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Spacious walk-in closets might have to be wedged into corners in old buildings, yet they signal opulence. A housekeeper to unpack and press when a guest arrives and repack when he or she departs reinforces five-star service, which some guests welcome because "they have people pack for them at home," Sir Rocco says. "Others are sensitive about someone poking about in their things, so we always ask first." The optimum number of mahogany hangers is 10: five trouser and five coat hangers.
Hypnose beds the biggest queen size is 61⁄2 ft. by 61⁄2 ft. (2 m by 2 m) make for idyllic repose. A choice of 16 different pillows is offered at Brown's, where the sheets are 300-thread-count Egyptian cotton by the Italian brand Gastaldi. Forget that chocolate on the pillow; turndown means pampering bath oils placed by the tub and a choice of still or sparkling water on a silver tray.
"Achieving a good hotel restaurant is perhaps the most difficult challenge of all," says Sir Rocco. Success requires a balancing act or several at once: appropriate grandeur vs. too much formality, service that is attentive yet not intrusive, the needs of hotel guests who may want an off-menu item like a plain omelette after a long journey vs. those of local clientele who want a special feast.
Décor must be rich and warm to work by night but not so gloomy as to depress the lunchtime crowd. Lighting is "most difficult on summer evenings, when it is light outside," Sir Rocco says. To create the right atmosphere, "you start with the light bright inside and then lower it as the light fades outside you would think it would be the other way round." Since many people prefer the security of having their back to a wall, there's a central column of banquettes at the Albemarle at Brown's, creating the illusion of a cocooned space in the restaurant's most open area. And while the art in a hotel's rooms should be appealing but not bland, restaurant art can be more controversial. "It's fine if some people dislike it intensely," says Sir Rocco.
The Lounge Factor
Hotels need cozy spaces, and Sir Rocco likes to add "naughty corners." At Brown's, for example, a nook that seats 12 in the Donovan Bar named for the late photographer Terence Donovan features his sauciest nudes.
Keeping it Fresh
A hotel needs to look as fresh as the flowers at the front desk, yet the mark of spectacular success 90% occupancy year-round necessarily means the premises take "a hell of a beating" and thus require constant refurbs done in a manner the guests won't notice. Soft-furnishing updates generate little noise, but since polishing marble can be disruptive, "you do it in the middle of the day," Sir Rocco says, "when most people are out having lunch or haven't arrived yet."
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