While boutique hotels are at their essence unique, they do share certain characteristics
Hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, hostels, Airbnb—travelers now have endless lodging options to choose from when visiting their favorite cities around the world.
With the ubiquity of photo sharing, where a person stays is becoming as much a part of their identity as the clothes they wear or their activities. Because travelers have so many options in a given location, the uniqueness of their accommodations is just as important as the price.
Boutique hotels first came about to address this kind of thinking—to cater to the individual with pleasing aesthetics and service. But what defines a boutique hotel, and when did they first start appearing?
History of the boutique hotel
The term “boutique hotel” is thought to have been coined in the 1980s by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, who co-ran the Morgans Hotel in New York City. They wanted their hotel to be more of a small boutique with unique, trendy elements, instead of the cookie-cutter, predictable big hotel chains.
Boutique hotels were first meant to appeal to the wealthier crowd, offering personalized experiences, and stylish aesthetics, not to mention exclusivity and sometimes celebrity.
These small hotels can still be thought of as “designer” hotels, appealing to a particular crowd with individuality, warmth, and creativity. These personal experiences are possible because boutique hotels typically have 100 rooms or less, so they can provide more attention to individual needs and comfort.
Boutique hotels are now as popular as ever, and they compete to provide the trendiest bar, the most eco-friendly locally sourced restaurants, in the most in-demand locations in popular tourist cities. As people throughout the U.S. are traveling domestically now more than they ever have—85 percent of Americans’ vacations in 2017 were in the U.S.—boutique hotels are not only popular in big cities, but in remote destinations as well.
Contemporary boutique hotels
Boutique hotels are unique, so there are many possible ways to describe them as a group. Below are some of the distinctive characteristics we’ve found many of them share.
Small in size
Most boutique hotels range from 10 to 150 rooms. So they’re small, but not too small. Any operation that has fewer than 10 rooms is probably an inn or a bed-and-breakfast, anything larger than 150 rooms can be a challenge to provide the unique individual experience to guests
An overall theme
These hotels often incorporate a distinct theme or design element that’s integrated into each room, the lobby, the restaurant, and other spaces. One example is the Press Hotel, a boutique hotel in Portland, Maine. This hotel features a journalistic vibe throughout, complete with actual typewriters as art on the walls.
Tight, consistent design
A boutique hotel takes a lot of time and consideration to perfect its design and aesthetic. Even without a strict theme, the design elements work together to create one coherent aesthetic throughout.
While this isn’t always the case, especially as smaller towns become tourist destinations across the country each year, boutique hotels are usually in trendy neighborhoods of cities.
Guest age and traits
Boutique hotels often attract adults between 30 and 50, since they can be a bit pricier than say, a hostel where a college student would fit in. Because of their trendy nature and location, boutique hotels also attract creatives who are looking for an exclusive experience.
Because of their size, boutique hotels are known for providing personalized, stellar service at every juncture, from check-in to valet to room service.
These hotels will also host high-end restaurants that often attract award-winning chefs, such as the luxurious Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C. has award-winning restaurant Plume.
Some boutique hotels get their uniqueness from the history of the structure itself. For example, the Monastero Santa Rosa in Italy is a converted monastery and has just 20 guest rooms.
These are simply a few of the commonalities boutique hotels often share. Boutique hotels are distinctive, meant to inspire guests and ultimately add to the distinctiveness of their locations. They take a lot more time and thought than the average hotel to provide engaging, luxurious, and personalized experiences.
Beachwood Custom focuses on helping boutique and premium hotels source custom furniture, finishing, and materials to deliver the unique, unexpected experiences you count on. The team provides a range of services to the hospitality industry and has been operating since 1992.