The end of the school year is a crazy time!! So many things are happening – sports tournaments, graduations, concerts, plays, dance recitals…! Pile on top of all that – planning for Summer travel. This year, we decided that the kids were old enough to embark on our first family European vacation (hopefully not with the same drama as the movie). Planning a trip is always a challenge – where to go, what to do, how to get there and the most important question – where are we going to stay?

Actually, where to stay is at the very top of my list in terms of what makes a great vacation. I know there are some people that say “I just need a place to lay my head.” But, that is so not me. A hotel becomes the essence of the destination. The perfect accommodation – whether it be in a city, in the countryside or on a boat – reflects the culture of the destination. This feeling is communicated through staff, food, and of course, the decor!!

Let’s talk a little about the evolution of hotel decor. Gone are the days of the floral bedspreads, dark wood paneling and shag carpeting. Much of this drastic change came about in the early 1980’s when Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager (fresh out of prison on tax evasion charges related to Studio 54) took their club culture into the hotel arena. They opened Morgans Hotel in NYC, their first hotel. The interior designer was the late Andrée Putman. Like Rubell and Schrager – this hotel broke all the rules. The interiors were like no other. They created a “living room” in the lobby and had food service in a small room on the second floor. Guest rooms were small so creative compartmentalization was key. And, there were no floral patterns anywhere.

Morgans Hotel NYC - Hotel Design Lobby

Source: The Style Saloniste – Morgans Hotel Lobby

Morgans Hotel NYC - Hotel Design

Source: The Style Saloniste – Morgans Hotel Guest Room

That is pretty much how hotels became the trend setters for interior design. And, designers or all realms – interior, fashion, architects, etc – began jumping into this exciting and very visible space.

On a recent trip, I pulled out a copy of “Hemisphere Magazine” from the seat back pocket in front of me and found myself reading about “The RIse of the Haute Hotels”. This article discusses how hotels are using fashion designers to dress up hotel rooms to woo high end guests. In a great quote, the piece posits that “Where are you staying” is the new “What [or who] are you wearing?” Haberdashers including – but certainly not a complete list – Vivianne Westwood, Diane Von Furstenberg, Ralph Lauren, Christain Lacroix, Armani, Karl Langerfeld, Kelly Wearstler are styling hotels. According to Henry Harteveldt, co-founder of travel industry specialist Atmosphere Research Group, in an “annual study of more than 5,000 US travelers, 69% of leisure travelers with household incomes of $250,000 or more say that style and design are important to them. Top hotels already have the best locations and name chefs; fashion designers is the next step.”

Vivianne Westwood - The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills penthouse suite

Source: Forbes, Vivianne Westwood – The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills penthouse suite

Round Hill Jamaica, Guest Room by Ralph Lauren

Source: The Telegraph, Ralph Lauren – Round Hill Hotel & Villas Jamaica

Kelly Wearstler - Viceroy Santa Monica Front Desk

Source: Pinterest, Kelly Wearstler – Viceroy Santa Monica Front Desk

Design has become such an important aspect of hotel marketing that many design/shelter/travel magazines now include articles on the “best designed” hotels like this one from Dwell or from Condé Nast Traveler or from Travel & Leisure. Enjoy your armchair traveling. There is even a hotel affiliation program called Design Hotels which curates and provides a booking engine for well designed hotels from around the world.

All this design attention on hotels and resorts has turned the influence balance completely around. Once the bastion of stogy, uninspired interiors, hotels are now the early adopters/adapters and trendsetters in interior design. And, this evolution is taking place at every level of the hotel spectrum – from low priced to high end. Check out these examples of hotel spaces in an Aloft by Starwood, tru by Hilton and 21c Museum Hotels. These are certainly not the roadside motels our grandparents and parents checked-in to.

Bringing this conversation full circle, Ian Shrager who shook up the hotel design equation is now partnering with Marriott on it’s EDITION Hotels brand which has brought a new standard of cool to London, Istambul, Miami Beach, New York, China and other cities you will want to travel to in the near future.

The New York Edition - Bar

The New York EDITION – Bar

You can see how easily I fall down the rabbit hole of anything that involves the discussion of design. I am so off track on planning my trip that a “staycation” may quickly become our only option. I love to travel but I prefer to stick to what I am good at and let someone who is really knowledgable about interesting destinations and amazing hotels plan my vacation.

A few years ago, we joined Inspirato – a luxury destination club. All of my travel planning stress has been alleviated. Working with the Inspirato travel planners, I give them an idea of what kind of vacation we are looking for – beach, ski, sightseeing – and they come up with a list of amazing, unique options. We make some choices and they plan the trip. Our European vacation will be on an Inspirato members-only Venice to Rome voyage aboard the Silversea‘s Spirit ship!! We will stay in a hotel in Venice and Rome and then visit amazing cities including: Dubrovnik, Croatia; Kotor, Montenegro; and, Taormina, Naples, Sorrento in Italy!!

Looking at the way the cabins are configured on this ship, reminds me of the challenges I face when designing in confined spaces like New York City apartments. Working within the constraints of a small area requires creativity with furniture selection and layout as well as storage and compartmentalization. The following photographs show rooms where I have made the most of limited spaces and added functional elements that are concealed in decorative pieces. Just know that I am bringing my measuring tape with me on this cruise and will be taking copious notes on clever storage ideas.

Valerie Grant Interiors - Sitting Room

Valerie Grant Interiors

Valerie Grant Interiors - Greenwich, CT Master Bedroom

Valerie Grant Interiors

Valerie Grant Interiors - New York City Kitchen Design

Valerie Grant Interiors

Valerie Grant Interiors - Den

Valerie Grant Interiors

Inspirato gave us our flight information, transfers to Venice and back from Rome so all we have to do is make sure we show up at the airport on time and that our passports are current!! I will be blogging next month about our trip. I look forward to being inspired by the architecture, textiles, colors and style of Europe. And, the space saving secrets I discover on board the ship.

Buon Viaggio, Caio, Arrivederci and Happy Summer!!