The 8 Best Design Hotels in San Francisco

Those who enjoy a bit of design inspiration with their travels will love San Francisco
Those who enjoy a bit of design inspiration with their travels will love San Francisco | Courtesy of Palihotel San Francisco
Photo of Molly Codyre
6 July 2020

In artsy San Francisco, it’s no surprise that there are myriad hotels offering interior inspo in spades, with sultry cocktail bars and lively eateries to match. Whether you’re after a nautical hangout or one of the city’s trendy millennial hotspots, these design hotels in San Francisco have you covered.

Hotel Zeppelin

Boutique Hotel, Luxury
4.2/5 (993 Reviews)
The Mr Smiley Suite is named after a local street performer
Courtesy of Hotel Zeppelin
Somehow both elegant and kitsch, The Zeppelin is the perfect bolthole for its theatre district locale. As dramatic as its surrounds, rooms are modern and minimalistic, with forest green walls, impeccably designed furnishings and wooden floorboards, but with dashes of theatre-kid quirk with graffiti-style paintings and bathrooms wallpapered with classic 70s typeface. The lobby is all the more extroverted – an enormous newspaper-wrapped peace sign and neon-lit red reception desk are just two of the joys to be found.
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Argonaut Hotel

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
4.5/5 (1437 Reviews)
Courtesy of Argonaut Hotel / Expedia
Harnessing San Francisco’s enviable coastal location, Argonaut Hotel is housed in a converted warehouse in Fisherman’s Wharf. Combining its warehouse heritage and waterside locale, the design sits somewhere between industrial and nautical – think exposed bricking, soaring beams and a Cape Cod color palette. Fitting for the seafaring theme, the San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park museum is located just next door – perfect for boating fans.
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Hotel Kabuki

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
4.2/5 (886 Reviews)
Hotel Kabuki
Courtesy of Hotel Kabuki /
Stay at Hotel Kabuki at your own risk – you’ll likely leave with a burning desire to redecorate at home. Japanese design elements are mixed with Scandinavian furnishings and industrial elements to create an it-shouldn’t-work-but-does space. Japanese art and calligraphy line the walls in the rooms, while lofted ceilings and wooden beams remind you of the hotel’s San Francisco location. Rooms are a masterclass in space maximisation, and the hotel’s range of facilities include a state of the art gym and three drinking and eating spots.
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Hotel Zetta

4.4/5 (983 Reviews)
The ambient decor and lighting in the Premier Studio makes for the most comfortable night's sleep, Hotel Zetta, San Francisco
Courtesy of Hotel Zetta
Playing up to the city’s techy reputation, Zetta Hotel is an ultra-modern spot that at first glance feels a little bit like an uber-cool millennial-focused office space. Think shuffleboard in the lobby, streaming to TV options in your room, and Nintendo Wii consoles available on request. Rooms feel suitably machine-like, with a colour palette of deep greys, blues and charcoal that are reminiscent of your many devices (don’t forget to pack them and hang out in the lounge like an up-and-coming Silicon Valley mogul).
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San Francisco Proper Hotel

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
4.4/5 (527 Reviews)
Deluxe King Rooms feature contemporary decor and plush king-size beds, Proper Hotel
Courtesy of San Francisco Proper Hotel
Proper Hotels are known for their impeccable sense of style, and Kelly Wearstler has taken her expert design touch to this building. No surface, wall or floor has been left to chance – floral wallpaper clashes with pinstripe bedspreads, an enormous floral mouth-shaped couch lounges next to Bauhaus-style furnishings, and wallpaper in shades of mauve suddenly makes the color seem fashionable again. The cherry on top is the bar, sitting pretty on the roof with candy-striped lounge chairs, an enormous fire pit and sparkly city views.
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  • Hotel Emblem San Francisco

    Boutique Hotel, Chain Hotel, Luxury
    4.5/5 (517 Reviews)
    Courtesy of Hotel Emblem San Francisco /
    Paying homage to the Beat Generation which began in San Francisco in the 1950s, Hotel Emblem San Francisco is a little slice of social history in the heart of the city. Seamlessly combining modern and retro design sensibilities – think contrasting primary colours, brass finishings and floral headboards – the interiors hit that sweet spot between quirky and traditionally cool. In-house eatery and bar The Obscenity Bar & Kitchen (named after the trial that resulted from beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s work Howl) serves up snacks and cocktails alongside paintings of Ginsberg and the movement’s most famous writer, Jack Kerouac.
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    Palihotel San Francisco

    Boutique Hotel, Chain Hotel
    3.9/5 (50 Reviews)
    Courtesy of Palihotel San Francisco
    Palihotel San Francisco is a chintzy-industrial feast for the eyes that looks plucked from an interior design Pinterest board. It ticks off all the modern-day design boxes: bright velvet furnishings, mid-century-style armchairs and contrasting floral patterns, all of which is brought together with lofty ceilings and oodles of light. Rooms err on the contemporary side, with exposed brick walls and simple scandi-style wooden beds, while in-house eatery and bar Fisher Loft is popular with locals and serves a modern-American fare in an equally trendy setting.
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    Hotel Carlton

    Boutique Hotel, Hotel
    Hotel Carlton, San Francisco
    Courtesy of Hotel Carlton /
    Owned by an investor and mountaineer who founded the American Himalayan Foundation, the interiors at Hotel Carlton are influenced by his world travels. Photos of Nepal line the walls, and vintage-style furnishings pair with handmade textiles and trinkets. Musos and wine connoisseurs will love the daily free wine hour at 5pm, accompanied by music from locals as part of the hotel’s Locals Vocals initiative. Should you get peckish after all that wine, in-house restaurant Saha Lounge is a modern spot serving Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-influenced dishes like octopus tagine and lamb koftas.
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    These recommendations were updated on July 6, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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