Bobbi Brown is starting a new business — and it has nothing to do with makeup. This spring, Brown and her husband will open The George, a boutique hotel in their hometown of Montclair, New Jersey.
Since Brown stepped down as chief creative officer of her eponymous Estee Lauder-owned brand in December 2016, many wondered what she’d do next. She’s still contributing to a number of beauty and wellness media outlets, and she released her ninth book last year, but Brown’s upcoming foray into the hospitality business with real estate developer Steven Plofker took many by surprise.
Set to open in March, the boutique hotel is just the tip of the iceberg for Brown’s developing lifestyle brand, which will incorporate a number of different wellness-focused brands into the fold. For example, bedding startup Flaneur will be featured in the hotel, where guests will have the opportunity to experience the company’s bespoke linens and then shop directly from their beds using swatches provided in the rooms.
With this entrepreneurial spirit, there’s no doubt Brown will continue to maintain the cult-following she conjured when she launched her first line of naturally colored lipsticks more than 25 years ago.
Luxe caught up with the beauty mogul to learn about her shift in focus from beauty to hospitality.
PHOTOS BY LESLEY UNRUH
What made you want to jump into a new role as a hotelier?
The day I told my husband I was leaving the brand he actually came into the city and took me out for lunch. We talked about our future and he said, “You know, I was thinking of turning this big building in Montclair into a hotel and I could really use your help.” I got teary eyed! I thought it was really sweet.
How did you go about designing the space?
It was just us. It was not a high-budget project; it was pretty scrappy and without a lot of planning like most projects are. That’s kind of the way we do things. If you interview my husband he’d say we bumbled along, but we just get things done.
I can’t tell you how many meetings we had to choose what gray goes with what gray, where the lights should go. These are the things that for me were harder to do than the decorating and the furniture. I learned a lot and kind of imagined things that were not in my comfort zone.
How would you describe the overall look and feel of the space?
It definitely reflects our personal aesthetic. It’s a combination of our travels around the world — little things from different places and our home. When we first got married and decorated a house it was very warm and brown and had big molding. And now it’s a little bit more gray and suede and industrial. So, it’s kind of evolved.
What do you hope visitors will feel when they walk in the door of The George?
The first word is always welcoming. You want someone to feel welcomed, you want someone to feel that they’ve arrived in a place where they could relax that is interesting to look at and doesn’t look like every other hotel you’ve been to. It wasn’t done to reflect “Bobbi’s” taste, but it was done with my taste.
When you left your brand did you have any idea that this would be your next chapter?
Well, the decision, even though it wasn’t overnight, did happen quickly. When I actually walked out into the street and said, “OK,” of course, my first call was my husband. I had no idea if I was going to be lying in bed for weeks to just kind of get over it, but I didn’t. My friends did come over with tequila the first night, and then I was OK.
Actually, the hotel is my third project after I left the brand. The first thing I did was promote my ninth book, which was called, “Beauty From The Inside Out.” Which was an interesting transition, because I was going on talk shows and talking to the press about what you put in your body. It’s about being healthy and it’s not just about covering up skin issues. That was my first thing, and then second thing curating my Just Bobbi shop at Lord & Taylor.
Wow you’re not taking any breaks!
I need to constantly be involved with building things and being creative. I’m really hands-on with everything I do. Not just hands-on, I am a detail-oriented entrepreneur. You either love me or I drive you crazy, there’s nothing in the middle.
Are you down for a rapid fire round of questions?
What’s your favorite piece in your home?
My family photographs, by far. But, if I had to say one piece of furniture: a very old Louis Vuitton trunk.
What’s next on your travel bucket list?
I would really love to go to a great spa.
If you were going to stay at The George for a weekend, what would you bring in your overnight bag?
My exercise clothes — because Montclair is a great place to walk or ride. And, certainly, your phone!
What’s your favorite local restaurant?
There’s an amazing fish and steak place called Halcyon.
Last, but not least, why “The George”?
The building was originally an old inn called “The George Inn,” so we just dropped the “inn.”
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