Matt and I just returned from a beautiful vacation to the UK. We have been hoping for a trip like this for a long time. We bought our tickets about 7 months earlier, and then realized we hadn’t quite planned the trip yet. My sweet Matt planned and arranged everything. I was no help at all. Lodging, excursions and transportation—he had all the details lined up. It made the type A personality in me swoon and weak in the knees. Having to make decisions all day every day makes me incredibly grateful to not have to make decisions when it comes to personal life.
Being a designer I suppose I am cursed or blessed with an eye for design and more specifically design details. If you follow along with me on the blog or on Instagram, you’ll know that design for me is much more about a wholistic experience. I’m a realist and not much for frills or over complicating simple decisions. I believe good design is not only a pleasing aesthetic but a fully functioning space.
We stayed at some beautiful places from modern hotels to quaint and cozy airbnb's. While the hotel industry seems to be trying to keep up with the airbnb charm, boutique hotels have captured the attention of millennials and trend setters nationally and globally. While in London we stayed at a trendy little hotel, that I will not mention as to not tarnish the brand. While instagram would make this lodging look perfectly designed, I found myself getting caught up in the details. You walk into a small cafe style lounge with unique tile/wood flooring integration, cozy banquette seating with spot tables, vibrant tile that not only wraps the interior walls but exterior and a beautiful brass chandelier that completes the room like a piece of jewelry.
Our taxi drops us off outside the door, and we clumsily walk in with our three rolling suitcases. (Not my best packing job as we were dealing with a plumbing crisis in our house the days before we left for our trip... long story but we packed in a hurry the night before we left) Once we were inside, we walk past a girl on a laptop wondering where the concierge desk might be. She stops us and says she can check us in and we wait for 15 minutes as I comb over every inch of the lobby. Signage is minimum, swing arm sconces that are meant to extend from the wall are pushed to the side, and the lounge is empty until the wait for check in grows as guests are getting impatient. With little direction for our room location, we squeeze... like literally squeeze into an elevator that I might have referred to as a coffin at one point when I felt my life flash before me in the brief ride up three stories. Once we reached the sweet relief of solid ground, we met a stairwell. Not a welcome sight when you have 50lbs of luggage to haul with you. After some investigating we were able to figure out the level we needed to locate our room. Each concrete step carrying a large percentage of our belongings felt like I had earned the whole pizza I would eat later that night. We reach the floor of our room. Our rolling suitcases hit the floor but instantly feel 100lbs heavier. The corridors are covered with a beautiful indigo dip dyed wool carpet that has the richness you'd expect out of a London penthouse, but functionally acts like sinking sand. After a random door and about 15 more steps, we reach our room where I throw our suitcases to the floor and collapse on the bed. (Thank you Lord that my husband continues to put up with my drama). The room, like the rest of the hotel is so cute. The branding is on point. I scour the notes and packages left on the nightstand and stash away a pencil with the hotel name on it. (typical) The room overall was precious and the bed that I dramatically flung myself onto was so incredibly cozy, but my perception of the hotel was tainted by the feeling of confusion and inconvenience. It was lacking the ease of function and a tumultuous user experience. As I mentioned, this design critique is a blessing and a curse. It causes me to constantly challenge my space planning until I find the best solution, but also makes me hyper-sensitive to bad design.
This year we also went up to New York. Something we have now started as somewhat of a yearly tradition. We stayed at the Ace Hotel there. The detail, the packaging, the way-finding, the branding... all of it is just so superb. We did not spend an exorbitant amount to stay there, but I felt like a million bucks staying in their "mini" room. The lobby is something to write home about. I was super touristy as I took pictures of every piece of beautiful upholstery and the custom light fixtures. Once in the room, they have labeled everything in beautiful graphics from the mini bar menu to the soap in the bathroom.
When I look back I realized that aesthetically, these spaces were about the same. Design while typically focused on aesthetics, is so strongly influenced by function. Our homes, our home away from homes, our work spaces and meeting places only represent good design if we can maximize our overall spatial footprint, create function and purpose without confusion and welcome others with style and ease. Good design is a cohesive blend of all these things.
Thats my goal as a designer and I hope your goal as a home owner - to bring together all these elements to create meaningful spaces that invite others to experience.