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Why I love ‘boring’ hotels

Standing in a pretentious New York City art gallery, I heard the woman next to me sniff loudly and say: “That piece should be hanging in a hotel.”

Despite all the design-forward accommodation options around the world, there’s still an enduring cliche that hotels are humorless, colorless spaces. It’s easy to see the appeal of spending your vacation in a pretty, Instagram-worthy spot that truly fits into a destination instead of feeling like it could have been plopped down anywhere. But when it comes to choosing between a pre-dawn wakeup at a fashionable-neighborhood design hotel in order to get to the airport in time for my flight or just crashing at a generic airport hotel and being able to squeeze in another hour or two of rest, I always go for Option B.

That is even truer now that I’m attempting to travel during the pandemic. I still want convenience, but my number-one concern is cleanliness. Those plain white walls might not be the most glamorous, but they make it much harder to hide dirty spots. Lots of hotels have adopted new hygiene protocols amid the pandemic, but many of them take place outside of a guest’s watchful eye. I remember a tip a friend gave me about restaurants — you may not be able to look into the kitchen, but you can look into the bathroom and use that as a barometer of the establishment’s approach to cleanliness. White walls are cheap, easy, and don’t require creativity. But these days, they are a place I can look for stains without needing a blue light camera.

Joa Studholme, a color curator for paint and wallpaper brand Farrow and Ball, isn’t a white wall hater either. Not only does she ignore the “plain white = bad” philosophy, her first major Farrow and Ball line was a range of 20 different shades of white. “White makes zero demands on you, and perhaps that’s what we need,” Studholme says. “People need to have light and spend their day in a light space.” Although the massive upswing in people working from home during the pandemic has led to a popularity in bright colors and fun textures around the house, she points out that no matter what current trends are, her clients always ask for one room to be white — the kitchen, the place where everybody actually hangs out. Studholme also notes that most tech objects and accessories — like that iPhone you may be reading this article on — tend to be white, giving a sleek, modern feel. Workplaces usually follow suit.