Boutique hotels personalize service

Traveling in style is getting easier to do when close to home, thanks to the slow but steady opening of boutique hotels that provide much more than a predictable place to stay.

You no longer need to book a room at a W Hotel in a major metro area to experience the personalized service and attention to detail that make boutique hotels so attractive.

There typically are luxury linens and personal care products. Maybe leather upholstery. An in-room fireplace and/or whirlpool are not unusual.

Add chocolate truffles on pillows, and a couple of full-size umbrellas near the room entrance. There usually is high-tech access, from Internet to DVD and/or CD players, possibly a surround sound system and maybe a 30-inch TV.

Architecture and furnishings are distinctive and not at all predictable. The targeted customer is “a more influential segment of travelers who are ready to pay more for a better product,” says Hospitality Valuation Services International.

It means that repeat customers will be greeted by name, and that staff may know what you like to drink, how you like your eggs prepared, the name of the your dog.

The experience is more than being in a safe place that is comfortable and in a convenient location. Here are four Wisconsin properties that fit the bill.

CopperLeaf Boutique Hotel, 300 W. College Ave., Appleton, is the state’s newest addition in this category. The $9 million project is a newly constructed building that has 73 hotel rooms and Mission-style furnishings; it is in the heart of downtown, a block from the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

“A concierge in every staff member,” the hotel proclaims online. For more, call (877) 303-0303 or go to www.copperleafhotel.net. Rates are $119 to $169, depending upon type of room and day of stay.

Hotel Metro, 411 E. Mason St., Milwaukee, is in a 1936 Art Deco building that was gutted in a $7 million project that resulted in 65 suites, each at least 525 square feet – about double the size of a typical hotel room. It opened downtown about five years ago.

Jamie Hummert, managing partner, is no newcomer to this lodging concept. The Milwaukee native’s previous boutique projects included Chicago’s Hotel 21 East, now known as Sutton Place Hotel, a four-diamond property with 246 rooms.

Guess that squashes the notion that “boutique” means “small.”

“We have a beautiful core product,” Hummert says. He takes particular pride in the Hotel Metro’s use of sustainable forest products and the mark made by local artisans. Longtime interior designer Madame Kuony had a big hand in the design, he says.

What else makes Hotel Metro different? It is a pet-friendly place. There are complimentary bicycles for guests to use. Each room contains a Zen garden; yoga mats and instruction are available.

For more, call (877) 638-7620 or go to www.hotelmetro.com. Online rates are $159 to $269.

Dahlman’s Campus Inn, 601 Langdon St., Madison, was built to be a private dormitory about 28 years ago but never was used that way. After extensive renovation last year, it opened as a 73-unit, upscale hotel.

Bill Wellman, general manager, is particularly proud of the gorgeous views from the seventh floor; Lake Mendota and the state Capitol can be seen. For the ultimate, book the Presidential Suite, which can accommodate a catered gathering for up to 15 people – or be an exquisite and indulgent setting for a rendezvous of two.

“I think it will be the nicest suite in town,” Wellman says.

The more typical rooms also are elegant, from the marble tile in bathrooms to the mahogany and cherrywood moldings and furnishings.

In spring, an exercise room and a posh gathering area for guests will be finished. This is where an extensive continental breakfast will be served; the area will become an upscale bistro later in the day, serving complimentary cocktails and hot appetizers.

For more, call (800) 589-6285 or go to www.thecampusinn.com. In May, double-occupancy lodging rates will be about $112 to $375. Until then, rates are lower because of the renovation work.

Sundara Spa, 920 Canyon Road, Wisconsin Dells, bills itself as a destination spa, a place for the ultimate level of pampering. Its distinctiveness – from the calming earth tones and curvaceous architecture, to the airy and serene post-treatment lounging area – also makes it a particularly attractive setting for intimacy.

Best amenity? The cashwear robes – warmer, softer and lighter in weight than anything we’ve ever encountered.

There are 26 suites, nestled near a golf course and away from the bustle of waterparks and other child-friendly attractions.

At the high end is the three-night Sundara Revival, which includes lodging, various spa services and meals, for $1,000 per person, based on double occupancy.

For more, call (888) 735-8181 or go to www.sundaraspa.com. Rates are as low as $99 until May 27, but there are restrictions.

The www.PlacesToStay.com website presently is spotlighting boutique hotels. The top five choices for this month are Caesar Hotel, London; The Benjamin, New York City; 5th Avenue Suites Hotel, Portland, Ore.; Hotel Palomar, San Francisco; and Hotel Rouge, Washington, D.C. Starting rates for rooms are $99 to $130, depending upon the property.

For more, go to the website, which specializes in lodging, attractions and dining.

Want to experience lifestyles of the truly rich and famous? To plan or fantasize, go to www.timeandplacehomes.com. This relatively new company matches travelers with grand properties that are owned or frequented by celebrities, been featured in films and/or are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The luxury sites are all over the world. The prices are what you’d expect – and more. A one-bedroom penthouse in Paris is $2,250 per week, and that is the low end. The four-bedroom Bachelor Lodge at Beaver Creek, Colo., tops out at $47,600 per week.

A lot of bells and whistles are a part of the prices. “These homes make wonderful sites for weddings as well,” the company contends.