Regal luxury – Bedrooms
Once you have enchanted your guests with your greeting, the next experience for them is usually the bedroom. Not only must it look tastefully and luxuriously decorated, but it must be equipped with products that will satisfy high-end expectations: a high quality, comfortable mattress, and luxury bathrobes and towels.
One of the biggest ticket items when furnishing a guest bedroom is the mattress, so overlooking legislation is not an option: you must make sure the product meets the right fire regulations. For it to be suitable for commercial use, it must be compliant with medium fire hazard BS7717
Mattressman marketing manager Louis Kerry explains: “The guest room mattress must be contract-sourced by fire regulation, which means it has higher fire retardancy on the mattress compared to a domestic mattress.
“For commercial mattresses you need a medium fire hazard source 5, which gives it a slower burn rate.” He stresses it doesn’t compromise the comfort of the mattress in any way.
“All it is the fire retardant of the fabric.”
Louis recommends looking at anything upwards from a 1000 pocket-sprung mattress with natural fillings.
“We have one called the Hotel Four Pocket with 2,000 pocket springs, 100% cotton cover, luxurious natural filling such as wool and cottons,” he says.
“I’d advise anyone with a B&B, inn or boutique hotel to select a good quality medium to firm mattress. Medium firm is the most popular mattress across the whole range. The nice thing about that is you are catering for quite a large market. It will thus be firm enough for someone who likes a firmer mattress but owing to the luxurious filling it will be soft enough for guests who prefer a softer mattress,” he says.
Use the space
Another piece of advice he says he’d give any B&B or boutique hotel, if the rooms have the space to accommodate a king or super-king size bed, is to get a zip and link mattress to accommodate changing occupancy rates.
“This is key to the hotel B&B market,” he says. “The nice thing about the zip and link mattress is it will help with twin occupancy – you can unzip the mattress and the divan base. You can part them to make two single mattresses and a twin room and vice versa. We do a really big selection of zip and link mattresses across a broad cost base.”
Zip and link mattresses will start in the region of £500 or £1000 for the full divan set, he says. “It’s a wise investment if you have the space in your bedrooms to accommodate these, because you are going to get a better occupancy rate. This is a core piece of advice we recommend to anyone with the space, so they are not turning away bookings.”
A certain amount of care and attention should go into keeping mattresses in good condition. Regular turning of the mattress is important with natural fillings, for example.
Louis recommends choosing double-sided mattress, meaning you can flip the mattress over, enabling good care and attention to be paid to it.
“This will make it last longer and thus give a better return on investment,” he says.
The turning and rotation for the mattress is key but also a good mattress protector will help preserve the life of the mattress, letting less in the way of body fluids getting into the mattress itself and protecting it from those ailments. Protectors range from around £25 upwards. “It’s certainly a good investment for a B&B or hotel,” he says.
Good care will make the mattress last longer. If nothing happens to that mattress, and it doesn’t get turned or rotated and has no mattress protector, then the life expectancy really does come down significantly, he adds.
The mattress industry is probably a little bit behind when it comes to environmental issues, but message is starting to come through, he says.
“Some manufacturers are starting to have their fillings made from things such as recycled plastic bottles. It’s about being eco-friendly in the mattresses as well and many people are now starting to promote.”
“A really big key message we send out to all our customers when it comes to disposal is that we offer 100% recycled disposal service, so nothing goes to landfill. We are now much more conscious about how we recycle and what we do with old products. As an industry disposal of old mattresses is something we take very seriously.”
In recent years, we have seen divan bases manufactured with better quality fabrics. Key to the décor of the bedrooms, there are more fabric choices and colours.
“Long gone are the days where most B&Bs and hotels put valances around the divan bases to cover them. Now they’re seen as part of the furniture now rather than just being the divan base cheap and cheerful and covered up with valance. Nowadays the divan base is part of the furniture which can then be drawn into the décor of the room,” says Louis.
Sleepeezee divisional contracts director Francis Leary says it is important for anyone buying a mattress to know their marketplace.
“As with buying a car, you want one that is appropriate for the experience you want to offer. We have a wide selection of mattresses. Some are more maintenance-friendly and don’t need to be flipped for example and they may be single-sided or there are hand tuffed mattresses with natural fillings that need to be turned. If a B&B is looking for a less maintenance-heavy mattress, then they should look for a single sided mattress.”
It comes down to understanding what the B&B and innkeeper are looking for, he says.
“With a mattress you have a choice of comfort and support, and it’s about finding the balance the guest house or inn wishes to offer. A lot of hotels prefer to have their own version of a mattress, they want to modify or have a bit more comfort involved, but if there is more comfort then support is needed too somewhere.
You have a choice between pocket spring and traditional open coil, he says. “Most commercial hotel and guest house mattresses today are pocket sprung, the advantage being they offer more independent support through the mattress particularly where two people are sharing the bed and they don’t notice each other’s movements. So, they are offering guests something different to what they have at homes.”
Bedroom robes and towels
The quality of guest room towels and bathrobes can heavily influence the quality of a guest’s experience. Luxury guest bedroom linen provider BC Softwear has been monitoring the needs of high-end luxury B&Bs and small independent boutique hotels for a number of years, and marketing manager Laura Johnson says its Elegance range of towels has been designed with such requirements in mind.
She explains: “The towels are very soft and luxurious, but they are also slightly more budget-conscious than the Sumptuous range.” This range is super-luxurious and is used by many high-end hotels and spas, but it is extra thick and heavy, she says.
“The trend is certainly moving towards choosing a towel that gives a feeling of softness but at the same time is not so heavy and therefore dries more quickly. That is why we recommend the Elegance range, which is also extremely long-lasting,” she explains.
In this regard, it is important to focus on the length of loop, she says, since towels are often over-dried. She explains:
“One of the classic problems that small B&Bs and guest houses have is they tend to put the towels into the tumble dryer and because they are often juggling many other tasks, they may leave them in the machine for too long, causing them to over-dry, the effect of which is to ruin the fibre.
“Over time the fibre burns away, and if you have a particularly cheap towel with a short length of loop, every time you singe it away a little more, the towel itself gets harder and harder. People often are bewildered why the towels they bought haven’t lasted very long. It’s probably because one of the things you have done is burn them. With our particularly long loop, the Elegance towels last significantly longer – up to four times. We recognise this means that the replacement order might be months and even years later, but we are happy in the knowledge that our customers get great value.”
Energy and cost advantage
There is a significant energy and cost advantage to investing in a higher quality towel, she says. “You will find that they are going to stay fluffy and looking and feeling nice for longer than something cheaper.
BC Softwear offers a large variety of towels, and while the Elegance range is the one Laura suggests (which is perfectly suited to luxury independent guest houses) – she recognises everyone has a different budget.
“Our Comfy range is slightly lower grade than the Elegance range, but by the standards of the rest of the market is still of a very high quality and it is perceived to be thicker. “
Outsourced laundry risks
Unfortunately, the over-drying of towels and bathrobes can occur when they are sent to a third-party laundry service.
“We do supply to laundries and they often choose our towels for exactly that reason: they know that the commercial quality we provide, provides them that additional insurance and guarantee that they will last longer and the guest house and hotels and in turn customers are going to be happier for longer as the product will continue to feel fluffy and soft and not burned and dried,” she says.
Bathrobes that lighten the load
The thickest, most fluffy towelling bathrobe the company supplies is aptly called ‘Sumptuous’, but Laura says the company is witnessing a move in the market towards bathrobes that give the same feeling of comfort and warmth, yet which aren’t quite as heavy. “Our SupremeSoft bathrobes are made from a blended cotton and polyester fabric that has a cashmere-soft feel. This fabric is superfast drying, so it can make substantial energy savings in laundry drying times and it also requires less water to wash. It forms part of our new sustainable range.”
The company is focused on coming up with ideas that are going to help the guest house operator save time and energy, she says, and the material BC Softwear is currently recommending luxury B&Bs use for their bathrobes is the SupremeSoft material.
“It is a soft fluffy exterior, but the interior is still absorbent towelling,” she explains. “The outside feels as if you are wearing a dressing gown but the lining is really absorbent so you can put it on as soon as you are out of the shower: the benefit of what we call a ‘dual fabric’ means you can sit happily in your guest room wrapped in one of our bathrobes and relax is if you are wearing lounge wear. Sometimes you put on a cotton bathrobe and it doesn’t have quite that same feel of luxury.”
Neutral Earth tones are in
“Without a doubt, slate grey and pebble are the best sellers,” says Laura. “White is the classic choice, but grey is a more practical option than a white bathrobe which can be more challenging to keep pristine, especially if your guests happens to wipe their eye shadow down the sleeve. These are natural toned colours that suit everyone.”
Green and sustainable
The company provides an umbrella collection launched for the small independent hotel and guest house market in response to the massive push towards greener more sustainable products. According to The Paris Agreement Climate Change (UNFCCC April 2016) the hotel sector must reduce its carbon footprint by 90% by 2050 in order to keep global warming below the 2-degree threshold.
Laura says: “There are two schools of thought. You can go 100% natural cotton which is biodegradable and natural but is also slightly heavier and therefore takes longer dry, or the SmartSoft collection that includes bathrobes, SmartKnit towels and linen for spa treatments, which is cotton but with a small mix of other polyester.” The supplier has some pretty significant claims; Up to 70% energy saving; up to 50% saving in drying times; up to 65% less oil absorption; and reduction in water consumption. “All these claims have been Independently proven by the LTC (Laundry Technology Centre),” she adds.
Luxury B&B case study
One of the company’s customers is the owner of Abbey Rise B&B in Bath, Katherine Dewhurst (B&B feature, page 32).
She chose the brand for her property on first acquiring the business, having several years’ experience working at the highest levels of luxury hospitality, including two years in Buckingham Palace.
She says: “I have known the brand for quite a while. It is a well-known reputable brand. I have worked for the luxury family hotel group hotels who used the brand as well as for the Royal household – although I cannot remember what brand they used.”
She adds: “I have a small B&B, so I wash them more often and they get more wear and tear than if they were for domestic use, and I knew it was a good quality product for that environment.”
Katherine buys both superior quality white fluffy towels and robes for the guest rooms. “Guests do notice they are at the top end of quality, especially the towels, which makes their stay a bit more of a treat for them, and this gets mentioned positively in reviews. It was worth spending the extra on a high-quality brand,” she says.
Guests are fickle beings, as your online reviews often illustrate. If you follow the advice and avoid the pitfalls outlined by suppliers outlined above, you should feel that relaxed that even guests with the highest expectations are not going to be disappointed.