As an ardent trade show enthusiast, I look forward to the annual arrival of New York’s two big hotel shows — HX: The Hotel Experience and BD Boutique and Design Fair, aka Coming Soon to a Hotel Near You.
Like anything at the fathomless, soulless Jacob Javits Center, the shows demands energy, resilience and comfortable shoes. Check, check and check. I set out early on the first day and didn’t see daylight for hours. But I saw the future, or a semblance of what you might expect to see when you next check into a hotel.
We haven’t seen the last of the tall, tufted hotel room headboard. And zip-on mattress pillow tops, developed more than five years ago by Simmons for the Westin Heavenly Bed, are still going strong. Hotels keep a stash of these easy-to-change mattress toppers, replacing them instead of the entire mattress, when the foam cushioning wears out or an “event” occurs, to use the company euphemism.
But on to the new stuff. Here’s what caught my eye.
Wall-hanging Minibar Hotels are eliminating minibars, but this clever newcomer from Italy may forestall the mini-fridge demise. Just 20 inches square and less than eight inches deep, the wall-mounted Flyingbar from IndelB is the thinnest minibar ever and features a glass door that can be custom decorated. Outfitted with a compressor, it’s the real deal, and removable shelves mean it can be configured to hold bottled water, soda, candy bars, even a bottle of bubbly, whether Champagne or Coke.
Cubby Bathtub My vote for the cleverest bathtub goes to the Cubby Bath from MTI Baths, a boutique bathtub maker in Sugar Hill, Georgia. Created from a stone-line composite called Engineered Solid Stone, the rectangular tub is deep with squared edges and a built-in ledge where you can sit or store a tray of shampoos, soaps and conditioners. But the money detail is the built-in cubby for towels, a neat storage touch that adds a splash of color.
Instant Blackout Windows These intriguing windows from VGSmartGlass go from clear to dark with the push of a button rendering dust-catching curtains and shades obsolete. Using filtering technology developed at the University of Notre Dame, the windows turn dark (or clear) with the push of a lever or a remote, but unlike conventional smart windows, no electricity is used. While a clear glass base is recommended for exterior windows the company makes decorative patterns for use in peek-a-boo hotel bathrooms or as room dividers.
Sweet Smells As scent becomes yet another way for hotels to distinguish themselves, @Aroma, a Tokyo company that specializes in customized essential oils and high-end diffusers, has an intriguing new product. The polar opposite of its popular push-button diffusers that time-release fragrance into a room, the new arobockle is made of natural woolen felt. Tiny felt balls in upbeat hues ring a clear plastic holder that adheres to a bathroom or closet wall and looks like a cheery pin cushion. Place a drop of essential oil on each felt ball and voila, light, lasting fragrance wafts into the air.
Retractable Room Divider For hotels seeking painless ways to reconfigure spaces temporarily, Tudelü, a small Brooklyn company, offers an elegant solution — a custom retractable wall that moves up or down with the push of a button. Created by Joel Klein, a building contractor wanting to create multi-use spaces in small apartments, the system uses a 1/4-inch thick retractable sheetrock partition that can be customized with any image imaginable, from a hotel logo or a panoramic image of the Brooklyn Bridge to the company demo, an elephant (left).
Self-Watering Planter The Waterwell Planter needs to be filled to get things going. But after that this elegant new invention from New Jersey landscape architect Michael Conrad (left) keeps plants hydrated for months with no additional watering needed. Instead of dirt, the pot’s well is filled with water. The plant is placed in a dirt-filled tray outfitted with hydrating wicks that act as straws, drawing water to the roots as needed. A fabric filter lines the plant’s tray so rain water can pass through to the well. The result: the resin planter, available in 47 colors, uses less water and needs less time and attention from gardeners. “Plants don’t need all that dirt,” says Conrad.