After a visit to the depth of innovation that goes into Starlab, it was time to ask why one luxury hotel is more outstanding than another? The gal obviously looks at this issue from a feminine point of view. Take lobbies. Those ghastly dark caverns where you could not see anything were not only threatening but were frankly off-putting to anyone. They certainly did not say the word ‘luxury’. Something airy and bright, with perhaps a hint or more of art, is luxury. St Regis Bal Harbour‘s lobby with its guard of honour of mirrors, courtesy the designer… St Regis Singapore‘s lobby with a small Frank Gehry fish and massive original art works, and enough height for acrobats to swerve down, Cirque du Soleil style. That is all luxury, as is the Fragonard painting turned into a real live theatre of a lobby that is St Regis New York, conducted with suave style by Hermann Elger, who moved here from Montage Beverly Hills.
Here is another view of the lobby. Imagine you too have turned East off Fifth Avenue at East 55th Street, just by the De Beers store. Turn right again, up seven red carpeted stairs and through a revolving door, into the St Regis lobby, and yes, it is theatre. You feel inches taller for being here. You could then turn left and go through Astor Court to the popular afternoon tea venue, and the King Cole Bar with its gigantic Maxfield Parrish painting of King Cole behind the counter. This is the bar where Fernand Petriot invented the Bloody Mary, in 1934 (and now all 35 St Regis hotels have their own version of the Bloody Mary). To go with your cocktail, or a glass perhaps of Cristom Willamette Valley Pinot Noir Mt Jefferson Cuvee 2011, dine off chef James Ortiaga’s simply-good-food menu – he does a mean Dover sole, with capers, parsley, lemon and broccolini.
Soon, as you go upstairs to bed, you may be aware of a pleasant aroma wafting through the entire 238-room hotel: St Regis‘ brand manager, Jim Petrus, is introducing a room scent as part of the brand’s DNA (it is called Caroline’s Four Hundred in honour of Caroline Astor‘s 400 guests at a 1900 ball – the scent was composed by Carlos Huber for Arquiste). Now for real luxury you are heading up to 1403, the Tiffany Suite, designed jointly by Starwood – probably in Starlab – and by Tiffany. The suite is absolutely heavenly, one of the prettiest in the whole wide world. You want to show it off, say by inviting nine pals to dine in the Tiffany–turquoise dining room, with its white chairs and crystal chandelier. Want a cup of tea? The set is Tiffany (the rest of the china is pretty, but Fontessa). Luxury is whole fruit that is perfect, neither under-ripe nor over-ripe. There are no fewer than five notepads – luxury is not mean.
I wonder if all the bedrooms in this hotel are as beautiful as this, in the Tiffany Suite? The umbrella is turquoise, as is a stool in the adjacent bathroom, but otherwise the Tiffany colour is not overdone – this is Manhattan rather than Vegas. I check what Tiffany‘s colour is, technically. According to the company it can also be called robin’s-egg blue or forget-me-not blue (REALLY? the forget-me-nots in an English garden are nothing like this). It is in fact turquoise, chosen because of the popularity of that gemstone in the 19th century, when many brides gave their bridesmaids dove-shaped turquoise brooches. My headboard is Tiffany turquoise, by the way, and above it are 14 white china patty pans, assorted sizes, and some iridescent. It is beautiful, and so luxurious that it makes me feel luxurious too.