I did know that every room is different, designed by a different interior designer. (See rooms) You don’t just book a room, you book a particular room. Each one has its own photos online, and a video interview with the designer(s) who did that room explaining why they made it the way it is. Mary booked me into 403 because it had a kitchen, so it is one of the more sedate rooms: lots of wood, utilitarian, not distracting--a good space for writing.
Getting to the room, however, is an entirely different experience. When you register, for example, you have to sign that you won’t take any of the artwork home with you. And just to let you know, everything in the room is artwork: No you can’t take that map of Toronto with you—it’s part of the decor of the 'map' room.
[You also have to sign that you won’t take the Samsung tablet computer that’s included in every room. You’re encouraged to take it with you everywhere you go while you’re staying in the hotel, but you have to leave it when you check out or--you initial--have the $500 extra added to your bill.]
Then there is the “cowboy” elevator, built in 1907, that seems to come with an operator. Its pretty cool, but I generally take the broad, creaky wooden stairs up the four flights rather than summon the operator, not sure whether it is permitted for me to operate the elevator myself. (And it was usually filled with chairs or artwork or catering on it's way to one or other floor anyway.) But I also preferred the stairs because the walls of the staircase are lined with art--some of which is owned by the hotel, but most of which is for sale. At least a couple of pieces were by residents of the hotel. Not cheap: the lowest price tag I saw was $800, but most was a good deal more.
Each floor has a large lounge area before you get to the guest room corridors, and these also double as art galleries. I don’t just mean that there are some paintings on the wall; I mean there are full-fledged installations, and that they change every three months. They were changing as I was there, which is inordinately strange, because while I have occasionally wandered into a gallery during set up, I’ve never before been living in a gallery during set up.
Here, Michelle Baily is installing her wax and yarn piece, “Growth”. (Part of the "Hard Twist" exhibit.)
“I’m sorry,” I apologize, “But it makes me think of Harry Potter.”
“That’s okay,” she sighs, “that’s what my Mom said.”
(if you look behind her shoulder, you can just make something vaguely like the 'sorting hat'. It's clearer on her website)
The second floor seems to have a permanent gallery-gallery, which also serves as function space. The second night they seemed to have an event hosted by Kobo, which I was severely tempted to crash, but there was something artsy or literary happening there every time I passed by. The auditorium on the first floor similarly had a succession of poetry readings, lectures, etc. And their lounge/pub had a band or poetry readings happening too.
The hotel bills itself as 'ground zero for the arts in Toronto", and I'd have to say that was indeed my impression. All of the guests and patrons just looked, well, artsy.
So, not a bad environment in which to write. I did some editing, and reworked a short story I had let sit for four years because it wasn't working – finally fixed the problem (I hope), and reread my novel to where I left off last year, in preparation for NaNoWriMo.
[I couldn't get the wifi to work in my room, but that’s maybe just as well to keep me focused on my editing and writing tasks, not distracted by facebook, twitter, email and so on. I checked email on my phone when necessary, up and downloaded files I needed in the lobby or at dinner in the café, where wifi was fine. Mine was the corner room on the top floor, so I believed them when they said the wifi worked everywhere else, no problem…and they spontaneously deducted $50 for my troubles, so I am well content.
The room was cold when I first arrived but warmed up by the second day; the thermostat claims it’s hotter than it feels, but maybe that’s just me.
I also notice the room seems to come with earplugs, presumably for the traffic noise, but the heating fan pretty much drowns out everything, and I left it on because I’m always cold and because with Hurricane Sandy on the way, they were telling me the power might go off, in which case, I wanted some heat built up in there first.]