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  • Hotel Missoni, Edinburgh (Patrick Goff)

    1000 666 Daniel Fountain
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    Busy. Pink. Two words sum up first impressions of Hotel Missoni. The style is indeed Missoni and the styling has been done by Rosita Missoni of the eponymous Italian fashion house. However, in hotel terms style is not content.

    Key to making disparate ingredients work in hotel design is the management of the contributing parties. The Rezidor/Missoni approach is similar in some ways to that of Olga Polizzi with the Rocco Forte hotels where this formidable lady manages design very well. Rezidor’s experience of working with Cerrutti on a previous abortive effort to create a lifestyle brand will have been of assistance to its management process this time around.

    As with Rocco Forte Hotels the mix is a designer of the spaces, usually a good experienced interior designer, with a stylist who in this case is Rosita Missoni.The underlying functional design has been the responsibility of the Rezidor director of design Gordon Mckinnon, who has used a designer long familiar with Rezidor hotels, Matteo Thun & Partners for interior design, and Edinburgh’s Alan Murray Architects as architects.

    The first impressions are reinforced by design qualities that are knowing and recognise location. As a granite city, black, white and silver have been chosen as the underlying colour schemes for Edinburgh and I was told the sunnier colours would modify the approach in Cape Town (Note added Jan 2012: The Cape Town Missoni has failed because the banking crisis led to a collapse of the funding plan).

    Hotel Missoni, Edinburgh

    However, the colour here is far from grey, with broad brush strokes of colours such as pink and orange being used. These reinforce a family link with the primary colours used in Park Inn (see Liége for example).Furniture references include acknowledgement of Scottish designers particularly Rennie Macintosh, while design is reinforced by the use of Missoni apparel for the staff ‘uniforms’.

    The interior designer describes this hotel as a ‘sartorial work’ and as a business hotel. For Rezidor it seems to be more a lifestyle exercise, and pitched at a five star luxury level. Rezidor says it is “a true lifestyle hotel and by no means a dedicated business hotel brand” with the “Target audience: new consumerism. People who are well travelled, independent, design aware and share the brands passions about life, style and comfort. Style without show. Comfort with style.”

    I believe that for an hotel to deserve a five star rating it needs to offer both a convincing level of luxury and a level of choice for the guest. It needs to surprise and enchant both with the luxury of its rooms and the quality of the service provided, as well as the quality of the design, including design detailing. Does Missoni measure up to this definition of five star luxury, the level Rezidor maintain it is aimed at?

    It seems to me that here is a dichotomy – the hotel is certainly fashionable and enchants and surprises at that level, but at a more pragmatic level doesn’t seem to work as it should. The quality is perhaps not quite at the level it should be for a five star. Here baths are only available in suites, whilst the UK standards specify that, at four star even, half bathrooms should have a tub.I believe that for five star, the guest should have the choice within their room (a view confirmed by an informal survey I conducted recently).

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    In some five star hotels now the guest has his’n’her bathrooms offering these choices (see One & Only Cape Town), while some four stars have not only a walk-in shower but a whirlpool bath as the tub (see Hiltons Diagonal Mar, Barcelona), so here shower only standard bedrooms would seem to be inappropriate to the aspirations.

    Although the bedroom desks are quite large, they are almost ruled out as working desks by the presence of the television on them. The style of specified TV’s may have given a high visual and audio quality, but in my view they are too small. In the large suites the size of the screen also seems smaller compared to the standard rooms because of the distance from which it is viewed. In the suite bedroom the floor mounted television is difficult to see from in bed without sitting upright.

    There is a single small armchair in the standard bedroom but the operator would no doubt argue that as a lifestyle hotel it should be measured by different criteria to the criteria employed in other hotels, where two comfortable armchairs are the norm.

    Unfortunately, I think lifestyle should be about having more, not less, than normal so I would expect normal minimum standards to apply with the Missoni fashion style shaping a super offer, not being used to disguise a poorer offering.

    The most expressive use of the Missoni style appears to be in the break out areas for the meeting rooms, and in the bar area where functionality is not compromised and the Missoni brand adds excitement to the areas.

    Hotel Missoni, Edinburgh

    In bedrooms the driver appears to be the small floor footprint, and I would ask if the ultimate luxury is not space – other operators would agree with me with, for example, the smallest bedroom in a new One & Only being 63sqm. Certainly it is commonly thought that the bathroom is one of the major areas where a modern hotel can provide design drama that cannot be easily matched in the home, and providing shower only seems a retreat from the challenge.

    Of course it may be that Rezidor thinks, like Intercontinental with the Indigo brand and its small 19sqm bedrooms, that having fashionable design is enough to overcome small size as a factor for guests. Bear in mind of course that all hotels seek the repeat visitor who may well take their vote elsewhere second time around, and for whom size may matter. For the discerning guest any inadequacies in design will also register as negatives.

    Lighting design is interesting throughout, and while it appears to be handled well generally, in some areas it lacks finesse. Bathrooms are generally blasted with light, but in the suites there is a lack of controllability, and lighting is better thought through in the standard rooms.

    Corridor lighting works well with spotlighting of each room door to the bedrooms. I was suprised there appear to be no motion sensors to help with energy saving which I find a curious ommission given the cost savings these simple devices can achieve.

    The black, white and red used in the corridors is very dramatic (its use can also be seen successfully used in the competitor Andaz ‘lifestyle’ brand) but its impracticality is overloading the housekeeping team and it is already beginning to lose its sharpness as it accumulates dirty marks.

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    Similarly, paint finishes in bedrooms need attention already with stains, spills and knocks all taking their toll – in some hotels with paint finishes only, built into the maintenance budget is an allowance for repainting of a certain number of rooms every month.

    Seeing paint pots on housekeepers trolleys, which I have observed on other lifestyle hotels, doesn’t work, as usually to avoid a piebald finish the whole wall has to be repainted. Differentiation in price is not just to make extra profit but also to fund the increased maintenance it takes to keep a lifestyle looking stylish (I know a Bentley owner who has the car resprayed every year to remove stone chips – style perfection comes at a price).

    Despite the attractiveness of the large vases design wise and as a Missoni ‘trademark’, the lack of a street presence for the hotel bar fails to engage with the trendy ‘being seen to be trendy’ market effectively – and Friday Night Millionaires need to be seen.

    The Rezidor house style comes through quite strongly. The use of primary colours in chairs outside the meeting rooms echoes that in Park Inn, whilst the island reception desks are a Radisson Blu hallmark.

    For the brand to work as a five star luxury lifestyle brand I think it needs more luxury and more lifestyle. Everything needs to be more luxurious, softer, and with better designed seating everywhere. I was uncomfortable with the heights of seating in the relationship to tables. This could be solved easily by the use of cushions, and would also have enabled more of the signature Missoni fabrics to be used. It would also add more luxury whilst making banquette seating more functionally effective.

    With an hotel that is not geared for the business traveller (not even a high fashion stylish business traveller) the reliance must be placed on Missoni becoming the hotel of choice for affluent leisure travellers of all age groups. Underlying my criticism is the disappointment that the basic five star standards for the operational installation and room layouts is failing to support the stylish Missoni interiors. The colour and pattern is generally strikingly new and admirable but if the basic operational criteria is wrong then the result will disappoint.

    Hotel Missoni, Edinburgh

    The hotel is in a sharp piece of contemporary architecture that stands apart from its neighbours stylistically, but which has a presence and a personality lacking in many hotels. For the brand to succeed in the increasingly competitive and well designed lifestyle market, Rezidor need to ensure their design management processes can also deliver a five star hotel experience to back up the promise of the building and the Missoni brand.

    The tall pots in reception areas are spectacular and are a device that could be repeated elsewhere. If entrance is also intended from the courtyard too (accessed via the alley from the Royal Mile) then it needs more of a ‘come on’ and similar pots on the terrace would help create a presence here.

    Whilst the position of the bar is good, the ‘W’s, that set the trend for chain lifestyle branding, used the street windows to allow ‘Friday night millionaires’ to show off in the window. From the outside at night the pots are coloured by the yellow sodium street lights and some corrective lighting from the inside would add considerably to the drama at street level.


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    Words and images ©Patrick Goff

    Daniel Fountain / 15.02.2010

    Editor, Hotel Designs

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