How To Make Your House Look Like A Boutique Hotel
Whenever I'm hotel shopping for an upcoming trip, I like to use what I call the "Pretty Woman WOW" reaction to help me make my final decision on where to stay.
I'm going to leave this right here...
If a hotel can get me to have that reaction over the interwebs, then I know it has to be even better in person.
So when I found myself in Chattanooga, Tennessee this week trapped in an Airbnb with 5 60-70 year olds (it's a long story, see pic below) and needing a stiff drink, I took to the internet, hoping to find some design inspiration.
While I was not expecting too much on the design front from this small southern town, I was unexpectedly surprised to find a place called the "Dwell Hotel" in downtown Chattanooga. After scrolling through a few pages of photos and noting my major "pretty woman wow" reaction, I decided to go get my drink on.
After arriving and spending some time chatting with the bartenders and listening to all the cute southern accents around me, I wandered back to the house and got to thinking about what exactly makes these boutique hotels so friggin' adorable.
Why don't we see more homes that can give us this "wow" reaction when it only takes a little extra thought and some pre-planning?
For one, these spaces are all obviously professionally designed and most people have no idea what they are doing when it comes to interior design.
But what if there was a formula for creating a "straight out of a magazine" look?
Like a few easy elements you could combine to create a totally unique and dramatic space to call your own?
I recently worked with a client who when I initially asked her what she was going for, told me that she wanted that "wow" factor. Something bold and dramatic, but also something livable and comfortable.
During that project, I got a good feel for what elements can really help achieve this look. Since then, I've done some digging and here are a few of the elements I found that can take a room from "meh" to "wow" when done right:
1. Color, Pattern and Texture
Let's start with the obvious stuff. It's easy to play it safe and shy away from the fun stuff when you are spending your hard earned money on expensive furniture and home accessories.
After all, you may know that you'll be moving in the next few years, or you're afraid you'll get sick of a design fad and be stuck with it later down the road.
But one of the great things about these boutique hotels is that they are not afraid of bringing a little fun into the space even if it's just one or two unexpected elements.
There are ways to get the look without going all out. One way to do this is by keeping the main pieces classic and simple, then adding the more wild pieces into the room in a strategic way.
For example, if I was designing a room from scratch, I would decide which would be the investment pieces that I want around for a while, (ie sofa, dining table, etc) and I'd keep these simple and neutral.
Something like this couch -
I could design a thousand rooms around this couch #goals
The rest of the budget would go towards the second layer of design, bringing in the color, pattern and texture (ie pillows, smaller artwork, wallpaper, lighting, accessories).
This way, if you went a little out there with the pillow covers or art, you could easily switch all that stuff out for much less money than if you had to replace a leopard print couch that you are absolutely sick of after only 9 months.
Try for something more like the image below. The room is really well designed and with just enough pattern and color to keep it interesting.
However, you can see how easily the owner of this room could switch it up if they got bored or sick of it. All they'd have to do is:
1. Swap out the pillow covers
2. Replace the artwork in the frames
3. Rearrange or replace the tabletop accessories
Make any one of those changes and the room could look completely different!
This works because the couch, rug, tables and shelf are all completely neutral.
Keep your investment pieces neutral and classic, then add color, texture, and pattern as secondary accessories.
Now that you have no excuses, here are are some fun picks that you could try out for your boutique hotel look. Click for links.
2. Use Interesting Art
You don't have to get crazy here. But I also wouldn't settle for a sad 24" canvas from your local big-box store either.
It's easy to note that the wall art we often see in these boutique hotels is usually very different than what we see in most homes. You might see interesting sculptures from local artists, metal work, woven tapestries, or wallpaper layered with unique paintings.
The artwork here had to be kept subtle because of all the pattern play, but they used an unexpected gold finish to keep it interesting and create contrast.
This room is actually pretty neutral and standard, but the touches of neon in the artwork have a big effect. They took a few simple contrasting images and turned blank space into an eclectic gallery wall.
When you combine that with all the patterns around the room it makes for a fun, playful look.
Art isn't always necessarily just found on the walls - a unique light fixture or statement chair can be enough to keep things interesting in an otherwise neutral room.
Here, the brick wall combined with accent lighting and quirky artwork is more than enough to make the room stand out. This is a great area where you can source from local artists. My favorite place to find stuff like this is flea markets, Etsy, or artist's websites.
Repeat after me: Less is more
Knowing when to stop. This seems like such a no brainer but when you're designing it's so easy to go overboard.
Resist the urge to cover every surface with stuff! Let the design of the room speak for itself.
Hotel rooms are designed to be super efficient. Everything has a place to land, and it should also be this way in your home.
Keep it simple. Bed, table, light, rug = done.
photo via we-heart - The Serras in Barcelona
A few open shelves in the bathroom allow for hotel visitors to easily toss their belongings on top of or below the sink area.
So where are you supposed to start?
Step 1: If you are clutter challenged. Get your Mari Kondo on.
Step 2: After purging, decide what 5-10 things consistently end up on your floor, desk, table, etc, that you would like to find a space for.
Step 3: Designate places for those things and make them easy to put away.
Laundry on the floor ---> Move your hamper to a more accessible spot
Purse ends up on your bed ---> Put a hook next to your door
Mail and papers on your desk ---> Get a tray for loose papers
Workout bag on floor ---> Clear a spot in your closet to toss it
Once you get in the habit of putting your things in their 'spots' your room will start looking a lot less cluttered during the week!
4. Seating Area
Even in tiny rooms, these spaces always have more than one place to sit. How is this possible? Well, they make really good use of the space.
You'll often see a narrow settee or bench at the end of the bed, or a side chair. Sometimes it's just a small desk or table with a chair.
This designer used the seating area as another way to bring in more texture. The table itself is basically a piece of art!
Be Tulum Hotel in Tulum, MX
They put in multiple seating areas in this boutique. Who says no to a window seat?
5. Layered Lighting
Lighting is something that most people casually skip over. They move in, they attach a floor lamp to the outlet, or use whatever is already there, and call it a day, buuut....
I KNOW YOU'RE BETTER THAN THAT.
Now that we have that established, let's think for 5 minutes about how we can fix this situation. Start with the main light source of your room. This is probably a floor lamp, or a light on your ceiling. That's a good start.
The next steps are where hotels have the one up on you. They will always have some secondary lighting source, and a lot of times, a third source as well.
The secondary source is usually some kind of table lamp for a specific area or task like reading or writing. You might have a couch with end tables where you could put this, or maybe it's just a lamp on your bedside table.
Sometimes they will even replace a table lamp with a wall sconce so you have more table space.
The next layer is the accent lighting that people rarely spring for. In a lot of these boutiques you will see wall sconces in every shape and form. They add just enough light to brighten a dark area, while at the same time creating a moody ambiance.
This sconce also functions as a piece of art as well as adding some dim lighting. It's small details like this that can bring your space up to boutique level without too much effort.
Let me know in the comments what boutique hotels you love to stay in.