Travelling In Style

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Travelling In Style

Words by Mr Chris Elvidge | Photography by Mr Bill Gentle

6 November 2014

Any city hopper worth his bath salts will tell you: it’s the items you bring to a hotel room that’ll make it a home away from home.

An empty hotel room is a blank canvas. Pillows plumped, hangers unburdened and drawers empty, it lies incomplete, waiting for that missing ingredient – a guest to make it his own. The Wythe Hotel sits on the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn, New York in an old factory building that was constructed in 1901. As far as blank canvasses go, it’s a good one, with 70 bright, tastefully decorated rooms that welcome the influence of their temporary inhabitants.

In our photo story, “Home From Home”, MR PORTER took a cab over the Williamsburg Bridge with a couple of suitcases – Tumi and Globe-Trotter – packed with what we consider to be the bare necessities for a comfortable hotel stay. Clothes that can handle the rigour of travel are there, of course, as are a selection of toiletries and stationery. But we also included a few personal touches – accessories, books, and other bits and pieces – to help the jet-setters among us feel at home.

Any seasoned hotel guest understands the importance of a few homely details. Ms Coco Chanel, who spent decades at the Ritz in Paris, went to some lengths to personalise her suite, bringing in her own furniture, keeping fresh flowers, and installing one of her favourite coromandel-wood folding screens. “Just the basics are enough, when tasteful, to make even the most banal room personal,” a 1937 edition of Vogue reported on Ms Chanel’s stay. The rooms at The Wythe are far from banal – but even the most elegantly designed room will never feel quite like your own.

It’s the small things that make the biggest difference: the scent of the hand soap, the fit of the slippers, or even the tone of the alarm clock. Waking up in a bed that’s not yours is alienating enough; being jolted out of sleep by a foreign buzzing sound only makes it worse. Men are creatures of habit, and anyone who travels regularly should look to these little details for a dose of familiarity and a much-needed link to home.

In MR PORTER’s case, we never leave home without packing a “London” candle from Tom Dixon’s Eclectic range, infused with the scent of crocuses, nettles and red housebricks. We usually stop short of packing a coromandel-wood folding screen, but there is a favourite oversized cashmere throw from Armand Diradourian that, despite its bulk, always seems to make the cut.

Hotels provide stationery, often of a good quality, but there’s nothing quite like the familiar scratch of the nib of a well-used fountain pen. Similarly, hotel robes and dressing gowns can never quite match up to the comfort of a pair of ready-packed pyjamas.

And of course, nothing sums up the alienating hotel experience better than the sight of a selection of miniature toiletries, so we prefer to bring a small wash bag packed with a selection of our own, which includes a shaving kit from D R Harris, complete with badger bristle shaving brush, and a grooming kit from Czech & Speake.

Any further personal touches – whether it’s a framed photograph, a favourite coffee mug, or, indeed, a coromandel-wood folding screen – can and should be added at your discretion. While not as vital as a toothbrush and a fresh change of clothes, they’re important in their own way. These are the kind of things that make a home from home, and turn the drudgery of regular travel into something to be savoured and enjoyed.