Excellent design. Local materials. Stunning landscape. Photo courtesy of Tierra Patagonia.
Good-looking hotels have been around for centuries. But the boutique hotel concept — as coined by Steve Rubell in reference to the Ian Schrager-designed Morgans in NYC — appeared on the scene only in the 1980s. Since then, the design-forward, highly curated lodging spaces have become icons of a particular kind of lifestyle.
Design Perks: New and LEED-certified, it's a gleaming white marvel against a lush tropical backdrop. Bedrooms have Aesop toiletries and dramatic views. Perforated concrete walls allow in spheres of sunlight as do strategically placed light wells interspersed between 22 chic rooms. The effect is clean, spare, and refreshing.
Where: Newfoundland, Canada
Design Perks to Love: A hyper-modern hotel on a remote, rugged archipelago is a treat for the eye. Local architect Todd Saunders built salt box artist studios, solar panels, and steel stilts for lifting 29 rooms up from the the craggy mores and rogue arctic ice floats in the Atlantic. Everything inside is crafted by hand (an homage to disappearing arts), the kitchen staff forages for your dinner, and there are plenty of other sleek touches, including in-room wood-burning stoves and whitewashed hot tubs on the roof. All sures from the inn are reinvested back into the community. How's that for sustainability?
Design Perks to Love: The art-filled 1930s neoclassical stunner (and former Danish Embassy) is located on Berlin's fancy hotel row. Despite being sophisticated and sultry, it doesn't take itself too seriously: A menagerie of whimsical animal sculptures are imagined by designer Patricia Urquiola as a nod to its neighbor, the Berlin Zoo. An indoor pool, Michelin-starred restaurant, and proximity to Tiergarten Park are all part of the clever design.
Where: Beijing, China
Design Perks to Love: Japanese architect Kengo Kuma built a soaring green glass tower of calm in one of the busiest urban centers in the world. The lobby triples as refuge and exhibition space, featuring rotating installations in the atrium (currently: Xu Bacheng's expansive cement sculptures), high-end furniture and fittings, and cutting edge materials.
Where: Selfoss, Iceland
Design Perks to Love: Watch the sun set from a naturally heated outdoor pool, then cozy up at the hotel bar to admire the Northern Lights through floor-to-ceiling windows. The once-abandoned inn stands alone in a desolate planet landscape of moss-covered lava rocks. It was renovated in 2011 with clean lines and an eye toward minimalism, using materials like reclaimed driftwood, lava, and Icelandic wool.
Where: Millahue, Chile
Design Perks to Love: Twenty two art-filled suites sit on a hilltop overlooking forests, hills, vineyards, and the stunning Andes Mountains. Chilean rockstar architect Smiljan Radic employs his signature use of rocks to preserve the landscape of the winery (the building is partially underground to save energy and stabilize the temperature). The Fornasetti suite pays homage to the designer. A granite-made cantilevered pool extends out over the valley below.
Where: Vals, Switzerland
Design Perks to Love: Tadao Ando remodeled the rooms of the modern hotel nestled in the Alps, a dreamy '60s-style complex designed by Pritzker Architecture Prize-winner Peter Zumthor. The centerpiece revolves around naturally occurring thermal springs, which Zumthor turned into a temple-like quarry of quartzite slabs, smooth concrete, and beautiful silence.
Where: Comporta, Portugal
Design Perks to Love: Design takes its cue from the Comporta dunes, rice paddies, and lively estuary — a serene and calming environment that lends itself to organic structures. Four simple, minimalist houses mimic historic fisherman's huts and were built using only local materials. The communal kitchen, in a house of its own, has a carpet of fine sand that is heated at night.
Where: Baja California, Mexico
Design Perks to Love: Gracia Studio collaborated with local tradesmen to build 20 design-forward cabins staggered around desert and rock in the middle of the wine-growing region of Valle de Guadalupe. Each gorgeous, ecofriendly hut rises up on stilts (to minimize impact on the earth) and is outfitted with industrial lighting, streamlined wood furniture, and wooden decks.
Where: Punta del Este, Uruguay
Design Perks to Love: Sitting on a plateau bordering the Rio Maldonado is an ambitious complex of private homes, hotel bungalows, and polo fields that feel like part of the naturally rocky and beachy terrain. A U-shaped restaurant has a salon and veranda with prime views of the surroundings. Wooden walls and decks add warmth. Raw concrete and stone studios blend into the landscape. The pool built into a natural depression in the rocks has a steel container beside it, which serves as a dressing room and bar.
Where: Torres de Paine, Chile
Design Perks to Love: Sustainability and environmental protection are paramount to the architecture and maintenance of this stunning resort on the Patagonian pampa. The spa is built around a central open fire, indoor/outdoor baths, and saunas. Almost the entire exterior and interior is built from native lenga wood by native craftspeople, and immense floor-to-ceiling windows bring the outside in. Bedrooms have a Shaker-like spare elegance, freestanding soaking tubs, and incredible vistas.
Where: Strasbourg, France
Design Perks to Love: A subtle equestrian theme (horse imagery, leather detailing, brass hardware) makes sense for this highly refined hotel, as the building was once the Haras Nationaux de Strasbourg stud farm of Louis XV. The interior, with its 55 rooms, is extremely contemporary (quite a feat in conservative Strasbourg). Paris-based designers Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku marry old and new, which is best expressed in the incredible brasserie, where a wild curved staircase tucks into original timber ceiling beams.
Where: Seminyak, Bali
Design Perks to Love: It's retro-futuristic — a playful, groovy, color-blocked retreat fit for the Jetsons. A Mondrian-inspired lap pool is the showstopper here (get your camera out); open-plan studios with balconies are decked in primary colors; lounges, bars, and common areas are tricked out with details from Philippe Starck, Verner Panton, and Tom Dixon.
Where: Rome, Italy
Design Perks to Love: The brand new sister hotel to in Venice, began as an art project, when owner Gabriele Salini invited 20 contemporary artist to demolish the 16th-century Roman palazzo, uncovering centuries-old plaster and floors underneath, sometimes leaving them, sometimes painting them, all to dramatic effect. Ten "unconventional luxury suites," two on each floor, are named for iconic Italian designers from the 1930s-50s (Ponti, Seguso, Parisi). In-room details include mirrored tiles and chandeliers in showers, cabinets that hide mini-kitchens, and sofas so big they invite considerable mischief. The lobby — also the cafe/bar G-Bar — has already established itself as a preferred gathering place for cool locals.
Where: Rovinj, Croatia
Design Perks to Love: The hotel billed as Croatia's first design hotel has the sleek look of a ship, which befits its location at the edge of a forest on Lone Bay, a short walk down the coastline from charming old town Rovinj. Local architectural studio 3LHD created a design at once sleek and dramatic, as seen in the soaring lobby, the small pools on hotel room balconies, and the indoor pool in the spa. Collaborations with artists and designers on the modernist and colorful accents in the furniture, restaurant, and installations make you feel like you're staying in a serene and very cool art gallery.
Where: Cartagena, Colombia
Design Perks to Love: Silvia Tcherassi, Colombia's top fashion designer, has transformed an old colonial home into a charming seven-room inn in the heart of the cobblestoned old city. There's a rooftop terrace, a vertical garden, a small courtyard pool, a spa, and an absolutely delicious Italian restaurant on the ground floor. It's the attention to the small, warm touches, however, that make this one a dream. The wrought-iron doors. The bedspread covered in the designer's labels, the curtains made of safety pins.