West Elm plans ho­tels in 5 cities

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - By Beth J. Harpaz

The home-de­sign re­tailer West Elm is tak­ing its brand into the ho­tel in­dus­try, with plans for ho­tels in five cities: Detroit; In­di­anapo­lis; Min­neapo­lis; Sa­van­nah, Ge­or­gia, and Char­lotte, North Carolina.

An­other 10 ho­tels are on the draw­ing board.

While the ho­tels will fea­ture West Elm fur­ni­ture and decor, they’ll also show­case lo­cal crafts, art­work and food. “Each prop­erty will be very true to its neigh­bor­hood and its sur­round­ings,” said David Bowd, CEO of DDK, the hos­pi­tal­ity com­pany that’s part­ner­ing with West Elm on the project.

West Elm, a di­vi­sion of Wil­liams-Sonoma, has 93 stores around the world. Each ho­tel will have ei­ther an ad­ja­cent store or a pared-down re­tail con­cept on­site. An app for guests will of­fer ev­ery­thing from check-in by phone to room service to ways to pur­chase fur­ni­ture, bed­ding or other items seen in the ho­tel.

West Elm is in charge of the ho­tels’ in­te­rior de­sign, fur­nish­ings and mar­ket­ing but will not own the prop­er­ties. In­stead, DDK will find real es­tate devel­op­ers to man­age each site.

Lo­ca­tions an­nounced so far in­clude trendy, in­ter­est­ing neigh­bor­hoods — rather than down­towns — in In­di­anapo­lis and Detroit. The first ho­tel opens late 2018 in Detroit’s Mid­town neigh­bor­hood, home of Wayne State Univer­sity, the Detroit In­sti­tute of Arts, the lux­ury watc­hand-bi­cy­cle brand Shi­nola and an up-and-com­ing hip­ster scene.

The In­di­anapo­lis ho­tel is planned for a for­mer Coca-Cola bot­tling plant in a beau­ti­ful 1930s art deco build­ing with a strik­ing white ter­ra­cotta fa­cade. It’s in a busy shop­ping and cul­tural dis­trict, amid bars, restau­rants and small shops, near the pop­u­lar Indy Reads book­store and the Old Na­tional Cen­tre con­cert venue. Next year, the neigh­bor­hood will also see the open­ing of a new lo­ca­tion for the Kurt Von­negut Me­mo­rial Li­brary, a mu­seum hon­or­ing the late writer and Indy na­tive.

Bjorn Han­son, a pro­fes­sor at New York Univer­sity’s hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism school, says that “fea­tur­ing West Elm prod­ucts in ho­tel rooms to cre­ate a pos­i­tive guest ex­pe­ri­ence” could be a plus for the brand, es­pe­cially with younger trav­el­ers who may value “ex­pe­ri­ence rather than con­ve­nience” in lodg­ing and travel. He noted that a num­ber of lux­ury brands — Bul­gari, Bac­carat, Ver­sace and Ar­mani among them — have opened high-end ho­tels in re­cent years.

Bowd said bring­ing the West Elm brand to the lodg­ing in­dus­try in­volves an­a­lyz­ing “how peo­ple use a ho­tel room versus how peo­ple use a house. Ul­ti­mately it comes down to this: You have one room. A lot of peo­ple are eat­ing in it, sleep­ing in it, work­ing and par­ty­ing in it. In your house you prob­a­bly have four sep­a­rate rooms for those things.”

The rooms will em­pha­size com­fort and de­sign — “You can curl up on the bed un­der a very typ­i­cal West Elm throw and watch a movie on the TV, or you can sit there and do work,” Bowd said. But prod­uct dura­bil­ity is im­por­tant too: “Ho­tel rooms take a bat­ter­ing much more than some­body’s house.”

Bowd said room de­sign will also in­cor­po­rate “what the fu­ture trav­eler is look­ing for.” He re­called a re­cent ho­tel stay where “they spent a for­tune on elec­tronic cur­tains, which open and close with the press of a but­ton, but there was no plug for my elec­tron­ics by the bed.”

All ho­tels will have a food and bev­er­age com­po­nent, whether a “grab-andgo cafe bistro or a more tra­di­tional din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” with the goal of at­tract­ing both lo­cals and ho­tel guests, and a fo­cus on nu­tri­tional ex­cel­lence.

In ad­di­tion, a “West Elm Academy” in each city will of­fer lo­cals a free, 10-week hos­pi­tal­ity train­ing course with a goal of hir­ing as many academy grads as pos­si­ble to work in the ho­tel.

“Who bet­ter to tell you where to go and what to do than some­body who lives in the city?” Bowd said.

WEST ELM VIA AP

This un­dated im­age pro­vided by West Elm shows a model room for ho­tels that are ex­pected to open un­der the West Elm brand.

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