My New Side Hustle—Hotelier
- Written By:Bobbi Brown
- Photography:Lesley Unruh
I am building a lifestyle brand and the first thing in my new brand is a hotel.
It was perfect timing. The day I left my brand after 25 years, I really had no idea what was next. When I told my husband Steven Plofker the news, he was happy because we would get to spend more time together. Then he asked me to help him with a new project, an inn in our hometown of Montclair, New Jersey that he just closed on. Steven is a real estate developer and wanted us to create it together. He said, “I think we would be a great team on this. We’ve been working together 30 years on a lot of projects — houses, children, and businesses. This will be our next big thing.”
We have always done everything together from starting my cosmetics company to designing the packaging. In addition to being a business guy, Steven is also very creative and visual. His opinion is valuable to me and my opinion is valuable to him. We also happen to be very compatible when it comes to aesthetics, so the idea of designing a hotel together just seemed to make sense. We love a great one-of-a-kind boutique hotel and this was an opportunity to create our own. I was in.
The inn had seen better days. The décor and furniture was tired, everything was dated, and it smelled like cigarettes. Steven saw its potential. He saw beyond the warren of little rooms. He saw how we could open up spaces and revive the look while restoring the 19th century architectural details. To keep it fresh, he juxtaposed classic details like original moldings with raw brick and concrete.
We worked together on everything from the stain for the wood floors to the door handles. It was a lot of sharing opinions and ideas, and always comparing options. You can imagine that choosing the perfect gray paint color wasn’t just about going to the store and picking it out. It was “Let’s look at in the morning. Let’s look at it at night. This shade has too much green, this has too much brown.” It was an interesting process. I was his co-director on everything.
What I added certainly was the brand partnerships, and a lot of the details. I insisted on Nespresso machines in the rooms, Breville teapots, and of course great beauty products. I wanted Dyson Hairdryers, EO Products and bath products, and a custom room fragrance. I made sure we have a healthy menu and snack options. The cleaning products are natural and organic.
We looked to a lot of our favorite hotels and restaurants — Soho House, the Ace Hotel, The Crosby — for inspiration for creating a space feel comfortable, welcoming, and really cool. We used to be the people that stayed at the Four Seasons, and we realized a while ago that we weren’t the fancy hotel people anymore. We prefer staying in the new indie boutique hotels where the staff and the vibe just feels younger and more interesting. I love the art, the attention to details, the eclectic mix of furniture of those hotels. It all adds up to something special.
I am going to be involved in every single detail of The George going forward. I want someone to walk in and feel comfortable and happy and know that we put our heart and soul into it.
When people ask what I am doing now, I tell them I am building a lifestyle brand and the first thing in my new brand is a hotel.