On the Hot Seat

W Hotel ready to enter, stage left, to spotlight

W Hotel general manager, William Bunce. W Hotel general manager, William Bunce. (Jonathan Wiggs/ Globe Staff)
By Katie Johnston Chase
Globe Staff / October 18, 2009

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General manager William Bunce will introduce the city to what he calls the W Hotels’ “world of wow’’ when the W Boston opens in the Theatre District on Oct. 29. The 235-room hotel on the corner of Stuart and Tremont streets (the hotel occupies the glass building’s first 15 floors; residences take up the top 13) will feature a restaurant by renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten and, by early next year, will have a spa and an underground lounge. It’s Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ 34th W hotel. Bunce, 43, who has worked for Starwood for 11 years, including stints in Framingham, Braintree, and Lexington, told Katie Johnston Chase of the Globe staff he is confident Boston is ready for the W’s hip vibe - and its $300-plus-a-night price tag.

The W is a very theatrical brand. Employee interviews are called auditions. The staff door is the stage door. The cafeteria is known as the green room. Why all the drama?

When you have good customer service, the person is what you would call onstage. They’re engaging with you, they’re having a conversation with you. . . . Cameras on, lights are up, step out, spotlight’s on you. So I think that what we were trying to achieve was better done with different lingo.

There’s great attention to detail at the W. In the Times Square hotel, the rugs in the elevator are changed three times a day to say “good morning,’’ “good afternoon,’’ and “good evening.’’

It’s one of our rituals. We have a few rituals that happen throughout the course of the day.

In the morning in the living room [the lobby], the lights are a little bit brighter, and in the afternoon they dim a little bit, and in the evening dim quite a bit. Same with the music. The music changes throughout the course of the day.

When you’re having a party, the music’s not soft, right? The music’s up a little bit. The lights are down a little bit typically. So we try to replicate that in our living room, as if you were having your own party in your own living room.

The Times Square W has a very happening bar scene. Think Boston can match that?

Oh yes. And then when we open our lounge in late January or early February, it’s going to be even bigger.

The living room, with the floor-to-ceiling windows, is going to attract people to look in. And people in are going to look out. It’s intentional with that translucent glass to bring whatever’s going on outside on that corner, at Stuart Street and Tremont, and bring it inside.

What’s the spa like?

Bliss is a very different type of spa. It’s a spa with a twist to it. They don’t take themselves so seriously. Their products are a little bit fun. One of their creams is Fat Girl Slim.

I almost didn’t feel cool enough to stay at the Times Square W. Do you think the W might be intimidating for some people?

I’ve heard that before. It really is a lifestyle brand.

Your average geeky business traveler might be a little overwhelmed by the techno music and candles.

W Times Square is a techno glam experience. If you went to the W New York, the original one on Lexington Avenue, their living room has a very different feel to it. It’s much more of a fun little play, casual. The prints are different, it’s not as sleek. I think people can find a W that they’re comfortable in.

What will the Boston W vibe be?

We’re an urban oasis, with our design of the garden and bringing that garden inside . . . the granite wall that’s in the living room, the fireplace that’s in the living room. . . . I think this one is designed very well for Boston.

Boston might not be ready for a W. We’re not that hip.

They’re getting there. We just kicked off Fashion Week with Fashion Boston. We held a kickoff party [with floating butterfly decorations and glowing glass balls that looked like fireflies], and it was held in a loft space in the South End. And one notable person came up to me and made the statement of, “Oh my god, thank you so much. You’ve saved Boston.’’