Venice may be the city of romance par excellence but it’s also one of the most expensive cities to visit; it’s long been debated whether paying up for accommodation in Venice is in fact money well spent. Now, and at last, there might just be a light at the end of the tunnel - for design-savvy travellers - who have always dreamt of visiting the city but have refused to pay an extortionate amount for the privilege.
In the last five years, a new generation of hostels offering luxury at low(er) prices has emerged on the hotel scene. An offshoot of Patron Capital, Generator Hostels first put in an appearance in London way back in 1995 - when the concept of low-cost cool didn’t even have a definition. Then the pioneer in affordable luxury, even today, its incredible handpicked quirky interiors and close attention to art and design that emphasises the soul of each location, has proved to be the envy of many other design hostels and low-cost boutique hotels. With its winning recipe, the Generator team soon knew it was onto a good thing and went to open hostels in other major European cities including Copenhagen, Hamburg, Dublin (and now Venice). Openings are also planned for Paris and Rome next year.
Although the design message on the Generator website may seem a little skewed, what with flashing alerts of various hostel events and pictures of twenty-somethings having the time of their life, the hostels actually appeal to almost anyone with an eye for design laced with a healthy dose of fun for good measure. Whether you’re a hipster, fashionista, backpacker, OAP, yummy mummy, banker or flashpacker, the Generator appeal reaches across all social classes and society’s subsections.
Getting back to Generator Venice, the hostel is set inside a converted 17th century grain warehouse and just as it claims on its website, it’s ''…much, much more than a hostel.'' Set right on the water’s edge on the island of Giudecca just across the water from San Marco, the red brick exterior of the oddly shaped building exudes typical Venetian industrial charm. Inside, a large lit-up sign that reads ‘GENERATOR’ hangs above the reception desk. Alluding more to a more speakeasy than hostel, the sign welcomes its guests into the building’s past life where original wooden beamed cloister ceilings, stone pillars and retro tiled floors take centre stage.
As is the case with all the Generators’ interiors, Anwar Mekhayech of Toronto-based The Design Agency, carefully handpicked everything in the hostel. Before going any further, his design had to be approved by the city’s Fine Arts Committee (FAC). And it was.
Well-placed spotlights, distressed Chesterfield sofas, reclaimed tables and über-contemporary artworks were added into the mix as well as a scattering of Philippe Starck chairs, antique canteen tables that look like Venetian monks once ate at them, and there you have it: the complete Generator experience with a strong Venetian edge. Whether you prefer to call it old-world or new-world, each detail has been designed to catch the attention of its guests in every single nook and cranny. And this of course is the genius that lies in the Generator Hostels, because what is seriously lacking in the realm of modern hotels, hostels, B&Bs or boutique hotels is the identity of the place. Because if truth be told, most of the above have forgotten that hotels are inherently all about travel and discovery - not merely providing a fun, cool, pretty but entirely generic environment to rest one’s head at the end of the day. And that is where Generator differs entirely.