Friday, April 12, 2013

A Room That Means Business

Last night, I stayed in a hotel. In Dublin. Despite living fifteen minutes away in a car, with some light traffic. Why? Well, it was my college ball. I'm way too tired tonight to really talk about the ball, particularly since I need to figure out what should and should not be said, but what I can talk about is the room.

See, I've never stayed in a hotel before. I've definitely never stayed in one in Dublin, so close to the airport. However, it really showed, when it came to the rooms. Lovely as they are, there was something about them that spoke of the type of customers the hotel is used to receiving: people who run, or are executives in, businesses, and those who travel for business. How do I know this? Observation.

Every room came with a copy of a business magazine. This was on a table between two armchairs that didn't face each other. The rooms are not always booked for people who will necessarily talk to each other, at least not face to face.

In each room, there was a desk, with an abundance of sockets nearby. To me, this spoke charge-points for laptops, tablets and phones. It was clear that the room was set up for work, and for people to be ready to leave for business after their stay in the hotel.

The walls were not entirely sound proof. Pardon the crudeness of this suggestion, but it seems that they were not designed with intimacy in mind. If most customers are there for business, rather than pleasure, as might be suggested by its location (close to the airport, not the city centre), then it is less likely that there will be a need to drown out the sounds of peoples' neighbours late at night.

The cafe on the ground floor was blocked off. It was designed to be comfortable, but private, and suggested to me informal meetings.

The room where our ball took place was designed with two things in mind: conferences, and parties. The distinguishing feature was the partition that could be move to join the seating area with the bar. The arrangement of the tables towards a stage at the top of the room suggested that people would focus their attention to that point, with very little space for dancing, which again suggests to me conferences.

Is any of this a criticism of the hotel? No. Absolutely not. It was a lovely hotel, the beds were comfortable, the staff were polite, friendly and understanding of the obvious drunken nature of many (or most) of those at the ball, due to its celebratory nature. Literally the only problem I had all night was with the noise from some of those from my college, but that was to be expected. The point of this blog post is instead to highlight how the nature of the business affects the environment of the building. Setting up rooms for work, supplying a wi-fi code to all guests, and creating a positive, stress free environment suggested to me the typical clientel of the hotel.

For the writers reading this, this is an important consideration to make when writing a setting, particularly if you have a hotel or other holiday spot to write about. Think about what people might need the establishment for. This comes down to what is supplied in the rooms (a dresser, rather than a desk), how sound-proof they are, how dining areas are set up, the last times in which food will be delivered to rooms (as much a staffing concern as one that ensures noise is reduced by eleven at night) and the layout of the events room(s). The purpose of a location (a business, a home, a public area) will define how it should be designed, and so help in the description of such a room. Whether you choose to put your character in a suitable environment for their situation, or make them feel uncomfortable and out of place in an ill-fitting location, is up to you. What really matters is that the purpose of a setting is clear in its description.

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