Tag Archives: ugliness
More than 1,000 such hotel rooms are slated to open in Toronto and Vancouver over the next 12 months. But hoteliers aren’t worried about oversupply: They insist the five-star market is underserved
Steve Ladurantaye – Globe and Mail
During the darkest days of the recession, one thought kept going through Tony Cohen’s mind: Better to be building a luxury hotel through the downturn than to be opening one.
Mr. Cohen, who with partner Peter Freed is putting the finishing touches on the 102-room Thompson hotel in the western part of downtown Toronto, isn’t worried any more about filling rooms when the doors open in May. The economy is recovering, business travellers are slowing returning, and the market is far from saturated. Toronto and Vancouver, Mr. Cohen believes, have long suffered from a lack of luxury in the hotel sector.
That’s about to change. Within the next 12 months, more than 1,000 luxury hotel rooms are slated to open in each of those cities – a huge expansion that was planned before the recession hit, and one with uncertain consequences for an industry that was hammered during the downturn.
“This all may be happening at a crazy time, given what’s been happening in the economy over the last couple of years, but I maintain this market has been underserved,” said Mr. Cohen, who also operates a small luxury boutique hotel in Toronto called Le Germain. “This is a long time coming, and we really feel it’s all coming together at the right time.”
The past couple of years have been anything but the right time for Canada’s hotel industry. Revenue per available room, a key measure of the sector’s financial health, plunged 12%, according to data from Colliers International.
Insiders suggest that even that number flatters the truth, because many chains have kept room rates stable but offered free nights and other upgrades to attract guests. PKF Canada, a market research firm, estimated in its annual review that profitability at the nation’s hotels declined by 33% in 2009.
But there are hopeful signs emerging. Figures from STR Global, which tracks occupancy and rates week-by-week, show that life is slowly returning to the market. The average daily rate was up 0.3% at the end of March, to $118.77. Occupancy rates climbed 1.7% to 58.2%.
Hotels such as the Thompson, Trump, Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton in Toronto and the Shangri-La, Fairmont Pacific Rim and Hotel Rosewood Georgia in Vancouver could help drive a renaissance for the embattled industry, said analyst Lyle Hall, managing director of HLT Advisory Inc. in Toronto.
“There is still some ugliness out there as the convention and meetings markets see softness,” Mr. Hall said. “But these brands have certain standards and price thresholds. Having them come in and push rates up should help. It’s the thing about rising tides lifting all boats.”
There are 12,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of Toronto’s Union Station, while the Olympic-fuelled boom in Vancouver has pushed the number of rooms in its downtown to 13,000. But both markets have been short on truly high-end offerings, industry analysts say.
There is no formal definition of what constitutes a five-star hotel. It generally refers to properties with a high staff-to-patron ratio and luxury restaurants and amenities. Colliers International executive managing director Bill Stone said the lack of such inventory has cost the cities financially, as large trade shows and upscale events opt for markets with higher-end facilities.
“You are going to see new business coming to these cities because they haven’t had this calibre of offerings before,” Mr. Stone said. “This is going to be better than people anticipate – people like to be at these places in a way that is different than more traditional hotels, and that attracts the corporate clientele.”
For the Ritz, the results are already evident. Though it won’t open until midsummer, advance bookings are already in place for weddings and bar mitzvahs. Site tours have been available for a year, and most of its 400 employees have been hired.
“Having these hotels will attract groups that would otherwise go to Chicago or San Francisco that already have them in the market. That is a certainty,” general manager Tim Terceira said.
While paying guests are the cornerstone of survival for any hotel, several of the developments have another advantage built into their business plans – they aren’t only hotels, they are also condominiums. With hundreds of property owners sharing the same space as vacationers, amenities such as restaurants and cleaning services have a built-in source of alternative revenue.
At the Ritz, for example, 135 condos will share the downtown Toronto location with 267 hotel rooms. The suites range from $700,000 for a standard condo up to an estimated $11-million for the penthouse.
“They’ve offered condo buyers a high level of services that don’t normally come with an independent building,” Mr. Stone said. “This helps with financing out of the gate, and the hotels also like it because it creates a feel that goes beyond the scope of a traditional offering.”
Cringe-worthy details best left out of your home reno plans
Globe and Mail
People make a lot of mistakes, avoidable mistakes, when they’re building or renovating a home. Those mistakes begin at the planning phase – when the homeowners are developing the layout with a designer or architect.
I recently looked over several floor plans for next spring’s reno and construction season, and I have to tell you, some things continue to pop up that make me grind my eyeteeth in frustration. Here are five things that I would ban from all blueprints.
Oh, they rake the eyes. Why would anyone put a fireplace in the corner of a room? This rookie mistake starts a domino effect of ugliness that’s nearly impossible to stop. Developers are fond of doing it because it’s an easy way to parachute in a prominent feature they haven’t adequately planned for.
The problem is focal points. A fireplace is a natural centre of attention, and a room is most comfortable when the furniture aims at it. But when you put the fire in the corner of a room it’s almost impossible to do anything but place the furnishings at odd angles to the walls, which misaligns the room with the structure of the home. (Conversely, if you ignore the fireplace as a focus, people in the room become disoriented and don’t know where to put their eyes.) Fireplaces are best located on a long run of wall. There, they’re easy to centre in the room, making them an effortless focal point around which to plan.
Cinematic grandeur is what people have in mind when they attempt to shoehorn a spiral staircase into their floor plan. But more often than not, the stairs come off like clumsy plotting – superfluous of detail and disruptive of flow.
The reason is simple: Spiral stairs are a circle, and most homes have walls that intersect at right angles – that is, they’re squares. And when you drop a circle into a square, everything feels off.
One of the few places spiral stairs feels right is in a home with a grand entrance – picture the 1,000 square foot foyer of a colonial mansion in the Deep South. There, fanciful spindles and expansive treads blend effortlessly with the majesty of the home. There, not here.
The problem is the same as with the corner fireplace: The alignment feels off. A home without room for its spiral staircase feels like a series of circles and squares mashed together. Odd angles proliferate, creating spaces that are difficult to furnish and a house that is challenging to resell.
Getting a spiral staircase to integrate seamlessly into a floor plan demands an investment in good architecture and exceptional craftsmanship. Unless you’re willing to go to the expense, you’d best forgo spiral stairs altogether.
My advice: Stick to straight runs – they’re efficient and much easier to construct. If you want to jazz them up, spend your money on quality materials, finishes that are consistent with the rest of the home.
Used properly, Grecian columns are a nod to outstanding architecture and engineering, and an implicit statement of affluence. And it’s that savour of affluence people are after.
But in the average house – with flat, eight-foot ceilings and six-inch crown mouldings – a Grecian column looks as natural as a tuxedo in a honky-tonk. It’s foolishly trying to elevate the occasion.
To support the Grecian columns, homeowners often deploy empurpled regal furnishings and many-layered draperies – touches that only draw attention to the original sin. They’re trying to make their home something it’s not.
Regardless of its size, play to your home’s strength, whether it’s a nice floor plan, beautiful wood floors or well-chosen finishes. Structural elements like posts should integrate with the other finishing carpentry (baseboard, window trim and crown).
Superfluous French doors
Good quality French doors are beautiful – solid wood with a thick frame enclosing a grid of bevelled glass. But their appeal leads to frequent misuse.
French doors should be reserved to the entrances of formal rooms, like the living or dining room – spaces intended to impress, where the act of sweeping open two glass doors is a dramatic gesture.
There was a time when the library would have been a room that deserved French doors. But yesterday’s library is today’s home office, and its mishmash of Office Depot furnishings and HP hardware is no enticing thing to see through the glass.
The general rule of French doors should be: Use quality doors with beautiful hardware, and use them sparingly for rooms that you intend to decorate beautifully and share with others.
Avoid slapping French doors on rooms that require privacy – you’ll only end up curtaining the glass.
Pork chop countertops in bathrooms
I’m amazed that this dated detail still finds its way onto floor plans. I’m talking about that odd ledge that extends from the vanity over the toilet in the bathroom. At the best of times it housed a vase with dried twigs in it; at the worst, dingy collections of half-used perfumes and aging soaps.
If space is a concern, then glass or floating shelves over the toilet are far more useful. If covering up the unsightly toilet is the rationale, buy a nicer toilet – there are too many beautiful plumbing fixtures on the market these days to go down that road.
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