Last December I spent a night at The Glidden House in Cleveland, Ohio. The Glidden House is a private home turned hotel on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. It has the charm of being a turn of the century “aristocrat’s” mansion with the efficiency of a well-run hotel. It is filled with the art of local artists, has a tiny bar tucked off a hallway and employs an interesting and eccentric concierge. As I was sitting in front of the roaring fire in the breakfast room, I thought, “Why am I shivering in my cold breakfast nook each morning when I could be eating meals in front of my lovely fireplace three steps away? Why don’t I decorate my house to look like a hotel?”
I like staying in boutique hotels. I adore the rooms with the fun patterned carpets. I enjoy reading the newspaper in the chicly decorated lobby. I relish sitting at the cute, little bar and having a drink with my husband before going out to some entertainment. I appreciate that I dress better when I stay in a hotel. I was hooked on the TV show Hotel when I was in my twenties. I can’t resist movies about hotels, especially The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Marigold Hotel films. I especially love that staying in a hotel means that I am on an adventure of some sort.
My short stay at The Glidden House inspired me to redecorate my home like a miniature hotel. I wanted to look and feel like I was on vacation, in my own home, all the time. Before my visit to Cleveland, I had already been planning to do a full-house purge and spiff-up in anticipation of an eventual downsizing.
I began reading lots of articles about the hotel business. I read about a seaside town in NJ, Asbury Park, whose very existence is relying on the success of a new hotel being built. There was a story about groups of friends buying up old hotels, reviving them and turning them into town gathering places. The Wall Street Journal ran a story about Marriot’s hotel test lab and in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune there was a piece about Artists-in-Residence programs popping up at hotels around the country. Last week I visited The Sagamore, Miami Beach’s self-proclaimed art hotel. It was as much art gallery as hotel. So exciting!
I’ve always fantasized about owning a hotel. I talk about it often with my husband who slightly cringes at the idea. I figured that if I turned my home into a tiny hotel, it would tap all of my talents. I love to clean so I’d be my own maid. I’m social. I’d be my own artist-in residence and could have a gift shop which sells local art. Hotel KT would be a gathering place for family and friends. If my experiment is a success, maybe, just maybe, my hubby would agree to us becoming hoteliers in our retirement. Or maybe we just sign up with Airbnb or HomeAway. Whatever the outcome, I excitedly began the transformation from home to hotel.
Before I started painting and laying carpets, I moved furniture and switched up rooms. I removed leaves from the kitchen table and placed it in front of the fireplace. There was some protesting at first but my kids fell into the routine of asking, “Are we eating at The Glidden House or the kitchen counter?”
I turned my breakfast nook into my office and sitting room. Furniture that I thought I was ready to give the heave-ho worked in this space. A nice credenza that had been housing a defunct, desktop computer was given a second life as my command center. I added the rest of the living room furniture and now have a cozy spot in which to work and hang out. It warmed my heart to see my daughter, back from college, sipping coffee under a blanket there each morning. A bonus is that it’s nice for the cook, who happens to be me, to have company while preparing dinner for my guests.
I turned my dining room into the “lobby” for my hotel. I wasn’t sure what to do with the smaller living room. Do I make it a bar or yoga studio? My family pushed back and said they wanted a proper dining room for when we are all together; that it was too squishy to eat at the table by the fire. I relented when I realized hotels have breakfast rooms and formal dining areas. I moved the dining room furniture into the smaller living room and painted it gold making it elegant and cozy. Once you flip-flop rooms you can’t even remember which room is which. I now read the newspaper and have my morning coffee in my very warm and sunny lobby; a room that got little use in its past life.
I read a helpful article, which stated good hotels have layers on their floors; rugs over wood, tile and stone areas and lots of seating groups. I figured I’d begin with rugs and work my way up. I have three dogs, so it was important that I did patterned prints. I ended up doing different animal prints in the lobby, dining room and game/TV room. I then pulled earthy colors out of the carpeting for the walls and added color through fabrics on the furniture and art pieces. I acquired a “trophy head” made of cardboard and ribbon, from a local artist that hangs in the “game room.”
In order to carry my hotel theme throughout the bedrooms, I worked with my kids to purge years’ worth of stuff. I ordered a fun, patterned carpet and had it put in all of the bedrooms. Each room is painted a differ color blue but in the same tone and each has similar but different patterned curtains and bedspreads. All of my kids’ rooms have a portrait of each child living in their old room.
When my oldest son was home from college and came downstairs in the new Pottery Barn fur-trimmed robe that he found in his closet, my heart warmed. He grabbed his coffee and settled in the funky fur chair across from me in the lobby. He smiled, “Mom, when do they serve breakfast?”
Kathleen Thometz is an artist, writer and founder of Doodle Art & Design, a teaching studio and art gallery in Western Springs. She lives with her husband, kids and three doodle dogs: Rainbow, Sunshine and Thunderstorm. You can experience more about her at www.kathleenthometz.com