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Smallville caters to a new generation of internationals.

Summary: A modern design and quirky panache, the Smallville is making waves as Beirut's newest five-star hotel.

BEIRUT: A modern design and quirky panache, the Smallville is making waves as Beirut's newest five-star hotel. Noticeably absent are the gaudy chandeliers and marble staircases that grace the lobbies of downtown's luxury hotels. The Smallville, rather, has achieved an urban-chic ambiance.

The Smallville caters to the new generation of well-heeled internationals, the type who are just as comfortable wearing jeans and a hoodie as haute couture.

"People are looking for a change. We're here to offer them that change," Smallville's General Manager Jad Shamseddin said.

Indeed, while the angular, low-slung chairs and LED movie-quote ticker set a mod tone in the hotel's lobby, the Smallville has been careful to maintain a genteel air. A book about the American Ivy League schools sits on the long wooden table, and copies of the American magazine Foreign Affairs are available for globally minded guests to peruse at their leisure.

While service is prompt and amenable, the staff was relaxed, at ease if still at the ready.

"It's a different service than you find in similar hotels," Shamseddin said. "We're a little bit more easy going with the guests. ... We're asking our employees to be themselves."

Aside from what Shamseddin describes as the hotel's unique "come as you are" philosophy, the Smallville seeks to further set its self apart with a wide spectrum of amenities for guests.

The lobby floor boasts a sizeable garden patio, a mini urban oasis. Guests will be able to enjoy film screenings while tasting international dishes offered by The Social, one of the hotel's two restaurants.

Instead of hackneyed instrumental music, ceiling-mounted screens display the classic animated film "Alice in Wonderland."

The rooms themselves, a total of 117 of which 39 are suites, have generous floor plans and are designed more like apartments than hotel accommodations. All suites include kitchenettes, and even standard rooms feature sitting areas. This casual, luxury character proved so appealing, the hotel has already taken on several long-term guests.

"We have that flexibility in our room set up," Shamseddin said. "We can offer from a small studio to a three-bedroom apartment."

While some long-term guests list the Smallville as their primary address, others use their rented residence as a pied-a-terre.

A rooftop pool on the 16th floor looks upon Beirut's Hippodrome, and an adjoining restaurant will offer Mediterranean cuisine.

The Smallville is situated in the Badaro neighborhood, which, Shamseddin says, is burgeoning while still retaining a distinct residential vibe.

"I think soon it's going to become a destination. I mean, we've just started here but were hearing a lot of interest from entrepreneurs to come and invest in restaurants pubs, bars," he said. "But it's not loud. It's not Hamra."

"The location plays a vital role in selecting our guests," Shamseddin added, saying the hotel expects primarily Europeans, expatriates and Lebanese who have lived abroad.

The Smallville, currently in its soft opening phase, is planning a grand opening in December or January.

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Publication:The Daily Star (Beirut, Lebanon)
Geographic Code:7LEBA
Date:Oct 8, 2013
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