Giving your guests the ultimate luxury bedroom

Giving your guests the ultimate luxury bedroom; Deborah Heather, Director of Quality in Tourism, talks layouts. Deborah manages a field force of more than 40 assessors, as part of the accommodation assessment scheme for VisitEngland; each assessor grades around 300 properties a year, ensuring that they are safe, clean and legal.

If you’re purpose building a hospitality property, or gutting and converting another building, then your architect can focus on getting the room space perfect and maximising the value for your guests. When these approaches aren’t an option however, and you need to make the most of what you have already got, what should you be looking to do for your guests and how can you offer them the best experience, even in a restricted space or a higgledy, piggledy shaped room?

I will never forget visiting a sixteenth century inn, where the room was a rustic country delight, full of gorgeous beams, original windows, traditional plasterboard and a warning to be careful on the stairs. It was idyllic, gorgeous, and a home away from home; or at least it should have been. In a bid to provide guests with all the mod- cons, and meet every possible whim, the room had become an ode to the suggestion box and a poor application of common sense. There was excess furniture by the ton, a lorry load of ornaments and knick-knacks, and an impractical layout which seemed to have developed over time rather than being a well thought out application. As denoted by the listing of the building, the light switch for the ceiling light was by the door, which involved a late-night dash out of bed; not a problem, until you fumbled your way in the dark, stubbing your toe on the armchair which rested three inches from the bottom of the bed, and clunked your head on a low beam that loomed in the darkness. In terms of space, the bedroom was ample; in terms of layout, it was an unmitigated disaster.

When it comes to our inspectors, layout of the bedroom is as important as the quality, type and amount of furniture in the bedroom and the detailed inspection of its cleanliness. Whenever we inspect a new property, our inspectors stay the night, and then every other year will also involve an overnight inspection. This means that there is no cursory glance, or a quick once over approving how nice the bed looks by the window; our inspections are much more intimate, understanding how a bedroom works, whether it is suitable and accessible for a guest to use practically and whether it offers comfort as well as style. This will include simple things like identifying whether there is a mirror over a shelf, desk or table, allowing the application of make-up; whether there is a plug within easy reach of preferably the same mirror, but at least a mirror somewhere so a guest can dry their hair; whether you can open all the doors and drawers or whether they are restricted by other pieces of furniture.

The best advice we can give an hotelier is to stay in some or preferably all of the rooms at one point or another and see how simple or difficult it is to use the space. If you’re not confident that you can be objective, then encourage a friend to stay over and ask them to be brutally honest about the usability of the room. Thinking back to the sixteenth century bedroom, and the adage less is more could not have been more apt; there was an armchair and a sofa, so removing the chair would have freed up much space, relocating the bed into the centre of the wall to the left, instead of ahead as you enter the room would also have overcome challenges with light penetration and given plenty of free floor space for the guest to move around, not to mention removing the hazardous dash past the beam in the dark and putting the bed near enough to plug sockets to have bedside lamps. The owner could also have retained the knick-knacks which added to the historic atmosphere of the room, but moved them instead to a designated shelf on show but out of the way.

Our inspectors are always looking for the perfect blend of style and comfort, of practicality and frivolity, which ensures you know you are staying in a hotel, but that the stay is as enjoyable as possible. There are the must-haves and the nice-to-haves, with exhaustive attention given to the littlest details like the cleanliness of the radiator and the scuff marks on the skirting boards. They are not however just there to assess the decency of the room, but also to offer advice and guidance which supports the business too. This could be anything from suggesting the addition of pillow, mattress and duvet protectors to prolong the life of the bedding, or adjustments to the layout to reduce the likelihood of scuffs and damage.

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