Boutique hotels are booming. Every month, we see stunning identity and interior projects for new design-led hotels. For creatives, there’s plenty of work in this sector: but what about when it comes to staying at a design hotel? Where are the world’s best?
Maybe you’re looking for a weekend getaway. Perhaps you want an inspiring spot for some remote working; or an impressively creative environment to host a crucial business meeting. Whatever your reasons, a good design hotel can be a powerfully inspiring choice. But finding an affordable option isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve put together this list of the world’s best boutique hotels – plus some advice on what to look for when booking a room.
As creative professionals, we want to be inspired by our surroundings. We want to visit or stay somewhere that's been thoughtfully and beautifully conceived, in ways that our own perspective as artists, illustrators and designers makes us especially appreciative of.
In practical terms, we also want decent, reliable and free Wi-Fi. If we're meeting clients or collaborators, we need to be close to the centre of town, or at least easily accessible from it; and we're looking for an impressively styled lobby, restaurant or bar to help the meeting go with a swing.
With all this in mind, we've picked our 10 favourite design hotels from around the world. Whether you're looking to do some remote work, hold a meeting or just be inspired creatively, these boutique hotels hit the mark.
Situated in the east of Paris, in the historic Bagnolet district, Mama Shelter Paris is a pretty reasonably priced boutique hotel for the (generally expensive) French capital. But its quirky sense of style is very high-end.
There's a real sense of individuality and creativity to the Philippe Starck-designed interiors, which mark it out clearly as a design hotel rather than just a 'nicely designed hotel'. The colourful and evocative reception area, particularly, makes an immediate impression. This is an urban refuge for the spirit, in contrast to the kind of bright, bland functionality of most similarly priced chains.
Evocative lettering, a darkly expressive colour scheme, offbeat furniture and objets d'art, glowing neon and gaudy masks all flow throughout the building, in beautiful combinations that wholly avoid cliché and add up to something quite special.
These entrancing visuals, combined with the buzzy atmosphere and super-friendly staff, all makes you feel a little like you're entering another world. This is a great place for any creative seeking to get away from it all and muse on a new project, or meet up with collaborators and clients with an artsy side.
What's more, the air-conditioned guestrooms come with iMacs, the restaurant has a Michelin-starred chef, the stunning rooftop offers inspiring views of the city, there are charging stations for electric cars, and babysitting is even available on request.
If you want to be in the heart of the tourist sightseeing areas, this isn't right for you. But what you experience instead is the day-to-day Paris of authentic working people, plus you're only a few Metro stops away from the centre of town.
Opened in 2009, the Mama Shelter brand has since become a chain that's spread around the world, but this remains the original and best, and a must-stay for creatives heading to The City of Lights.
Brutalism has its appeal, but it's not something you initially think of when it comes to the aesthetics of a design hotel. Yet a couple of years ago, London-based firm Universal Design Studio was asked to 'humanise' a bank building created in the unforgiving architectural style, on Stockholm's Brunkebergstorg Square.
The team did a terrific job in combining the dramatic and imposing elements of Brutalism with attractive contemporary styles, to create something quite incredible.
Elements such as custom lighting by Rubn, handmade glass pieces by Carina Seth Andersson and bespoke furniture by local makers add extra dimension and depth to the concrete austerity of the building, in delightfully surprising ways.
The lobby's white granite staircase, for example, is handwrapped in Swedish leather by a local saddle maker; the wine bar boasts a communal table carved from a single Swedish elm by Lies-Marie Hoffmann; and there's original art from the likes of Jaume Plensa, Tacita Dean and Richard Long within the public areas.
It also benefits from a great location in Norrmalm, the heart of Stockholm’s shopping, restaurant and nightlife. Plus it's just a few minutes from the central station, so would be a great place for meeting collaborators and clients.
The 343-room hotel also has its own high-quality restaurant with international cuisine, plus a wine bar with outdoor terrace, a listening lounge, a gym, and a coffee machine in every room. The friendly staff speak a wide range of languages, and overall this hotel offers exceptional value for quite reasonable prices.
Another luxury design hotel that's very reasonably priced, Das Stue Berlin is most notable for the way it fuses old-world charm with sophisticated modern design.
Housed in a palatial building that was once the Danish embassy, the lobby is grand and imposing, with its dramatic staircases. But venture further inside and everything is cool and contemporary.
Interiors by Patricia Urquiola in the public areas feature whimsical shapes and experimental uses of colour and texture. The guestrooms conceived by LVG Arquitectura are characterised by muted colour palettes, bespoke furnishing and carefully selected photographic artworks.
What's more, fun sculptures like the crocodile’s head of French artist Quentin Garel or Benedetta Mori’s meshwire animals appear throughout, reflecting that the hotel is adjacent to Berlin Zoo, which you can enter through the bar's terrace.
On the edge of Berlin's largest park, the Tiergarten (most rooms come with views), this design hotel is in a quiet area surrounded by greenery, but is still well connected to the centre and major attractions. There's also a Michelin-starred restaurant and a Susanne Kaufmann Spa, which includes treatment rooms, a sauna and a 16m indoor swimming pool.
It all adds up to a high-end experience at very reasonable prices, and for art, design and architecture enthusiasts visiting Germany's capital, this hotel is a no-brainer.
Even if you'd never heard the term 'design hotel' before, a quick wander around Archer Hotel New York would be all you needed to grasp it. This boutique Midtown hotel simply oozes style and panache.
Enter the glass entrance and the tall ceilinged-lobby immediately makes an impression, with its wood panelling Chesterfield sofas, colourful artwork and dramatic print of the Empire State Building.
This sense of classic elegance pervades throughout, but is brought up to date by elements such as exposed brick and black metal, blending a sense of the industrial in with the drawing room vibe.
No hotel room in Midtown Manhattan is ever going to be cavernous, but here New York designer Glen Coben has made skilful and creative use of what space is available. And the result is cosily inviting, with bespoke colours, fabrics and artworks in each room, and floor-to-ceiling windows providing masses of natural light.
Archers Hotel New York also offers Nespresso machines in every room, is canine-friendly, and sits at a great central location, whether you're meeting clients or heading out sightseeing.
The rooftop bar provides stunning views of the Chrysler and Empire State buildings, the Charlie Palmer Steak restaurant serves high-class cuisine, at the table or as room service, and there's even an overnight shoe shine service on request.
It's not just expensive hotels that are beautifully designed. It's even possible to find gorgeously stylish hostels – and Freehand Miami is one of our big recommendations for anyone staying in the Sunshine State.
Designed by Roman & Williams, the team behind New York's Ace Hotel, and owned by the same people as the NoMad Hotel, Freehand doesn't go the lowest-common denominator route but aims at providing a 'luxury hostel' experience. And this is backed that up with a gorgeous interior design that would give many pricier establishments a run for their money.
The visual theme is somewhere between rustic, nautical and summer camp, with bright colours, chic furniture and a feel of air, light and space that stands head and shoulders above the usual hostel aesthetics.
There's a great outdoor area too, with a herb garden, bocce court, ping-pong tables and swimming pool. There are also two bars and a restaurant using locally sourced ingredients.
Offering such great value for money in a pricey area (it's just five minutes' walk to the beach), it's not surprising that this hostel is always full and buzzing. So don't wait too long to book, or you may well end up disappointed.
One of our favourite London hotels, this small establishment, set in a converted Victorian townhouse, features 10 bedrooms that are each lovingly unique.
Each showcases work by a different contemporary artist, while quirky furnishings, exposed brick, and vintage and modern furniture throughout add up to create a decidedly stylish boutique hotel experience.
Mixing vintage and modern styles is nothing new in itself of course. It's just that Artist Residence London – an offshoot from the original Brighton hotel – does it so perfectly, it feels effortless; and that's not an easy trick to pull off.
This clever mix of styles extends also to its downstairs restaurant, the Cambridge Cafe, which is all Pop Art neon and shabby chic, while there’s a ping pong room and a buzzing cellar bar for visitors to enjoy too.
Artist Residence is not to be found in the city centre, but a few miles away in the West London area of Pimlico. That's no bad thing, though; the streets here are far quieter and more upmarket; and anyway Buckingham Palace, Tate Britain and Victoria's Tube, railway and coach station are all in walking distance.
The hotel aspires to be your "home from home in London" and we think it succeeds magnificently, whether we're talking about the comfiness of the beds, the friendliness of the staff, or the genial, cosy atmosphere the place engenders in its guests. And when the surroundings are so beautifully stylish, what's not to like?
You might have heard of The Four Seasons chain of luxury accommodation, but were you aware that it's headquarted in Canada? This might explain why the chain's flagship building in Toronto makes such a powerful visual statement.
Designed by Peter Clewes of architect firm Alliance, the complex, consisting of a 204m, 55-storey residential condominium tower and a 125m, 30-storey hotel tower, is dramatically imposing. And inside, Yabu Pushelberg's interior design continues the sense of wonder, with its palatial lobby, black and gold panelling and floor to ceiling windows.
But there's also a modern sensibility to the styling here that's richly layered; with careful use of muted hues, artistanal elements, Asian influences and work by local artists to add a refined air of sophistication and modernity.
Situated in the fashionable Yorkville area of the city, the Four Seasons Toronto offers a first-class spa, gym, and yoga studio, a Michelin starred restaurant, and a buzzy bar. Rooms come with thick terry bathrobes, iPads, Bose sound systems and Nespresso machines.
Staying here, inevitably, doesn't come cheap. But if you can afford it, your Instagram cred will skyrocket, and you may well rub shoulders with a celeb or two. And if you can't...?
Well, it's worth wandering into the lobby just to gawp at the awe-inspiring magnificence of its design anyway.
'Unique' sounds like a claim that's difficult for any establishment to live up to. But Hotel Unique Sao Paulo, designed by local architect Ruy Ohtake, really does put its money where its mouth is.
Looking like a cruise ship that's run aground, the exterior of this design hotel is truly something to behold. But the visual delights don't end there.
Enter the lobby and your eyes will continue to widen, as you marvel at the expansive, high-ceiling space with a simply enormous glass frontage. Wander throughout this hotel and the aesthetic treats continue, with huge porthole windows messing with your sense of perspective, and dimmed corridors contrasting with rooms that burst with white and light.
With stunning views of the city and nearby Ibirapuera Park (home to the Museum of Modern Art), this luxurious design hotel's rooftop boasts a pool, restaurant and bar, while the air-conditioned rooms come with LCD TV, DVD player, MP3 dock station and Nespresso machine.
A stay here won't be cheap, but it's certainly an aesthetic vision you'll never find elsewhere, and you'll be experiencing pure luxury all the while you're admiring it.
Another unique hotel design that takes its inspiration from a ship, Hotel Sands by the Bay dominates the skyline of Singapore's high-end, glamourous tourist hub, Marina Bay.
The 55-storey, three-tower property designed by Moshe Safdie is integrated into a larger resort, which includes restaurants, shops and a casino, and its scale truly has to be seen to be believed. The jaw-dropping inspiration doesn't stop once you get inside either.
The super-high ceilings and huge walls of glass of the foyer are unlike anything you've ever seen, although you'll have to battle the crowds to get a good view, and certainly a good photograph.
The 2,000+ rooms are pretty impressive too. Although the interior design is fairly standard, the floor-to-ceiling windows give you bucketloads of natural light and fantastic views across the city.
That said, for truly spectacular views, you have to head up to the rooftop on the 57th floor, which offers the most incredible panoramas of the city and the sea that surrounds it.
Non-residents can come here too, for a small fee, but are restricted to a few small areas. If you're staying here, though, you can enjoy the whole roof, including the best photo spots, the sun loungers and the awe-inspiring infinity pool. And believe us, the views truly are to die for.
You can also enjoy the first-class spa, not to mention fine dining from celebrity chefs. None of this will come cheap, but for a luxury experience in beautifully designed surroundings, Singapore offers no better.
The Indian city of Hyderabad is a major centre for the tech industries. And its Park Hotel is a great showcase for the area's forward thinking, modernising ethos, not least in its revolutionary design.
With sharp, crystalline edges, the building shines with a purple glow at night like a polished gem (not co-incidentally, as it is inspired by the Nizam jewels that are symbolic of the area).
This bold and imaginative architecture is complemented beautifully by a three-dimensional horizon pool that fills the building with light and rippling reflections.
The interior, meanwhile, is full of colours, shapes and bold forms that represent a virtual masterclass in how to integrate traditional aesthetics and local craftsmanship into contemporary, international design themes.
Located in the heart of the city’s business and entertainment centre, this luxurious 263-room design hotel offers incredible value at current prices. If you're visiting the city for either business or pleasure, we'd highly recommend you stay at this imaginatively designed hotel.