The question is, is it smart to do a little bit of everything instead of concentrating on what you are really good at? I have been dedicated to the entire process, from idea to consumer, right from the very beginning. Something that wasn’t normal even then and that resulted in several frowns. I have now been forgiven this generalist approach, even if only because it has turned out to be relatively successful.
I thought: ‘from idea to consumer’, that should also include a whole experience, right? So, we opened a shop, gallery and restaurant when we moved into our premises ten years ago. I have been forgiven this too. But now, to make the experience even more complete, we had to add a hotel, a choice that has also been criticised. Logically, because I don’t really know anything about it, but I can sneak a peek at the results of others from the past.
Such as Philips in its heyday when it did not specialise in one particular thing but opportunistically manufactured products from toilet seats and door handles to electronics and even had a drugstore chain and an orchard. I do not refer to it as real estate, but our premises were built by Philips and I think that Philips has done quite well with its real estate. Sir Terence Conran is perhaps a better example. He was a designer, creator and founder of Habitat and The Conran Shop but also the owner of a large number of restaurants and hotels all over the world; an imperium, you could say.
I don’t necessarily need an imperium, but I do want to create a place where our guests can enjoy a non-virtual world. A real factory with real people, where real things are made and sold, where you can eat (cooking is also a skill) and soon also sleep. I have no understanding of the latter, other than that I have travelled quite extensively and have a very good idea of what it means to ‘experience’ our place.
A while ago, Maarten Baas invited me to a dinner to which he had also invited other business contacts that could be of use to him. I was there because my girlfriend is a good friend of his. (This is not 100% true, like the things I normally write, but still very much in the right direction.) Jacco, the right and left hand of Sergio Herman, was there too. Sergio himself was unable to attend. We talked about the hotel and about how very little I knew about it all. He came up with a brilliant idea: ‘why don’t you call the Hotel school in Maastricht? They have students that know all about it’. It was a great idea, but I did have to wonder why on earth I hadn’t thought of it myself?
Ten years ago we made four rooms for the student hotel of the Hotel school in Maastricht and I am still regularly in touch with them. I called them the next day and had soon organised a project for their students. We also now have an intern working for us who is more involved in the preparations phase as the hotel is not yet ready. The students are carrying out research into our ‘crazy’ hotel that will soon open its doors and about which we suddenly know a lot more! Part of the research project is a questionnaire.
Construction is progressing steadily, but still much too slowly for me. I had hoped to be able to make faster progress in this phase, but even getting the walls and rooms ready for spray painting is taking much more time than I expected. It is a magical moment, because after the first layer of paint you really start to get a ‘finished’ feeling. ‘Hotel grey’ has now been applied in nine of the thirteen rooms and we are almost finished with the bathroom of Room 13. The unavailability of the demolition worker has meant that the lift has been postponed again. Now it will be installed early in January. So, don’t come here looking for a tight schedule! Just a wonderful hotel that will soon be opening its doors!