Since I count Ian Schrager as an idol of mine, I’ve always been plugged into hip, stylish boutique hotels. I remember one-time where in my zealousness to try out the then-new Paramount in New York, I convinced my rather burly friend to stay there also while on business. While I appreciated the Starck-ness of the room enough to make up for the “quaint” accomodations, my friend didn’t and immediately checked himself into the much less hip but much larger Sheraton the next night. Stylishness has its costs I told him… So imagine my surprise when I came across an article about Motel 6’s design revamp of their entire chain. I scoured the ‘net and found a few images, and I have to say, based on what I see in pictures, WOW!
As you enter, the bright color scheme is immediately apparent and the orange and blue rooms that I’ve seen are nice colors – certainly a breathe of fresh air compared to before (from what I can tell from pictures since I’ve never stayed at a Motel 6). The next thing that you can see are the “wood-effect” floors, which means a Pergo-like laminate. While this doesn’t make for a cozy room, especially without area rugs, I’ll take this any day compared to walking around dark, dingy, and certainly germ-riddled carpeting. Even the St.Regis can guarantee clean rugs so I’d rather take my chances on a floor that could be easily mopped, whether that’s done by housekeeping or myself (I’ve been known to be a bit particular about where I sleep and will shower in flip-flops if given any evidence of poor hotel hygiene).
The most innovative things in the room are the storage solutions. The coolest element is certainly the media center/wardrobe combination that houses a flat-screen tv, your hanging clothes and any multi-media gadgets that you travel with. They could and should sell this unit to the public because it’s THAT well designed. The beds are now platform-style for both aesthetics and the ability to store things underneath the bed. Also note the DwellStudio-style bedding and floating, cantilevered side tables – nice!
Elsewhere in the room is an interesting, corner desk/table combination. The built-in seat adds a loungey element to the room while the other bent-ply, Eames/Jacobsen knock-off chair is stylish, versatile and portable. I particularly like the wall-mounted table, which is more compact and interesting than a regular table which the designer could have easily specified.
The bathroom itself is not stylish by boutique hotel standards but certainly simple and serviceable. I’m sure they went with a vessel sink for style, but I know housekeeping is not happy with the choice. The highlight is clearly the towel rack/light fixture, which is so well-designed I could see it for sale at Ikea – and that’s a compliment! The slab, absolute black granite counters the perfect durable, agnostic material for a bathroom like this.
Overall, I give huge kudos to the designer Priestman Goode, a London-based designer who’s done work for Virgin Atlantic and Norwegian Cruise Lines. He kept a firm handle on costs by designing multi-purpose pieces of furniture made with inexpensive materials. But through great industrial and furniture design, he made it look decidedly up-market like more expensive and heralded boutique hotels (a la The Standard Hotel), which is not an easy chore. So will Motel 6 become the next W Hotel? Maybe not, but it will provide millions of Americans access to good design on budget.