Noth­ing suc­ceeds like ex­cess

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

I AMcheered to find that ho­tel in­te­rior de­sign has taken a back­wards step, re­treat­ing from the cold realms of min­i­mal­ism to an al­to­gether more com­fort­able do­main that we might just call max­i­mal­ism. As a trav­eller who’s more hip re­place­ment than merely hip, it’s thrilling to dis­cover that I can again find flouncy cur­tains, hil­locks of cush­ions, sink-into chairs made for up­hol­stered der­ri­eres, pat­terns of full-blown roses and even those glo­ri­ously out­dated floor cov­er­ings known as car­pets.

When noth­ing-there min­i­mal­ism was hav­ing its hor­rid hey­day, I would rou­tinely have small in­dus­trial ac­ci­dents. I would cut a knee on a stain­less steel cof­fee ta­ble, scald my­self in a shower with un­fath­omable taps, be un­able to work out the light­ing sys­tem or the tom­fool­ery that passed as a re­mote con­troller for tele­vi­sion or even, in one hor­ror sce­nario, the door. In mir­rored walls I would catch a glimpse of a small, ter­ri­fied trav­eller, whose mad hair clearly re­vealed she had failed to un­cover the con­cealed cup­board in which the hairdryer was at rest. If a chic de­signer were to see such a fail­ure of a guest, ru­in­ing such a care­fully crafted space, surely they would bung a white slip­cover over me.

Ho­tels such as the Meurice in Paris have led the (long and ex­pen­sive) way to this re­turn to sen­si­ble nest­ing. In 2004, its re­fur­bish­ment cost $US400,000 a room, some of it spent on un­der-bath heat­ing to keep tub water warm and silk cur­tains bil­low­ing like debu­tante gowns. It was ahead of its time, sadly, be­cause lurk­ing just around the cor­ner and ready to pounce wield­ing their cookie cut­ters were those dev­il­ish de­sign­ers in­tent on sharp, edgy fur­ni­ture, toad­stool-like seats and whiteon-white decor — not that white is really white, but ecru, parch­ment, snow­drift and, who knows, dan­druff.

The lan­guage of ho­tels has changed, too. Now we hear words like sanc­tu­ary and re­treat. It’s im­plicit that we want to bur­row into our gue­strooms, not glide around over­lit spa­ces as brightly cold as an ice rink. One Lon­don de­signer who favours clut­ter has been quoted as say­ing ‘‘min­i­mal­ism has been shagged to death’’. Let’s get shag­piled, fel­low com­fort-seek­ers.

Lurk­ing just around the cor­ner and ready to pounce wield­ing their cookie cut­ters were those dev­il­ish de­sign­ers in­tent on sharp, edgy fur­ni­ture

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