Hotels are designed to take a beating: Everything that goes into them, from building materials to bedding, has to be not only exceedingly comfortable but resilient. What looks great day after day—and even gets better over time?
For advice, we turned to hotelier Ray Pirkle, a hospitality pro and aesthete who earned his creds working for Ian Schrager and Amy Sacco, among others. Ray is currently co-owner of Hudson, New York’s Rivertown Lodge, a former movie house that he transformed with Workstead design into lodgings that are as fresh looking as they are cozy—see A Hotel with a Sense of Place. And recently, Ray opened Camptown: A High-Style Cabin Retreat in the Catskills. Here are Ray’s tips for hard-wearing interior materials.
Photography by Matthew Williams, unless noted.
1. Iron accents
2. Wool upholstery
3. Matte wood floors
4. Vegetable-tanned leather
5. Waxed canvas
6. Satin-finish paint
Of course, Ray also has favorite tabletop items: Duralex glasses (“good-looking, inexpensive, and virtually unbreakable”); enamelware mugs (“light and unbreakable; we use these as water glasses in the rooms”); vintage flatware, especially hotel silverplate (“it’s heavier than standard”); and denim napkins (“they get better in the wash”). He buys the latter in 100-percent American cotton denim from Small Gunns and is in the process of sourcing yardage so the hotel can make its own.
7. Egyptian cotton sheets
8. Raw brass fixtures and wood doorknobs
Note the wood doorknob: Ray tracked it down in the UK and ordered in bulk. Finished with Monocoat wood oil, they too, develop nice signs of wear and feel good to the touch.
We have lots of Expert Advice to share. For a sampling, take a look at:
- 11 Money-Saving Strategies from a Hollywood House Flipper
- Sebastian Conran’s Advice on Designing a Small Kitchen
- Linen Logic: Insider Tips for Taking Care of Your Bedding
N.B.: This story originally ran on February 10, 2017, and has been updated with new information.
Frequently asked questions
What are some hard-wearing natural materials for home decor?
According to the hotelier, some hard-wearing natural materials are leather, linen, cotton, wool, sisal, sea-grass, jute, bamboo, and cork.
Is leather a sustainable material for home decor?
Leather can be a sustainable material if it is vegetable-tanned or upcycled. Look for leather that is sourced from responsibly raised animals and avoid synthetic leather.
What are the benefits of using natural materials for home decor?
Using natural materials for home decor is beneficial because they are eco-friendly, durable, and offer a timeless aesthetic. Natural materials also improve air quality and are biodegradable.
What is sisal and how is it used in home decor?
Sisal is a natural fiber that comes from the agave plant. It is commonly used in rugs and carpets because it is durable and adds texture to a space. Sisal is also used for baskets and wall hangings.
Can bamboo be used for home decor?
Yes, bamboo is a versatile material that can be used in home decor. It is commonly used for flooring, furniture, and window treatments. Bamboo is also a sustainable and fast-growing material.
Is it possible to have a stylish home while using natural materials?
Yes, natural materials can be stylish and luxurious. Mixing textures and layering different natural materials can create a cozy and elevated look. It's all about balance and choosing quality pieces.
What should I look for when shopping for natural materials?
When shopping for natural materials, choose sustainable and responsibly sourced materials. Look for certifications like OEKO-TEX, GOTS, and Fair Trade. Also, make sure to read labels and ask questions about the production process.