by Janet Wolf of The B&B Team
We were very fortunate in our innkeeping career to have had wonderful housekeepers who always went above and beyond their job description. One in particular stands out. She once told me that she would stand at the doorway of a room after she was finished cleaning and ‘critique’ her work. If anything was off kilter, a dust ruffle, an area rug, a curtain, she would see it as she scanned the room with her eyes. As an innkeeper, you can also use this same technique to know when it is time to refresh a ‘tired’ room.
Refreshing is a process you can go through when you may not have the time or the funds to completely redecorate a guest or common room. Whether you are preparing an inn for sale or you are a new innkeeper ready to tackle your rooms for the first time, we suggest some helpful tips.
1. The Four Corners and In Between
In your mind’s eye remove all of the furniture from the room and look at the room with a fresh eye. Look at the ceiling, crown molding, fireplace mantel, built-ins, baseboards and floor. Let your eye focus on these architectural details. You may not be able to strip off years of paint but you can repair chipped paint and cracks. These flaws can be easily touched up without repainting an entire room. Paint colors are very easy to match these days. Old wood floors and baseboards take a lot of beating. Giving your wood surfaces a good polish and buffing can often make these surfaces look like they have been refinished. Clean up scuff marks from your painted surfaces with some baking soda or a mild abrasive cleanser. Finally, look at your wallpaper. Gently washing your papered surfaces will remove any dust and grime and brighten up the surfaces, but test a small area first. You will also want to repair any torn or pealing corners and seams.
2. Upholstered Furniture
This is the most difficult and usually most costly to refresh. Cleaning a piece that is dirty but is otherwise in good condition is an obvious solution. But what about those pieces that are simply tired, worn out, or out of date? Reupholstering is expensive and is only recommended for well made hardwood, jointed, and nailed pieces. Slip covers are another way to go, but it can be just as expensive to get good, custom made slipcovers as it is to reupholster the piece. Ready made slip covers are often ill-fitting and look messy after each sitting. Often your best alternative is to replace the piece. You can find inexpensive upholstered furniture that is both comfortable and durable. These pieces may not last a lifetime, but they will fit the bill. Whether you replace, reupholster, or slip cover, we recommend choosing solid and/or textured fabrics in a neutral palette for the larger pieces. Tip: “neutral” doesn’t necessarily mean beige! Your larger upholstered pieces are background pieces. Complicated patterns and bold colors can be utilized more effectively for smaller pieces, accent pillows, coverlets, drapes, and area rugs.
3. Non-upholstered Furniture
These pieces are the working surfaces of a room; end tables, sideboards, coffee tables. The placement of these pieces is important because they are both decorative and functional. Seating should never be more than arm’s length from any of these pieces. Because these items are functional they get a lot of abuse. Vacuum cleaners leave marks on the legs; lack of coaster use leaves rings, and moving furniture for cleaning loosens legs and tops. Simple handyman work can tighten screws, re-nail or re-glue arms and legs. Antique dealers will tell you not to refinish fine pieces because it diminishes their value, but there is a wonderful product that restores wood furniture without messy stripping. It is Restor-a-Finish and is recommended for antiques. This product will eliminate or minimize white rings, water marks, and scratches without removing the existing finish. Check out their website for more information, www.howardproducts.com.
Often times you see your décor as filled with treasured mementos. A potential buyer or guest might simply see clutter. Do you want a buyer (or your guest) to see fifteen coffee table books stacked on top of your beautiful antique side table? Or do you want them to see the polished and glowing surface of this wonderful piece of furniture with a few well placed accessories? We all know the answer. Realtors call this the ‘staging of a home’. When the home is your inn and your business, the staging is even more important because the staging items, the furniture and accessories, most often will stay with the property. These items need to be properly presented along with all the other aspects of your property. You really need to be brutally honest with yourself when you are critiquing your collections and mementos. You want to focus on a few well placed pieces that add sparkle and interest. Avoid a table full or shelf full of dust gatherers. A helpful process to go through is to strip the room of all accessories, including pillows, wall prints and paintings. Start from scratch. Replace these items in groupings with an empathsis on color and scale. Avoid a lot of small items that cannot be seen from the threshold of the room.
The lighting in a room is most important in creating mood but it also needs to be functional. There are three lighting areas in a room: above, mid-range and floor. Any light from above is best for spotlighting accent objects and special paintings. Mid-range lighting comes from table and floor lamps. Sit on your chairs and lie on your beds to make sure the lamps are the right size and the right bulb wattage for reading. Floor lighting can add dramatic effect placed behind furniture or plants. Take a good look at your lamp shades. Have they seen better days? You can replace worn out shades fairly inexpensively. For a final touch, add a new top finial. Dimmer switches can be wonderful. Dimmed lighting can add romance to your whirlpool bathrooms and to selected areas in your common rooms.
In closing, with a thoughtful view of the room, elbow grease, and ‘do-it-yourself’ spirit (which all innkeepers have!) your ‘refreshing’ projects will add life and sparkle to your rooms. The end result is an atmosphere that demonstrates to a buyer and to guests that yours is a loved and well maintained inn.