Do Not Disturb


By Michael Matthews

July 29, 2004 -- My recent column on great hotel bathrooms elicited more responses than my column on great hotel bars. Does this mean business travelers are cleaner and tip the bottle less?

What was interesting was the number of you who so kindly pointed out the most important thing in a bathroom: water pressure. That was something I forgot to mention, but I wholeheartedly agree that it's vitally important. Who needs a piddling little dribble? (And I certainly hit the mark with my preference for "no smell" soap. That brought a lot of comments and some very amusing anecdotes.) At my home, we have wonderful water pressure, served through a Mille showerhead, which is highly recommended but still not as good as those rain showers at the Savoy in London. Don't give up, though. Lowe's is now stocking the rain showers.

One reader sent me the list of what Fodor's considers the essential ingredients to a guestroom, the most obvious ones being good lighting, good workspace and soundproofing. Who needs the moans and groans of next door as a nocturnal symphony? But there was one thing missing from Fodor's list: sheets. Of course, all guestrooms come with sheets, but I mean sheets, not the things that serve as sheets in prison and some hotels.

I don't know about you, but I haven't owned a pair of jammies for, maybe, 40 years or more. Do they still make them? Me, I like to sleep the way I came into this world. And that's where sheets become important. To be between a pair of great Egyptian cotton sheets is simply the sexiest thing since Bridget Bardot in God Created Woman. The feel of great sheets against your skin can't be beat. I swear, great sheets equate to great sex. At least they're synonymous in my mind.

Those box hotels haven't a clue about sheets. It's a wonder babies are conceived in them. The sheets at chains like Marriott are a mixture of cotton and synthetics and they seem like 90 percent of the latter. Okay, I'll agree that for $49.95, including free TV and a vibrating bed, you can't expect Egyptian cotton.

The better hotels and boutique properties usually have great sheets. The best linen used in hotels is from the Italian firm Frette. It produces sheets that have 600 cotton threads per square inch. The 600 thread count Frette sheets are not the top of the line, but they are specially produced for hotel use. Sheets for domestic use can have as many as 800 or 1000 threads per inch, which is complete and total luxury.

The biggest problem with great sheets is cost. For hotel use, it's $50 or $60 per sheet. For home use, $200 a sheet for the best goods is not unusual. Other problems include the proper laundering--washing, drying, and pressing. Laundering great sheets is not quite as easy as throwing the old synthetic stuff into the machine. I suggest you have She Who Must Be Obeyed wash them for you.

What other essentials should a guestroom provide the paying customer? I've got one that I have never seen mentioned anywhere: a telephone on both sides of the bed. The cost is negligible to the hotel and I have often wondered why hoteliers seem to think that everyone sleeps on the same side of the bed.

One last note, suggested by She Who Must Be Obeyed, who will strangle me if I don't include her pet guest request. She wants a decent shower cap. She thinks most are either too small or too thin. Even the ones from St. Regis are pretty down-market and cannot compare with those at the Four Seasons. Woe betide me if I don't bring them home from whichever Four Seasons has had me as a guest. Hey, Wolf Hengst, chief executive of Four Seasons: Send me a box of shower caps so I don't have to remember to swipe them from my guestrooms and can avoid being strangled in our Frette sheets.

What are your ideas to help create the perfect guest accommodation? Let's hear from you and I will ensure that the Do Not Disturb list gets to the powers-that-be at all the various hotel companies. They probably won't listen, but then there's always a chance that the MBAs in the back room will take credit for our list, calling it research. Or, as Werner Von Braun said, "Research is something I do when I don't know what I'm doing."

Rather like this column...

This column originally appeared at

Copyright 1993-2004 by Michael Matthews. All rights reserved.