Whether you favour history or modernity, art or fashion, meet the world’s coolest design hotels that go the extra mile in the name of style
Planning your next vacation, looking for some travel inspiration, or simply have a love for exceptional interior design? There’s nothing quite like a design hotel to bring some style or individuality to your life. Luckily, as local design and authenticity become de rigeur, interior-led bolt holes have been cropping up in spades, and while many are globally renowned landmarks in their own right, interiors fashioned by industry leaders in architecture and haute couture elevate them to a whole other level. Trust us, these are well worth travelling for.
The Standard, London
Founded in 1999 by hotelier André Balazs, The Standard in London has long been known for its commitment to culture and design, being one of the first to seize on the idea that hotels can deliver more than just a place to rest your head. Its fun-loving London outpost is no different, setting up shop inside the former Camden Town Hall Annexe in the city’s trendy King’s Cross area.
The work of Shawn Hausman Design, who purposely opted for playful, colourful interiors to contrast the “greyness of London”, the hotel’s exterior is a classic example of a brutalist building, but step inside and you’ll find kitsch ’70s décor, geometric shapes, potted plants and colourful retro tiles at every turn. No expense is spared when it comes to the 266 eclectic bedrooms and swanky suites either. Rooms come decked out with flecked cobalt-blue carpet, cushioned window seats, and ottomans upholstered in plum-coloured fabric. Wallace Sewell geometric-patterned bedspreads and bright red wardrobes, with adjoining bathrooms featuring stripy black and pink tiled walls, plus shelves in a contrasting mint green, add the finishing touch. If you’re feeling fancy, upgrade to one of The Standard’s swish suites, with its own private terrace and outdoor bathtub overlooking the nearby St Pancras station. The same retro theme continues throughout the hotel’s reception and restaurants – of which there are three. Think a tiled turquoise feature wall printed with dark blue and blood-red circles by ceramics artist Lubna Chowdhary, plus interiors that represent a renewed love affair with rattan, macrame curtains and velvet drapes in Latin American-inspired restaurant and club Decimo. Even if you’re not at The Standard for a long time, you’ll definitely be in for a good one. Book Now
The Goodtime Hotel, Miami
It was more than five years of planning, design and construction in the making, but The Goodtime Hotel finally opened its doors at a historic section of Miami’s South Beach in June this year, borne from a collaboration between American Grammy-award winning singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams and entrepreneur David Grutman. Add to that the magic touch of acclaimed designer Ken Fulk, and the result is a revival of the famed Art Deco architecture of the local area that, in the words of Fulk himself, “recalls the opulence and nostalgia of a time gone by.”
A wash of lush interiors and pretty pastel hues, the hotel’s corrugated façade comprises 266 guest rooms and suites, where each and every detail is excruciatingly imagined by the designer and his team. Think everything from custom bedding and bespoke drapes with blackout options to leopard-print benches, Ortigia bath products and a signature pink rotary dial phone inhabiting each room. You can also enjoy a playful carpet woven with a pattern of wet footprints that runs along the corridor – no detail has been spared. The Goodtime Hotel’s restaurant and 30,000 sq ft pool club are equally as chic, channeling mid-century Caribbean and Central American resort towns through vintage scalloped bar seating, pastel tiling and pinstriped awnings that have Instagram written all over them. Strawberry Moon is the name of the flagship restaurant, which offers indoor and outdoor seating, and a menu of Mediterranean classics. Book Now
Xigera Safari Lodge, Botswana
For many of us, an African safari is right up there at the top of our bucket lists, alongside witnessing the Northern Lights and marvelling at Machu Picchu. If you’re looking to make the experience luxe, however, check into Botswana’s Xigera Safari Lodge. Located on the western side of the Moremi Game Reserve in the heart of the Okavango Delta, this stunning design hotel defines boutique status, with 12 individually-designed suites, including one two-bedroom family suite situated on two islands, bridged together with an extraordinary bronze lily centrepiece designed by Anton de Kock and created by Otto du Plessis.
Conceptualised by Toni Tollman, Philip Fourie and Anton de Kock, each suite floats delicately above the water, allowing wildlife to pass uninterruptedly beneath, created without the use of any concrete. Inside you’ll find plump cushions, ornate Ardmore bedside lamps, rich fabrics, an en suite bathroom with free-standing copper tub, and a choice of indoor and outdoor showers. Designed to champion local talent, and showcasing the world’s largest collection of South African art and design in collaboration with Cape Town’s acclaimed Southern Guild Gallery, bespoke works commissioned exclusively for the property by Africa’s hottest young artists, including Adam Birch, Madoda Fani, Porky Hefer, Ottu du Plessis and Stanislaw Trzebinski, line the walls of this off-the-grid camp, which is the most pampered, plush and personalised safari to be had in the Delta. There’s also two spa therapy pods that both open up fully to take in the views, or close to protect you from the elements. The lodge gets full marks for sustainability too – it conserves energy using the latest Tesla solar-hybrid system, which supplies 95 per cent of its required power, while many of its masterpieces are crafted from reused materials, such as a giant firepit fashioned from repurposed steel, and 150 large-scale wood sculptures crafted from fallen timber found on location. Book Now
Hotel Esencia, Mexico
Full of character, charm and heritage, art meets the beach at this hip aristocratic hideaway just 30 minutes from Tulum, nestled among the ivory sands of Mexico’s Riviera Maya on the famous Xpu-Ha beach (it’s hailed as the finest stretch in the region). Originally built as a private holiday home for an Italian duchess, Hotel Esencia now blends European and local influences, and under the ownership of American entrepreneur Kevin Wendle, you’ll find a one-off collection of art and antiques, including traditional mid-century furnishings and authentic ’50s works of art by celebrated Spanish, Latin American and Mexican artists, including Pablo Picasso, Fernando Botero and Eduardo Santiere.
Intricately stylish furnishings abound this boutique hotel, including Pierre Jeanneret chairs, lamps by Serge Mouille and Pierre Guariche, and a table by world-renowned architect and designer Charlotte Perriand. Wendle also plans to enhance his reputation for creating one of the most forward-thinking hotels in the world by reinventing and unveiling major additions each year – this month will see the launch of the brand new duplex Rooftop Wellness Suites that are truly at the top of their category in every way, complete with their own individual in-suite fitness studios, and showers that double up as ‘mini spa’ essential-oil-infused steam rooms. We’re sold. Book Now
Cobbler’s Cove, Barbados
One of the Caribbean’s finest family owned hotels, located on the island’s quiet west coast, the all-suite Cobbler’s Cove recently underwent a five-year refurbishment under the watchful eye of owner Sam de Teran, and in collaboration with leading designer Soane Britain, who transformed the plantation-era Great House into one of the most stylish places to stay in the region. Powder-pink exteriors with pretty white woodwork are complemented inside with elegant shades of blue, pink and green, with a dedication to local craftsmanship, originality, comfort, charm and old school elegance. Lulu Lytle, founder and creative director of Soane, donated specific pieces in new colours for the iconic property and its honeymoon suites, drawing inspiration from the history of the building, the island, and the fauna of the much-loved gardens. The result? Delicate and intricately-woven rattan, and glorious hand-printed fabrics that lift the décor to new levels of sophistication. Everything from the fern-inspired console tables, shell-shaped chaises, crisp white rattan day beds and glimmering silver and glass hurricane lanterns, to the ripple-skirted tables, twinkling basketwork lanterns and fabulous gauzy billowing curtains printed with parrots and climbing vines add a vibrant lease of life to common areas and guest rooms alike – this is a true island paradise at its finest. Book Now
ME Dubai, UAE
Taking residence in futuristic Business Bay landmark The Opus, just seconds from Dubai Creek and its Dubai Water Canal, ME Dubai by Melia is one of the city’s rare five-star boutique hotels. Designed inside and out by the late Pritzker-awarded architect Dame Zaha Hadid (it’s the only hotel in the world that can make this claim), externally the building appears to be a huge cube with a curvaceous hole pushing through the centre when, in fact, it is a pair of towers connected at both the top and bottom.
Home to 74 bedrooms and 19 suites, ME Dubai makes for an otherworldly urban escape. We all know that first impressions count, so look up inside its expansive lobby and you’ll be greeted with a glass ceiling, plus three stories of galactic galleries with projecting balconies. Plush burgundy curved ottomans courtesy of Zaha Hadid Design make for the perfect spot to relax whilst checking in, highlighted against gleaming white marble floors. The rooms inherit the same design language found in the atrium, all with an ultra-modern vibe and ergonomically Zaha Hadid-designed king-sized beds that come as standard. With two types of room (Aura and Vibe), as well as four types of suite complete with spacious living rooms (Chic, Passion, Personality and Suite Me), there are plenty of options to choose from, and all feel like you are stepping onto the bridge of a super-slick spaceship thanks to their curved walls, wavy furnishings, retro rugs and trippy bathrooms.
Not just a feast for the eyes, ME Dubai gets five stars for its sustainability credentials too – not only does it make every room plastic-free, issuing guests with their own stainless steel water bottle, there are plenty of water dispensers located all around the hotel, and chefs forgo your traditional gluttonous buffets to help cut down on food waste. Bravo to that. Book Now