get a good night’s sleep, how about putting the Master Switch thoughtfully positioned beside the bed.

    Travel well.

    April 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm
  2. IMO a boutique hotel must cost at least 20% more than a similar priced establishment down the road. That is it’s main appeal to me. An ipod docking station is well received if not a necessity. Actually they sound quite good don’t they…

    April 18, 2012 at 3:29 pm
  3. Ah this got me laughing, not least because only hours ago I was sucked into booking a boutique hotel. I’m sure it’ll be lovely though… I get a decanter of port in my room – gratis!

    I think the main requirement is some key feature of the room that could be considered stylish but is (in universal opinion) utterly impractical. I’m thinking free-standing shower at the end of the bed-type stuff.

    April 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm
  4. Thank you for the extra suggestions folks (love the free-standing shower in room Holly – someone has surely seen one)

    Forgot to add to the original post – the boutique hotel is distinguished immediately by its website. Lovely photos sliding gracefully across the screen accompanied by soothing music are a must. As is the inability of the site to load properly in any browser other than the one used by the developer.

    April 18, 2012 at 5:14 pm
  5. LOL! I was recently trying to find an actual defintion of a ’boutique hotel’ and failed miserably. Perhaps another criterion would be the inclusion of the establishment in a coffee table book (probably by Herbert Ypma or published by the hoteliers themselves) full of superfluous adjectives and glossy photos which fail to demonstrate quite how impractical the aforementioned shower really is….

    April 18, 2012 at 5:51 pm
  6. This is hilarious – thanks, Andy.

    Speaking of showers, I cannot do the world the injustice of not mentioning the boutique hotel I stayed in last – the shower was indeed standing freely next to the bed, only protected by thin glass walls which were… you guessed it, perfectly transparent. And yes, I was travelling with a friend. And no, it wasn’t my boyfriend. But oh yes, he was male.

    In short, the phrase “Can you leave the bedroom please, I’m taking a shower” never sounded more appropriate… : )

    April 18, 2012 at 7:01 pm
  7. The alternative to the complicated shower is the utterly stripped back version in which there are no markings on the taps to indicate which might be hot or cold. And it’s de rigueur to provide an open-sided free-standing shower which looks fantastic but in fact causes puddles of water to spread throughout the bathroom.

    Have I mentioned the hotel directory printed in a tiny spindly font in grey lettering on off-white paper, which can’t possibly be read in the fashionably dim lighting?

    April 19, 2012 at 9:37 am
  8. So glad someone else has had to suffer the glass-walled-shower-in-room situation! How brilliant.

    April 19, 2012 at 11:13 am