60 Renfrew St., Glasgow; citizenmglasgow.com; 198 rooms with rates from $90 (£59). No eco-rating.
Ever in the shadow of Edinburgh, Glasgow has worked hard in recent years to establish itself as Scotland's most happening city. But its eye-opening contemporary galleries and kick-ass live-music scene aside, the former industrial powerhouse still has a working-class eye on thrift. Which might explain why quirky Netherlands hotel chain CitizenM - defined by its designer looks and budget rates - chose the city for its first international foray.
Launched at Schiphol Airport in 2008 and aiming for London and New York openings next year, CitizenM is well located a few steps from Glasgow's shopper-packed Sauchiehall and Buchanan streets. Employing some entertainingly eclectic approaches - from touch-screen check-in terminals to free in-room adult movies - the hotel's motto is "Affordable luxury for the people."
Behind its faintly menacing black façade, CitizenM's stylish interior has a warming red palate with a chilled-out, clubby feel. The open-plan reception floor - like an L-shaped rec room for hipsters - is lined with comfy mod furnishings: Guests pose with their MacBook Airs on Eames sectionals or peruse oversized art and fashion tomes on the Vitra-designed bookcases. The busy resto-bar is a focal point, with its high-top central counter, low-slung seventies-style couches and giant string-ball lampshades. Artsy flourishes punctuate throughout, from a vast monochrome mural of swim-suited crowds to Marcel van der Vlugt photo prints of faces covered in sprinkles and coffee grains.
At 150 square feet each, CitizenM rooms are small. But unlike the compact quarters I've encountered at Yotel and EasyHotel properties in Britain, these are much better designed: Comfort and function have not been sacrificed to crushingly compressed form.
Beneath a large window at one end (electronic blinds add a nice touch), the room is dominated by a capacious and exceptionally comfortable bed, built over handy storage drawers and a pull-out safe. It faces a wall-mounted flat-screen TV programmed with free-access movies and those aforementioned saucy flicks - a frequent question for the front desk is: "Are all the movies free?"
The bedside micro-table has just enough room for an iPod docking station and the all-important TV remote, which also controls the room's mood lighting and onscreen alarm clock.
Between the ceiling and wood-look floor, and fused against the sci-fi white walls, the room's pod-like furnishings also include a laptop-sized desk (the hotel has free Wi-Fi) and a narrow side sink. It's across from a too-shallow clothes-hanging recess - the room's only design inadequacy - and an elliptical frosted glass shower and toilet cubicle: Word of warning, you'll know your roommate really well after staying here.
If you're without a laptop, the reception floor has a bank of free-use iMacs. And if you're without a partner, each room has a cuddly rag doll to keep you company - if you become overly attached, you can buy one in the gift shop, which also sells design magazines and CitizenM soaps. Checking out via the lobby's touch-screen terminals, you can retain your key card as a trendy luggage label.
A smiling enthusiasm among the young staff shows they're genuinely excited to be working at such a cool property. Everyone is up for a chat and there are always plenty of suggestions for where best to enjoy Glasgow's famously vibrant nightlife.
The reception's 24-hour CanteenM resto-bar changes chameleon-like to suit the time. In the morning, a traditional buffet breakfast is served (preorder this for nearly £4 off the usual £9.95 price) while the rest of the day, racks of sushi and sandwiches plus hot entrees such as pasta and rice dishes are available. In the evening, the space becomes a sexy lounge bar, serving cocktails and premium beers.
The wee rooms may not be to everyone's taste, but CitizenM's funky aesthetics, good value and surfeit of extras make this is a cool and highly distinctive sleepover in a great central location.
Special to The Globe and Mail
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