Searching for an experience, rather than just a room somewhere? You’re sure to find something in Culture Trip’s selection of the best art and design hotels on the planet – whether you’re after a hand-painted mural above your bed in Tokyo or a converted tram cart in Amsterdam.
With the July opening of its King’s Cross hangout, this American hotel chain has tapped into the global design zeitgeist by, somewhat counterintuitively, staying in keeping with its London roots. This meant transforming the 1970s Brutalist block that was Camden Council’s offices into one of the capital’s hippest places to stay. Inside, the mise en scène of earnest clerical endeavour – suspended ceilings, task chairs and filing cabinets – has been replaced by an eclectic meld of Memphis furniture set against a mid-century colour palette. The bar and restaurant serve delectable cocktails and small plates, skilfully navigating the surprising and the familiar.
The 21c Museum Hotel doubles as a multi-venue art museum | Courtesy of Mike Schwartz / 21c Museum Hotels
Founded in 2006 by married art collectors Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, this chain of boutique hotels is North America’s only multi-venue museum specialising in 21st- century art. In January 2020, they will be adding a hotel in downtown Chicago to their empire. If you fancy seeing some art with a few more years under its belt, stroll south across the river towards Millennium Park and the masterpieces of the Art Institute of Chicago.
This East River hotel satisfies the two core requirements of modern architecture: 1) It’s sustainable and 2) It looks great on Instagram. In pursuit of the worthier of these #goals, Marvel Architects constructed a large building using 54 percent regional and recycled materials – including original wooden beams from the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg – that runs entirely on wind power. The custom cotton mattresses sport 100 percent organic cotton sheets and there is a zero-tolerance policy towards bottled water. The living walls in the public spaces and houseplants in every room add to the eco-friendly ethos.
Between the Champs-Élysées and the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, design studio NOCC has created a boutique hotel inspired by the pieds-à-terre of many a chic young Parisian. Judging by the menagerie of lacquered, delicate objets scattered throughout its plush hallways, this is not a place to stumble down the stairs after one too many Suze and sodas. However, should you choose to indulge, the Amastan’s garden bar is a study in sleekness, its straight, sharp forms only disturbed by sprawling jasmine in the courtyard. The hotel also invites creatives and brands to use or “interpret” the pop-up space next door in whatever way they see fit.
Make sure to browse the extensive library at NEW Hotel in Athens | Courtesy of Yes! Hotels group
The NEW-est addition to the YES! Hotels group owned by mega-wealthy industrialist and mega-prolific art collector Dakis Joannou is the first hotel project by design duo Fernando and Humberto Campana. These Brazilian brothers made a name for themselves with a style rooted in the street culture of São Paulo’s favelas that uses everyday objects and scrap materials. At the rooftop bar, you’ll find the latest iteration of their signature armchairs – low, heavy on the fabric, monstrous, but in a good way – a library with more than 2,000 art books and views of the Acropolis, Lycabettus Hill and Syntagma Square.
CHAO describes itself as a “warm and welcoming nest” in Sanlitun. In reality, with its vast, stepped lobby and echoing concrete chambers – created by local firm Citidec – it looks and feels exactly like a modern art gallery. In the rooms, guests will find custom walnut and leather furniture designed with Stellar Works in Shanghai, and the public areas include galleries and performance spaces, tourable artists’ studios, pop-up shops and a cinema.
This boutique hotel in the Prahran neighbourhood is dedicated to the Australian artist Adam Cullen, who made his art debut by chaining a decomposing pig’s head to his ankle for a fortnight. Thankfully, it’s only the boundary-pushing nature of this stunt that has been incorporated into the design. The rooms feature original artworks and prints by Cullen, which are typified by bold colours, dripping black outlines and nods to high and low culture.
The Michelberger – right by the River Spree, a stone’s throw from the gritty heart of Kreuzberg – is Berlin to its back teeth. Think worn Venetian shutters, graffiti frontages, and an orgy of exposed wood panelling. This is an “invitation to a community”, replete with sharing plates and courtyard revelry. There is even a room for visiting bands – four single beds, split on two levels, divided by some pretty incongruous netting… Welcome to Berlin.
Occupying the top 10 floors of the Shiodome Media Tower, this hotel promises a “fresh look at art, culture and life” as well as panoramic views of Tokyo. For the full experience, opt for a room on the 31st floor. Aptly named the Artist Floor, the walls of 31 rooms have been transformed by 31 artists, with dreamlike murals that give guests an introduction to traditional Japanese culture; expect cranes, geishas and sumo wrestlers above the bed. On check-in, guests are assigned an art concierge, who explains the piece they will be staying in and offers tours of other rooms. If you see something you like better, you’re free to switch rooms – pending availability, of course.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Dubai was nothing but skyscrapers, strip malls and perfectly manicured oases, but it does have some heritage quarters. The XVA Art Hotel occupies the former home of a well-to-do merchant family in one of these, the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, where creek-side alleyways hide exquisite Persian architecture. Arranged around three courtyards, the 14 individually designed rooms display works by artists represented by the prestigious XVA Gallery, an exponent of art from the Arab world, Iran and the Indian subcontinent. Don’t leave without visiting the rustic hotel café.
Another in the “Why have a hotel room when you could have a work of art?” category of art hotel, the Hotel Not Hotel treats its rooms not so much as a blank canvas as a space primed for an immersive, site-specific installation. Most come from the well-trained imaginations of Collaboration O, a group of graduates from the prestigious Design Academy Eindhoven. Of all the bizarre sleeping arrangements, the Amsterdam Tram Cart – an actual converted tram cart with wooden floors and a king-size bed – ranks highly. The hotel bar is called Kevin Bacon. Why? It’s unpretentious and guarantees everyone has a good time.