A hotel room is not a one-size-fits-all thing. One person's "firm" pillow is another's hard potato sack. A "bright and funky" colour scheme can easily be another's version of "garish".
If you've ever dreamed of running amok and redesigning a hotel room, this new personalised hotel experience is for you.
We all love playing interior designer in our own homes, whether it's a DIY paint job or an amateur attempt at feng shui. But often time and money constraints mean we have to live vicariously through shows like Grand Designs and The Block.
So, the concept of checking into a hotel armed with basic creative license is rather appealing. Now, no hotel would ever allow you to bash down a wall with a wrecking ball, but at least you can choose personal preferences when you check into one Sydney CBD hotel.
In late 2009, The Grace Hotel launched "10Rooms", 10 luxury suites able to be personalised to visitors' specifications, located on the upper levels of the 1930s Heritage building.
While the hotel's Art Deco history is proudly present in the lobby, dining and common areas, and much of the hotel's 382 guest rooms, the 10rooms suites represent a step into a modern era that recalls flashy New York-style condo living. It's all paper-white walls, lacquered wooden finishes, funky hanging lights and rays of natural light streaming through large windows overlooking an urban jungle. You'd almost expect fire stairs ala Greenwich Village.
And then there's the selling point of being able to pick and choose key elements of your room design before you've even arrived. In an email confirmation of the room booking, I'm offered three different room types: a room with a separate lounge and bedroom, an open-plan room, or a room with a deep-soaking bathtub.
I choose the bathtub with the bubbliest of intentions. It's a pleasant surprise when I arrive to see a deep, freestanding tub in its own spacious enclave with a rainfall shower head, green tea-infused lotions by Peter Morrissey, and a backlit cream-mosaic wall. There's no need for candles to get the romance happening here the bedroom's iPod docking station is piped to the bathroom. Cue Barry White: Oh Yeah.
I'm also happy with the grey chaise lounge and shaggy rug in the living room. The 10Rooms website promises that "if the chequered ottoman is too distracting, we will put in the white leather lounge chair instead". Sofa, so good.
The next design decision is a deal-breaker for many a hotel sleeper. The choice of four kinds of pillows, from firm polyester to non-allergenic, is a simple but significant luxury. Grace is by no means the only city hotel to offer a "pillow menu" (Hilton, Shangri-La and Sofitel Wentworth do as well), but my partner and I are duly appreciative after a cushy night's sleep on our chosen "Feather and Down" pillow.
Speaking of pillows, my sprawling king bed is covered with four royal-blue satin surprises that match the favourite colour I specified on the form. Like a moment out of The Sound of Music, a few of my favourite things pop up all over the place: I told them my favourite scent, and voila, there's a vanilla reed freshener and a martini glass of sugar-powdered Vanilla Delight, a twist on the classic Turkish confection.
My favourite flavour, however unoriginal, is chocolate. Wouldn't you know it, a box of boutique chocolates and choc-chip cookies await. I wash it down with a complimentary San Pellegrino; small details like these add value to a hotel stay.
The only hiccup comes when I try my weekend ritual of reading the paper over coffee. The newspaper I picked on check-in doesn't arrive (I call reception and they've run out). The in-room Nespresso coffee machine is being temperamental. After numerous failed attempts to get it to work, we seek help from hotel maintenance, who are also baffled by this uncooperative machine, but to their credit, they briskly replace it with one that does work. First World problems.
The 10Rooms suites are on the top two floors of the Grace, so you're guaranteed a vertigo-inducing view of the surrounding CBD high-rises, and even a glimpse of Sydney Tower.
You're also closer to the charming rooftop viewing deck, as cool as any amid the Manhattan skyline. While you're there, soak in the spa, splash in the lap pool, or work up a sweat in the gym. In reverse order, perhaps.
Sure beats hammering nails and arranging curtains at home.
10Rooms at the Grace Hotel, corner York and King Streets, Sydney city. Wynyard train station is a two-minute-walk away, and buses run along Clarence Street. Within 10 minutes you can get to King Street Wharf, Darling Harbour, Pitt Street Mall, the new Westfield Sydney and its restaurants, plus great dining options at the GPO building and the Ivy.
10Rooms start from $400 per night. This includes priority check-in and late check-out until 2pm, the choice of in-room breakfast or a buffet breakfast for two at Grace Brasserie. Click here for more information
Personalised by design. Image: 10Rooms.