Travel

“I stayed at the world’s first half and half hotel suite in London: this is what I thought of it”

Stylist’s self-professed ‘minimalist with a twist’ (her shoes being the twist) Alessia Armenise stays in the world’s first half maximalist, half minimalist suite – this is what she thought of it. 

Growing up, I was absolutely not a minimalist – most likely because space was never an issue when I was younger. No, I’ve never lived in a mansion, but apartments are usually quite spacious when you live in a Southern Italian city. I don’t remember ever once thinking about clearing out any of my old clothes or shoes – if they weren’t broken, they would sit there, untouched, for years.

Things changed when I left home for the first time. I moved to Paris as an exchange student, carrying just one big suitcase – sufficient for a six month stay. As my stay grew longer and longer, though, I started bringing more and more with me every time I went back home for a visit. Soon, my library-wall was full of shoes on display. Books sat piled in front of the shelves instead of being neatly stacked on them. Still, it seemed totally normal considering the very limited size of all studio flats in Paris: there, most people make do with 9m².

You may also like

How Marie Kondo's de-clutter method can help you make better decisions

The concept of ‘stuff’ only really hit me when I moved to London from Paris around three years ago. My boyfriend and I arrived with a few pieces of luggage between us, while the rest of our lives was packed up in France ready to be shipped to our UK home after us. Which meant that, one morning, I was shocked to find a pile of 33 boxes waiting for me in my living room, covering every inch of space available. Opening them, I realised that for the first month we had been living a “stuff-less” life. That I didn’t need any of those things. That I had forgotten I’d even owned most of them. Which, considering the price of the shipping, made me feel pretty stupid.

Marie Kondo was already a thing at that time, but I was late to the party. And so I stumbled into minimalism via a completely different route: a podcast called The Minimalists, hosted by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus. Focused on “living a meaningful life with less stuff”, I became completely hooked after just one listen. In fact, I used to tune into the podcast so religiously that my boyfriend started to think I was being indoctrinated into a cult (I was not). Long story short, charity shops in South London got lucky for a few months. It was an ‘everything-must-go’ kind of cleanse that lasted for more than a year and, to be honest, it was great.

Minimalism is definitely a lifestyle which is growing in popularity, particularly among millennials. The reasons for this vary (at least according to Reddit users) from being too broke to buy anything – let alone a house – to trying to become (and stay) debt-free.

I am not sure how it happened – maybe all those people telling me that minimalism is a cult got to me – but this year my minimalist principles went out of the window. Now, I’m back to square one, with too many unused shoes stuff in my groaning cupboard.

shoes in cupboard

As a ‘recovering minimalist’, then, I was intrigued to learn that stylish London based hotel The Curtain and Hotels.com was opening a new suite that promised to be half minimalist and maximalist. And psychologist Doctor Patrick Fagan – associate lecturer at Goldsmith University in London – was just as sceptical as I was. “Maximalist are likely to be extroverted, since they need external stimulation and sensation in order to function optimally (which a maximalist, ‘more is more’ room will provide),” he says. “On the other hand, introverts shy away from external stimulation as it overwhelms them, and they perform best in quiet, plain surroundings. Extroverts are also more image-conscious, meaning they may be more likely to want a room that expresses their character”.

To put it in layman’s terms? Two opposites lifestyle designated to two extremely different personalities don’t usually go well together.

Interestingly, a survey conducted by One Poll in July 2019, across 300 respondents, found out that Millennial Brits travellers keep it minimal when it comes to their holiday wardrobe, loving the minimal trend for being fashionable (15%) and classy (17%).

However, when it comes to choosing a hotel, they react to the mantra ‘go big or go home’. If money was no object, one in five (19%) would choose opulent luxury – gold, marble and velvet are must-haves – and only 8% would go for a simpler decor. Sounds like most people can’t decide which side they want to stand on and I am definitely one of them. 

The So Extra, So Chic suite 

The Curtain is a fashionable hotel and private club in the heart of Shoreditch, one of London’s coolest neighbourhoods. Knowing that Hotels.com had chosen this particular hotel to build this unusual room made my expectations skyrocket.

So extra, so chic suite by Hotels.com at The Curtain, London
The 'so extra' side of the So Extra, So Chic suite by Hotels.com at The Curtain

The booking website partnered with two (opposite) personalities to design the So Extra So Chic suite. For the maximalist side, they chose American celebrity stylist Johnny Wujek and asked him to create “something extra and exciting but also comfy and cosy. A touch of overgrown Great Expectations with a dash of California casual”. On the other side of the room, Australian minimalist fashionista Kaitlyn Ham wanted the suite to be “a space that feels open and calming. A space that feels modern and light yet have an inviting warmth that makes it feel like home.”

I had a long time to imagine what the room might look like and I was expecting a random mix of styles. Instead, the suite is, very precisely, divided in half.

On one side, the room has white walls and very little clutter but the essentials to be comfortable and functional: a wonderful 70s inspired white chair, positioned next to the window and under a modern matte black oversized lamp – the perfect spot to read before bed. On the side, a little wooden desk and some decorating plants, a fluffy faux sheepskin on the bed and a metallic and chic drinks trolley. 

So extra, so chic suite by Hotels.com at The Curtain, London
The 'so chic' side of the So Extra, So Chic suite by Hotels.com at The Curtain

On the opposite corner an explosion of colour and materials. For starters, the walls are made of multicoloured splashes of paint, to match a just as eccentric choice of bedding. From the lamp and the little decorations to the drinks trolley, everything is made of gold – including monkeys and palm trees as lamps and metal birds to keep us company. The velvet sofa is, of course, multi-coloured, just like the rug. The cherry on the top are the big plants and pink flowers positioned all over the maximalist side of the suite.

To my surprise, at first I was attracted by the bold colours and, mostly, by the cosy looking velvet sofa. After a few hours though, I finally understood what Doctor Fagan meant when he talked about ‘external stimulation’. I think I had a colour overdose and I just wanted everything to be white, clean and as empty as possible.

As much as I appreciated Johnny Wuje’s effort to overwhelm my senses (mission accomplished, by the way) I think I agree with Juliet Kinsman, travel expert and founder of Bouteco, when she says that “soothing stuff-free spaces are better for our mental health”. I’ll go empty my wardrobe now. 

The #SoExtraSoChic hotel suite, exclusive to Hotels.com, is now live at The Curtain Hotel in London, and available to book now until 29th October (subject to availability) from £250 per night.