If you aren’t familiar with Room Mate Hotels, prepare to be. Already firmly established across Europe and in the US, and with plans to expand in the UK, this exciting hotel brand has a flair for bold interiors, a pioneering approach to guest experience, and a founder that isn’t afraid to break with convention …
Design-led interiors are key to any hotel brand looking to create real impact in the sector, but not many hotel brands can say that design is truly the beating heart of their offering.
Cue Room Mate Hotels. Founded by Enrique Sarasola – known as Kike – in 2005, the Spanish hotel chain burst onto the hospitality scene with its characterful, vibrant philosophy – partnering with the likes of Patricia Urquiola, Lorenzo Castillo and Tomás Alía to offer guests stylish, welcoming accommodation in central locations.
With 23 properties worldwide – from New York to Istanbul – and a number of further openings in the pipeline, Room Mate Hotels is expanding its global reach at a dizzying pace. Its formula – evidently a successful one – is to offer an affordable, original experience akin to staying at a friend’s home.
“We decided to open a new hotel chain which offered what we ourselves wanted in our regular travels”
Founder Kike saw a distinct gap in the market for this more ‘residential’ style of lodging through his own experience as a guest.
“The concept of Room Mate Hotels came up during travels with my husband, Carlos Marrero (he is now the VP of the company),” he explains. “We went to New York and, at that time, the city was full of visitors, so we couldn’t find a hotel in the city centre.
“After coming back, we realised that we spent a lot of money in a hotel far away from the centre and in which we only spent a few hours: sleeping, having breakfast and showering.
“Eventually, we decided to open a new hotel chain which offered what we ourselves wanted in our regular travels: a hotel in a good location in the heart of the city; original, bold design; reasonable price, exceptional service and not flooded with extras and services that are seldom used.”
“More than work with important designers, I like to work with designers who have a vision”
By stripping away extraneous amenities, Room Mate Hotels really focusses on getting the fundamentals absolutely spot on.
Take Wi-Fi for example – not only was Room Mate the first hotel chain in Spain to offer free Wi-Fi, but it now offers guests WiMate, a free high-speed Wi-Fi service that they can use all over the city.
Promoting connectivity between guests and their surroundings is a fundamental consideration for Kike, not only in terms of selecting central locations for his hotels, but in the sense that each venue is firmly rooted in its individual geographical and cultural landscape.
In order to create this authentic personality for each hotel, Kike places real emphasis on partnering with talented architecture and design professionals. While many of these partnerships have been with high profile figures, for Kike it really is all about creativity over status.
“More than work with important designers, I like to work with designers who have a vision, who can develop innovative spaces thinking of the client,” he says. “It is great to work with great designers but they don’t need to be famous or stars, I need them to think about the client first and foremost.”
This open-minded, collaborative approach has resulted in a bold, portfolio that celebrates diverse influences and communties.
Take the recently-opened Room Mate Anna in Barcelona, for example. Designer Lorenzo Castillo has captured the Catalonian Mediterranean roots of the city for his scheme, using bursts of turquoise and aqua marines to represent the Catalonian town of Palamós, as well as the earthy green tones of the cypress trees found in EmpordÃ .
The team at Spanish design firm Melian Randolph, meanwhile, drew upon Malaga’s beautiful parks and gardens for the interior of Room Mate Valeria. The vinyl wallpaper they designed for the corridors is inspired by leaves from the Monstera and Strelitzia botanical gardens, while hand-painted tiles, glazed pots and pebble floors create that outside-inside feel.
Despite Room Mate’s obvious success, Kike is showing no signs of slowing. Plans to open new hotels in Milan, Malaga, Rotterdam and Madrid have been set in motion, with London being another target destination in the coming years.
“We are practically doubling our size,” he says. “It’s really challenging, but we are trying to maintain steady growth for the future of the company.
“Our objective during the next few years is to be present – and become a memorable brand – in all the main cities of Europe and the US: Paris, London, Berlin, LA, Chicago, San Francisco, and of course open more hotels in the cities where we are already present.”
If that isn’t enough, 2014 saw Kike launch BeMate.com, an apartment rental service that combines all the amenities expected from a hotel with the convenience and privacy of an apartment rental. With thousands of carefully-selected and vetted apartments across a number of cities, Enrique is tapping – yet again – into a key and burgeoning market.
Considering he is an Olympic medal winning show jumper, has been recognised as ‘one of the top three most inï¬uential business owners in Spain’ by the El PaÃs newspaper, named GQ ‘Man of the Year’ and awarded a Tourism Merit Medal from the Spanish government, it is safe to say that Kike’s ambitious targets for Room Mate have every chance of being met, and exceeded.