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Jun. 15 2010 - 5:55 pm | 169 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

What’s a boutique hotel, anyway?

Opus Hotel in Vancouver. Sue Frause photo.

I used to flinch when I received press releases from large hotels that described themselves as boutique hotels. In my mind, a boutique hotel is a small, independently owned, non-chain property that has less than 100 rooms and features unique qualities and amenities.

But these days, every hotel in some form or other describes itself as a boutique hotel. I recently posted a piece about the new World Center Hotel that opened in Lower Manhattan.

The press release describes the World Center Hotel as a boutique hotel. Granted, it’s not a mega Sheraton or a Holiday Inn. The stylishly designed rooms are not cookie cutter corporate, but there are 169 of them. I tend to agree with this Wikipedia entry about boutique hotels: “Typically boutique hotels are furnished in a themed, stylish and/or aspirational manner. They usually are considerably smaller than mainstream hotels, often ranging from 3 to 50 guest rooms.”

The first boutique hotel I recall staying at was the Wedgewood Hotel Vancouver. Described as a family run boutique hotel, it has been owned and operated by Eleni Skalbania since 1984. Its 83 rooms and suites feature antiques, original artwork and fresh flowers.

The first boutique hotel to open in Vancouver’s trendy Yaletown neighborhood was the Opus Hotel in 2002. It boasts 96 rooms and is at the opposite design spectrum of the Wedgewood, eschewing old European ambiance for luxury guestrooms that are based on five “lifestyle inspired” decor themes.

One of the latest boutique hotels to open in Vancouver is in fact a very old hotel. The St. Regis Hotel, which opened its doors in 1913, recently underwent an $11 million extreme makeover. The result is what the hotel describes as “New York style boutique accommodations” in its 65 rooms.

I enjoy all three hotels; it just depends on the season and the reason why I’m in Vancouver.

But the big chains are paying attention, no matter what the definition of boutique hotel. In a business story in The New York Times (From Hotel Rivals to Allies), there’s a reference to the collaboration between the Marriott chain and boutique hotelier Ian Schrager to create an indy brand called Edition.

I can’t wait to spend the night.

St. Regis. Sue Frause photo.


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    I'm a professional freelance writer and photographer who has been in the journalism 'biz since 1988. I live on a small farm on an island in Puget Sound with my husband, chickens, turkeys and our very own field of dreams. When I'm not packing and unpacking from exploring the seven continents (yup, I've done 'em all), I enjoy theater, movies, jazz, fine food, heavenly spas and long dinner parties with my family and friends. Oh, I grew up in the '60s and I sort of remember it through the haze.

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