Sunday, March 21, 2010

Who designs hotel rooms?

In the second week of March we went down to Canberra to see the Masterpieces from Paris art exhibition, which was stupendous, but thank goodness I managed to get early access tickets, or we would have had to wait for hours to get in (think queues of people stretching out into the street and down the road). We stayed in the Hotel Realm, which is possibly the quietest hotel I have ever stayed in in my life - I usually have trouble sleeping in hotels, because every little noise wakes me - but the Realm was virtually silent despite the fact that there was a wedding on in the hotel. The room was nice, the staff we dealt with were pleasant, and the Konoba restaurant served us a great dinner. I would definitely stay at the Realm again.

However, there was one failing, and it is a failing that is common to almost every hotel I have ever stayed in, in any country: no mirror suitable for applying makeup.

Not that there were no mirrors - there were several - but a make up mirror needs to be appropriately lit and you need to be able to get really close to it if you are trying to apply mascara with confidence. Or pluck your eyebrows (if you have never plucked your own eyebrows, take my word on this one: you need a very clear and close view if you don't want to wind up looking weird).

I have lost track of the number of hotels I have stayed in over the the years: they have ranged from ghastly little shoe boxes in London, through to an extremely nasty place outside Boston which reminded me of a rabbit hutch. I 've stayed in serviced apartments in Los Angeles and boutique hotels in Hobart. There was the place in Columbia , Maryland, where the hotel restaurant played the same Harry Connick CD every night that I was there, and the food was so horrible that my German colleagues relocated to another hotel; there they found that the food was just as bad, and they finally believed the rest of us (a group of Sun employees, there for a two week training course) when we said that what they were experiencing was normal American food. I dealt with it in my usual way, back having the hotel driver take me somewhere that I could buy fresh fruit and basic supplies.

There was the place that I stayed during a conference in New Orleans, where all delegates were given a map of the surrounding area and told not to stray from the marked zones unless we wanted to be mugged. There was the Hilton where Steve and I stayed in Perth (Western Australia, not Scotland) , where the interior decorator had perhaps been given too free a hand:

I've no idea what impression or message was supposed to conveyed by these objects. The room was clean and pleasant, but it would have been improved considerably by removing the tasteless tat on the walls.

Then there was the Sebel in Melbourne, which seemed to have become confused about whether it was a hotel or a bridal reception centre: the restaurant appeared to be permanently reserved for wedding receptions, and on the one occasion when I managed to get a drink at the bar, I was served a martini with a straw in it. My advice on that establishment is to avoid it like the plague: the bathroom looked grubby, the service was careless and there are many better hotels in Melbourne.

Of all these and dozens of others, exactly one had a proper make up mirror: the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, on Maui, where we stayed in 2002. If you go to their photo tour page, and look at the Guest bathroom picture under the Accommodation tab, you will see what I mean. An illuminated make up/shaving mirror on an extendable arm.

Now I will concede that the Ritz-Carlton is a very expensive hotel - I didn't pay to stay there, the trip was an all expenses paid prize, for winning an award from my then-employer, Sun Microsystems. But surely it should be possible for any hotel room to have one mirror which is reasonably well lit, and which a person can get close to - a mirror behind the vanity unit is too far away. I now carry a small, magnifying mirror with its own build in LED and little suction cups on the back when I travel. I can usually stick this somewhere reasonably convenient - often the shower screen - so that I can see what I am doing. But I can’t be the only woman who has this problem, and surely there are women working in hotel room design who must wear mascara themselves - have they never looked at a hotel bathroom and thought "how would I manage my normal grooming routine in this facility?"


Bookmark and Share