Getting Creative With Small Hotel Rooms


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The first Tommie hotel is to open next year in Hudson Square in New York. Rooms, as depicted, will be “micro scale.”

One of the few female top executives in the hospitality business, Niki Leondakis, the chief executive of Commune Hotels and Resorts, knows a thing or two about running hotels.

Previously the president of Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, Ms. Leondakis, 54, now oversees the brands Thompson Hotels and Joie de Vivre. Her company, in San Francisco, is to introduce Tommie, a chain of affordable hotels for those in search of creative accommodations. Ms. Leondakis is upfront about the rooms being small — 160 to 200 square feet — but said that guests will find a range of activities at the hotels to make up for that.

The first hotel is to open early next year in Hudson Square in New York. It will have a restaurant, lobby bar, courtyard, listening library and rooftop lounge. A second Tommie, in NoMad, is to follow. Hotels in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Miami are planned.

Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Ms. Leondakis.

Q. What makes Tommie different?

A.We conceived the brand as a forum of creativity for travelers that will have innovative programming, partnerships and amenities. One example is our communal public areas, which will have activities offered each day, like a crowd-sourced art project or a fitness class from a studio in the neighborhood.

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Niki Leondakis.

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You also call this “micro lifestyle hotels.” What exactly does that mean?

We’re building the hotels in urban markets where real estate is at a premium and hotel rooms are notoriously small. We’re forthcoming with the fact that the rooms are of a micro scale, and promoting an approach to design that maximizes every square foot.

Do you find that women have different expectations of a hotel from men?

They appreciate the details and conveniences that make them more comfortable, whether it’s the lighting in the bathroom, a full-length mirror, the quality of sheets or the fact that they were treated thoughtfully at check-in. Also, they tend to recognize details about our residential-style designs that they would like to buy for their own homes. We receive a tremendous amount of requests for sources of furnishings, fixtures and art from our women travelers.

You are at the helm of a major hotel company. Why do you think there aren’t more women in leading roles?

The larger issue is that too few women are at the head of major companies, and I think it’s because a lot opt out of that track because they want a more multifaceted life, which might involve spending time with friends and family. The business world was created by men for men. Women didn’t really get into managerial positions until the 1970s and 1980s. Today, the landscape of women in business is changing, albeit at a slower pace than most of us would like.

You are an avid runner. What is the wildest place you’ve ever run?

Probably the most desolate is in the Gobi Desert, Mongolia. The wildest experience was in Lake Tahoe, Calif., when my husband and I ran into a black bear. Seeing it about 20 yards ahead, we stopped in our tracks only to see a cub bounding right behind its mama. When the mother bear turned to look at her cub, hubby and I ran as fast as we could in the opposite direction. I’m pretty sure I broke my personal best speed that day.



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