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Design over substance

Design over substance
The little details count

This is not the first time I’ve talked about a hotel using an interior designer but not thinking about the actual end user – the guest.

We’ve stayed in two hotels recently, one for pleasure in Cornwall and one for business in London. Both were part of small independent chains and fell short of what we were expecting.

It’s only when we stay somewhere else that we realise how much thinking has gone into our own rooms. When I design a bedroom, anyone who has stayed here or looked at our website will know that they are individual and funky. However, hand in hand with this, I always think about the basics like lighting, space for belongings, how the room flows and how comfy it is.

In Cornwall, even the basics were missing for us. The first thing we usually want to do when we check in after a long journey is have a nice cup of tea. You can imagine therefore our annoyance to find that the kettle was sat on a low table no where near a plug socket, and needed moving to the dressing table to plug it in, along with the cups, tea bags and so on. Who designs a new build hotel with no plug next to the kettle? Who designs a new build hotel with a wall in a modern bedroom with no plug sockets on it at all? And who designs a new build hotel, decides the tea tray and kettle will go on a really low table (very inconvenient for more mature guests and dangerous for very young ones), then doesn’t check there’s going to be a plug next to it? The simplest of things had already annoyed me.

Similarly, when drying my hair later, I discovered that although the only mirror in the room (a full length one on the wall in a corner) did indeed have a plug socket next to it, you had to sit on the floor to use it. Not something most guests of a certain age would want to be doing. And forget doing anything more, like applying makeup, as the corner was so dark you’d have no chance. You’d have to be standing over the sink in the bathroom mirror for tasks like makeup application.

London was no better. What is it with this trend for no overhead light in a bedroom? The basics when being officially graded by the likes of The AA or Visit England discuss task lighting and the essentials of having lighting appropriate to various tasks and ambiance around the bedroom and bathroom. It’s things like this that back my case for each and every accommodation provider to be assessed by an official tourism body before being allowed to rent to the public. So many establishments don’t even cover the basics anymore.

So, back to London – there was one spotlight in the hallway so you could see into the wardrobe. Apart from a lamp in the corner and a desk lamp, the only bedroom lighting was mood lighting behind the headboard! Yet again, making it near on impossible to get ready in an evening. You could barely see what shirt you were putting on, so a sixty year old woman trying to apply makeup would end up looking like Coco the clown if she tried using the bedroom mirror. Even in the bathroom, the mirror was lacking a heated pad so was all steamed up, and the light in there was so yellowy that the healthiest of people would look decidedly ill when reflected in it.

Moving on, so I’ve now got my cup of tea in Cornwall. There’s no bin bag in the bin so I’ve had to slop my wet teabag in the bottom of the bin, and there’s no where to place my dirty spoon, but no matter. Where to sit and enjoy it? Only one of us can sit down in comfort in both Cornwall and London. In Cornwall, the chair is so low that I’m a little surprised to be practically sitting on the floor when I land, and almost loose my tea on the way down. How a more mature guest such as my parents would be able to get back up out of it without calling for assistance, I’m not sure. Julian is stuck in both rooms either sat on the desk chair or on the bed.

I could go on all day about the other inadequacies of the rooms we stayed in, both of which were incidentally more expensive than us. However, I will refrain from banging on any longer, but to summarise – an interior designer, hotel developer or humble B&B operator must always put themselves in the guest’s shoes. Think about who might be using the space and how. Yes, of course I agree with character, individuality, funky features and quirky décor, but usability is ultimately the key to a successful hotel room and a business.

Want to stay somewhere with proper lighting, plenty of plug sockets, a kettle that's ready to use and decent mirrors, simply book on our website at


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