As the world has come skidding into a period when just about every industry from travel to tartan-making is wondering what the future holds, and whether we’ll all be busking for loose change this time next year, Mr & Mrs Smith chose to conduct a good ol’ probe of the travel industry as it stands at the moment, in the hope of putting together a picture of what the terrain looks like for 2009.
Earlier this week, we teamed up with trend-spotting designer Ilse Crawford and the web-savvy travel-networkers at Dopplr, to host ‘Future Forum’ – an excuse to have a massive swanky breakfast at Kettner’s restaurant an in-depth discussions of trends in hotel design, travel online, and the economic impact on consumer travel.
It was – and, yeah, we would say this – a fascinating event. Ilse, (who has not only done an amazing job designing Kettner’s but also some of Smith’s fave hotels: The Olde Bell and Soho House), offered up an inspiring explanation of her philosophy of design. The key to a successful interior, she says, is paring back design elements to embody the core values of the brand, the building’s environment and its history. Kettner’s is the perfect example of this philosophy in action – StudioIlse’s redesign shakes off the recent Pizza-Express past of the building and takes the décor right back to its roots among the wood-pannelled drawing rooms of Soho theatreland. (Ilse also let slip that she’s currently working on a boutique b&b in Stockholm, and may have something up her sleeve in Budapest.)
In our series of insider interviews with hoteliers, we caught up with Philip Truelove (what a name!) – GM at Bob de Niro’s super-cool hangout, The Greenwich Hotel in New York – to find out what makes him tick and reveal some behind-the-scenes goings-on (You lookin’ at me?). The Greenwich is located in – clue’s in the name folks – Greenwich Village, just north of TriBeCa, and is one of Mr & Mrs Smith’s favourite New York boutique hotels.
Introduce yourself to our captive audience: tell us who you are, where you are, and what you do…
My background is influenced by a multitude of countries: I was born in Sri Lanka, educated in Europe and, as well as working in both London and Paris, have worked in three major US cities – Washington DC, Los Angeles and, of course, New York. I have owned an Inn on an island in Maine for the last 13 years and am General Manager at the Greenwich Hotel, New York.
What makes the Greenwich Hotel so special? How would you describe its style?
Sorry British Smith-types (‘BritSmiths’?). This one’s not for you. Please look away now. Check out this quirky hotel in Soho or something. Just stay out of our hair for a minute. All the Brits gone?
Right, then. Gather round and pay attention. Amber, who’s the queen of the Smith membership, er, queendom, has asked me to pen a quick psst* to our friends in the States. So: if you’re based in the US, have the faintest whiff of interest in what Mr & Mrs Smith are up to, and can spare three nights to spend on a luxury vacation in Mexico, then this may be just what you’re after…
As one part of the two-man band that is Mr & Mrs Smith’s Hotel Collections Team, it’s my job to make sure that we uncover the Smithiest gems a city has to offer, even if we’ve been there before, and even if we already feature the finest. First and foremost, this means my agenda is filled with beautiful boutique hotels in Barcelona, such as Hotel Omm, Prestige Paseo de Gracia, Grand Hotel Central, Hotel Neri and, soon to feature in the Smith collection, Hotel Murmuri.
The holidays are bearing down with freight-train inevitability so naturally, I’ve been thinking about food. My national origins call for turkey-gobbling in November, but here in Ibiza the sun is still shining and the emphasis is on fresh, organic food. Our neighbours have orange trees sporting fruit the size of softballs, a few late figs are ripening and my daily run takes me past fields of flowering potato plants and rows of ruby red peppers.
If you’ve a taste for luxury boutique hotels and a minute to spare, then we’d really be quite obsequiously grateful if you filled in our travel trends survey. We know there’s nothing more annoying than visiting a website for the first time only to be assailed with pop-up opinion polls and feedback demands, or to have your dinner interrupted by the chap from Gallup wanting to know whether you reckon the nation’s going to hell in a hand-basket, so we promise that it won’t last longer than you can hold your breath underwater.*