How do you possibly follow up building a world-renowned beauty brand? Add hotelier to your resume, of course. This spring, makeup maven Bobbi Brown and her husband, realtor Steven Plofker, will do just that when they open , a 32-room boutique hotel, designed with creatives in mind.
Decades after pouring her creative energies into her namesake beauty brand, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, Brown was ready to step away. Her husband had purchased the well-known but outdated Georgian Inn in Montclair, New Jersey, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
“The day I left Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, I kind of jumped into this project,” Brown says. It was the perfect outlet for the serial entrepreneur to channel her vision, having spent years putting together looks for her cosmetics company. “When that was gone, I thought, what do I do with this creative skill that I have? So I just brought it to the hotel,” she says.
Architect Charles Van Vleck — who was also notably architect for the Rockefeller family — built the Montclair property in 1902 as a private residence for his father. It was transformed into an inn in 1940. Brown and Plofker kept the bones of the landmarked property intact, while updating it with modern industrial touches inspired by their own travels and love of indie hotels.
“As much as we could, we kept the old and then we added all of the industrial elements that my husband and I love, like the exposed racks for people to put their clothes on,” says Brown, noting that some of the guests’ room intentionally do not have closets. The industrial vibe was also achieved by preserving some of the home's original exposed brick exposed in certain areas and the brass hardware on the cabinets throughout.
On the modern side, the walls are filled with a celebrity photo collection, curated to suit the names of each room (in the “Shirley” room, for instance, you’ll see framed shots of famous Shirleys, including Shirley Temple and Shirley Chisholm). The space also incorporates purposeful British elements, as Bobbi is a self proclaimed Anglophile. As the design evolves, Brown also plans to add some unexpected surprises as well. “A well known graffiti artist that I collect asked if he could come and paint a wall, I’m like 'hell yes!'”
That creative spirit is precisely what Brown hopes The George Inn will attract. “There are some people who like to stay at cookie cutter, corporate hotels. We don’t attract that type of clientele,” she says. The George has much more of a downtown Manhattan vibe, best suited for those looking for an offbeat hotel stay and easy access back into Manhattan.
“My husband and I love to travel and we really like staying in really cool, boutique indie hotels. We are simple people,” Brown said. The couple drew much of their inspiration for The George from their love of Tablet Hotels, a curated selection of anti-chain hotels, for those looking for a more intimate, personalized, boutique experience. “We trust their taste and aesthetic. I don’t want to be all put together and fancy, because that doesn’t reflect who I am as a person,” she says.
The indie inspiration is also evident in the strategic brand collaborations Brown and Plofker have lined up. The duvet covers are by and rooms are equipped with Dyson hair dryers and oral care. (A beauty guru turned hotelier would never let her guests settle for subpar hotel hair dryers and toothpaste, after all.)
Brown also wants Montclair locals to feel like The George is equally their little escape. She has plans of local creative entrepreneurs utilizing the space for pop-up dinners and brunches, and she even encourages staycations. “I want the community to be able to come here for a Sunday brunch or an overnight with your husband, while you kids are down the block,” Brown notes.
Bobbi's Montclair Musts
Brown has been a Montclair fixture since before even launching her cosmetics brand. “We moved here the day after our honeymoon,” she says. She has seen the town bloom into a very cool haven, that’s only a 30-minute train ride into Manhattan.
There’s already an art museum, the Montclair Film Festival, a comedy festival and The Food Network films there. There’s plenty for guest to do and see if they even want to leave the inn, but they certainly won’t have to head to the city for good eats or even a quick workout.
Brown’s favorite, a restaurant called , serves up American fare and great martinis. “They have the most amazing seafood bar with shrimp the size of my hand,” Brown says. She also suggests — there’s a Bobbi salad on the menu — and if you want to stay in, at the inn, have a bottle of rose delivered from the local wine shop . When the serious hunger strikes, call up for an organic, grass-fed burger from — and then burn it all off at the new spinning studio .
The George Inn will officially open its doors in March 2018.