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First Impressions: Hotel Reception Spaces Ready to Wow

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By Kelsey Perry

First impressions matter. It’s why we prep for job interviews, clean the house before having guests over and dress up for first dates. As author Andrew Grant puts it, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

First impressions matter in the hotel industry too. Customer service, comfortable accommodations, and a unique and memorable atmosphere are all factors in whether or not guests might return for a second stay. This month we’re taking a look at three hotels that aim to wow their guests from the moment they walk through the door…not only with fantastic customer service but with reception spaces that are simply unforgettable.

The Liberty Hotel, Boston

Booking a stay at The Liberty Hotel is a much more desirable prospect now than it once would have been; this five-star property at the edge of Boston’s Beacon Hill was formerly the Charles Street Jail, also known as the Suffolk County Jail. A national historic landmark, the property was built in 1851 and continuously served as a jail for some of Boston’s most notorious criminals until 1990.

Before The Liberty Hotel opened its doors in 2007, the property underwent renovations with the collaboration of the Massachusetts Historical Commission, National Park Service, and others to ensure there would be a perfect balance between modern comfort and preservation of the property’s 150-year-long history.

The main architecture of the property remains largely unchanged, and what was once the jail’s central atrium now serves as the hotel’s breathtaking lobby. As guests enter the 90-foot tall octagonal shaped room, they’ll notice the towering three-story-high arched windows, exposed brickwork, historic jail catwalks, impressive wrought iron chandeliers and domed ceiling. The lobby really is the heart of the The Liberty Hotel with guests gathering nightly to relax, socialize, and enjoy a drink from The Liberty Lobby Bar. 

The creative nod to the property’s history extends past the lobby as well. Guests can grab a drink at bars named Alibi, Catwalk, and Clink, amid preserved original jail cells or enjoy a mild evening in the hotel’s secluded landscaped courtyard called The Yard—that’s right, once home to the prison’s exercise yard. The 298 guest rooms are sleek and modern while featuring playful winks to the past, such as decorative pillows covered in tally marks, framed keys on the walls and antique safes doubling as night stands. Guests won’t soon forget a stay at The Liberty Hotel, arguably one of the more unique hotel experiences around. 

Mondrian South Beach, South Beach, Florida

The Mondrian South Beach Hotel in South Beach transports guests into a whimsical yet modern fairytale. Designed in 2008 by renowned Dutch designer Marcel Wanders, the hotel aesthetic is described as a homage to Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Chic, dramatic, and elegant, the soaring lobby features floor-to-ceiling windows, oversized brass bell-shaped chandeliers, sleek white floors and imposing columns and, in impressive contrast, a black floating staircase adorned with intricate metalwork.

The lobby’s fantastical design spills out into the hotel’s outdoor pool area, overlooking Miami’s Biscayne Bay. The pool is not only surrounded by plush lounge chairs, but also raised daybeds, hammocks strung from palm trees, hidden-garden style cabanas with chandeliers, and seating islands with large cushions and breezy outdoor curtains—all perfect for enjoying the sun, water and a poolside cocktail from the Mondrian Bar.

Guests and locals alike can be found poolside at the Mondrian Hotel every weekend, when the hotel hosts lounge style pool parties featuring well-known South Beach DJs. 

The modern fairytale feel continues in the 342 guest rooms comprising a mix of studios, one- to two-bedroom suites and penthouses. Many of the rooms boast a balcony overlooking the bay or downtown Miami, along with a kitchenette filled with a fridge, two burner stove, microwave and dining table. Wood-style floors are covered in custom rugs and furnishing are a mix of sleek and modern pieces alongside antique-inspired chairs, dressers and wallpaper.

Designer Marcel Wanders’ whimsical vision even finds itself in the Mondrian Hotel’s spa with elegant throne-like seating for visitors as they enjoy a manicure, pedicure or massage. 

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai

Touted as the most luxurious hotel in the world, the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah feels like something out of an Arabian dream. Guests can choose to be whisked to the hotel via a chauffeured white Rolls-Royce or arrive by helicopter, landing on the hotel’s helipad on the 28th floor after enjoying a birds-eye view of the city. The Burj Al Arab Jumeirah is an icon in modern Dubai, perched on its own man-made island and imaginatively constructed to look like a billowing sail. The outside is only a taste of what guests will experience inside this hotel.

Guests enter the lobby to find themselves surrounded by floors and walls made of rare Italian marble and bright colors of red, blue and gold. Here the gold is real, with nearly 22,000 square feet of the hotel covered in 24-carat gold leafing. After being offered a platter of dates by a welcoming hostess, an escalator ride up from the ground floor takes you past story-high aquariums and a colorful fountain dancing with synchronized jets of water into the hotel’s atrium. Inside one of the world’s highest hotels, the stunning atrium extends upward to dizzying heights and is a sight to behold, evoking the feeling of looking up into a cloud-filled sky dotted with stars.

Beyond the atrium lies 202 luxury duplex suites, all of which span two floors, with the smallest covering 1,830 square feet. The more modest suites are filled with touches such as complimentary gold-leaf chocolates, Hermes toilettes and perfume, a pillow menu offering more than a dozen choices and gold iPads®. The hotel’s infamous Royal Suite comes with a revolving bed, library, 12-person dining room and private cinema. Each floor of the hotel is served by a butler, ready to unpack luggage or draw a hot bath for guests before they explore one of the hotel’s nine restaurants, five swimming pools or private beach.

With The Liberty Hotel, Mondrian South Beach and the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, wowing guests goes beyond chocolates on pillows, flat screen TVs and plush bathrobes. These hotels’ unique reception spaces offer a striking first impression that will last in visitors’ memories for a long time to come—and are sure to entice guests back before long.

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