GENEVA On the sixth floor of the Bon Génie, sitting opposite the huge windows with a view on the rooftops of Molard Square in Geneva, its easy to imagine youre in an elegant bar in the 1950s. You even have a ciggy dangling from the corner of your mouth because smoking is allowed up here. In fact its the raison d'être of this new smokers lounge, whose retro décor, designed by the firm Version B, is something of an ode to mens fashion.
On one side are coffee tables and oak chairs covered with leather. On the other side, there are Egg armchairs by Arne Jacobsen, a black Bakelite telephone and an old flea market record player. It hardly comes as a surprise that in this era of ever more restrictive smoking laws, when people often have to brave the elements just to take a drag, the Bon Génie would be an instant hit among smokers. Besides offering a roof, which is something smokers already appreciate, it also provides an environment with real style.
It is not, however, the only such place in Switzerland catering to the needs and tastes of smokers. Several other refined smoking rooms have opened in recent years, including the vast Cigar Lounge at the Schweizerhof Hotel in Bern, which is also inspired by the 1950s post-war style, and the more modern Fish Tank at the Lausanne Palace & Spa, which was refurbished two years ago. These successful examples are leading more and more hotels, such as the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, to also consider smoking lounges.
Todays smoking lounges dont have anything to do with the old smoky rooms for Havana cigar connoisseurs, or worse yet, the smoking areas in airports, says Antoine Wasserfallen, a professor at the Hotel School in Lausanne. They are the result of careful research in design and new technologies.
Wasserfallen foresees that smoking lounges, still in their experimental phase, will evolve in the near future. People like smoking lounges. But most of them arent profitable enough, he says. In some cantons, waited table service is banned, so you have to find solutions to make the sales easier, such as installing a serving hatch, the expert notes.
Thousands of tiny holes
With improved ventilation systems and careful décor decisions, the new smoking lounges could even bring smokers and non-smokers together to enjoy a good cognac for example. At least this is what Vahé Gérard is aiming at. The director of Gérard Père et Fils, a smoking lounge inside the Grand Hotel Kempinski, had enough of hearing his clientele complain about drafts of cold air and clothes getting smelly. On his own initiative, Gérard developed a new, alternative system of permanent air circulation using laminar flow technology.
This is like an air mattress, pulsated through the floor and breathed in through the ceiling every two minutes. The atmosphere of the room is therefore completely renewed. It can also be air-conditioned according to the season, explains the cigar expert, who set up a business, G-P-F Concept Management, to market the product.
Patented worldwide under the name Airkel and complying with energy and health federal standards in Switzerland, Gérards system which costs $27,000 for every 10 m2 has been installed as well in the smoking areas at the Bon Génie and at the Starling C Bar & Lounge. You can identify it by the thousands of tiny holes on the floor and on the ceiling. The air is good to breathe there, and the furniture does not bear any smell either.
Another plus of the Airkel smoking lounge is the freedom it offers in terms of interior design. The size is not limited. It can be an independent glass cube, or be integrated into an existing room. Over the next few years, Gérard is even planning on marketing the product for home use. Are the aristocratic men-only smoking rooms of yesteryear ready to make a comeback in peoples private homes? To find out, keep following the smoke.
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Photo - ahuynh55