“The sun never knew how great it was until it struck the side of a building” ~ Louis Khan
What makes a great design? How is it that one combination of elements can create something that’s merely ‘nice’ whilst another manages the ‘WOW’ factor? We often take for granted the thought and planning that goes into creating the magical spaces we find ourselves in, so let’s take a look at some of the most unique and inspiring hotels around and the genius designer and architect minds behind them.
Philippe Starck is a name everybody knows. His designs are synonymous with style, art and all that is cool. Starck first gained public attention when he was commissioned to refurbish the private apartments in the Élysée Palace for Francois Mitterrand, followed by the iconic Café Costes. It’s fair to say over the years his imaginative designs have gained a cult-like status.
Palazzina Grassi is the designer’s first, and so far only, Italian hotel. It’s opulent and theatrical, with more than just a nod to the Venetian Masquerade Ball — note the black harlequin masks on the lampshades and the ‘list of vices’ in lieu of the usual guest director. Set in a sixteenth-century converted aristocratic home along Venice’s Grand Canal, this is re-worked Renaissance in all of its decadent glory. 26 highly-appointed suites within a wonderful world of mirrors, alongside custom-made Murano glass sculptures by French artist, Aristide Najean, are contrasted against exposed brickwork. As with most of Starck’s properties, there’s always an air of exclusivity, a sense that you’re experiencing something only available to the elite few. At Palazzina Grassi this special treatment begins from the moment you check in on the sleek mahogany 1960s Celli that drops you off at its private pier, ending at its member’s only ‘champagnerie’, the Krug Lounge.
The Dunstane Houses are a pair of Victorian town houses in Edinburgh’s upscale West End. What had been home to a wide array of professionals over the last 160 years including doctors, distillers, bankers, and musicians, today has been transformed into one of the hippest hangouts in town.
Under the supervision of Hannah Lohan Interiors, The Dunstane Houses underwent a one-million-pound renovation that successfully managed to honour the owners’ Orkney Islands roots whilst preserving the building’s Victorian heritage. Hannah’s background in TV, events and styling, enabled her to form a sound foundation for her work as a designer, developing her own personal style, which sees her beautifully pairing modern and vintage elements. This is more than evident through the hotel’s welcoming interiors which celebrate the building’s original features such as the fireplaces, ornate cornicing and stucco work, whilst bringing in cosy wool throws, deep copper soaker tubs, and even the odd plush orange velvet sofa. The result is the kind of laid back luxury and comfort you’d expect from any private members club worth its weight in single malts — of which there are over 100.
Hotels don’t come much more controversial than Bethlehem’s The Walled Off Hotel. Banksy’s latest art installation was created to raise awareness of the controversies that surround the barrier wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories, in the West Bank. Sold on having “the worst view in the world”, each of the 10 rooms aims to tell the story of the graffiti-covered concrete from every side, whilst providing visitors the opportunity to discover it for themselves — the rooms are all kitted out using surplus supplies from an Israeli military barracks. Not only was the hotel constructed in total secrecy, but the artist’s commissioned to customise the rooms were sworn to secrecy too. Not so secret anymore, one such artist was Canadian visual artist and printmaker, Dominique Petrin, from Montreal, who provided the installation in room #4. Petrin drew inspiration from colonial wallpaper and architecture, creating walls of colourful geometric patterns, which if you look closely enough, are just a little ‘off’, just like the zigzag pattern made out of Xanax pills.
During the month it took Petrin to set up the room, she was not allowed to leave the hotel. In her own words, even though the experience was difficult, she still viewed it as an adventure:
“It’s really exciting. You feel like a secret agent.”
She never met or knew the identity of Banksy.
Scandinavian style with a contemporary spin is the essence of Hotel Schgaguler. The minimalist interior design of this boutique hotel in the heart of the Dolomites, sets it apart from the more traditional rustic counterparts in the area. Unlike most other alpine hotels, Hotel Schgaguler actually blends in rather nicely with its white and glass demeanor, imitating the snow-capped peaks in the background.
Peter Pichler Architecture is the Milan based team behind this sleek project, known to take an innovative approach towards architecture, urbanism and design. Sustainability is also a focus, and no surprises as the design was inspired by the ‘simplicity of life’, characterised with a clean Nordic palette of white-rendered concrete and neutrals. The 42-room sanctuary is a haven of wellness and pared down luxury interiors, located in the UNESCO heritage-protected village of Casetrotto. As with any Alpine retreat, a spa comes as standard — cast aside your snow or hiking boots and take your pick from two swimming pools, an outdoor whirlpool, as well as a variety of saunas, and if you’re in the mood to get dirty, there’s also The Melmarium — an indulgent mud bath designed to soothe your skin and body.
For designs that are as much about art as they are architecture interior design, just ask Marcelo Daglio, from Uruguay. His team of architects have been commissioned to work on a number of not only high-end projects, but unique ones too, including Vik Retreats; a privately held collection of international properties, which include Galleria Vik Milano, Playa Vik, Vik Chile, Estancia Vik and Bahia Vik. One magnificent example is Vik Chile (previously known as Viña Vik) - two visually impressive structures set on 11,000 acres in the Millahue Valley - perched on a hilltop offering 360 degree views of the surrounding vineyards and the Andes Mountains in the distance. Its floating sculptural roof made of bronzed titanium, was inspired by the mountains and the wind and conceived by its owners, Alexander and Carrie Vik, with the help of Marcelo. The ambitious design at Vik Chile succeeds in being both extraordinary and playful at the same time.
“The Vik experience is centred on the concept that every element comes together to create a truly exceptional, innovative, and singular stay for visitors.”
There are just 22 suites at Vik Chile, and no two are alike; each one offering a totally unique experience to its guests. Aside from unique design and awe-inspiring architecture, every effort has been made to maximise sustainable management of natural resources and renewable energies. Even the materials used have been chosen on the basis of zero maintenance cost and durability over time.
At the risk of sounding blasphemous, one could attribute the refurbishment of a sixteenth-century ‘school for poor maidens’ to the hands of The Holy Trinity. When former fashion designer turned interior architect Giampiero Panepinto came together with movie and party set designer Paolo Bonfini, bringing photographer Massimo Listri along for the creative ride (and specially commissioned portraits of the city), miracles really did happen. The creative trio have literally re-invented the building from its original incarnation into the heavenly body it is today.
Situated in Rome's Via Condotti fashion shopping district, its location couldn’t be more fitting. There are 18 elegantly appointed rooms with décor ranging from Rococo to nineteenth-century decadence, through to mid-century modern. Named after the Hebrew word ‘vilòn’, which translates to ‘veil’, Hotel Vilòn offers an air of mystery; of secret rooms and hidden passages, with countless stories untold. In fact it’s the only place where guests can catch a glimpse of neighbouring Palazzo Borghese‘s secret gardens. Shh, we won’t tell if you don’t.
Tucked away high above the Himalayas, The Kumaon is a minimalist eco-sanctuary looking to provide its guests with an immersive experience in nature. Designed by local Zowa Architects, otherwise known as Pradeep Kodikara and Jineshi Samaraweera, the concept was low-key luxury accommodation that would not only showcase the beautiful land, but help to protect the environment in the process. Using only local materials and local workers, Zowa Architects succeeded in creating the ideal eco-friendly and sustainable mountain hotel.
The resulting structure is a vision of bamboo and glass. Simple yet beautiful, and in no way overshadowing the majestic view of the Kasar Devi, India’s second highest peak, and a source of inspiration to artists, writers and spiritual leaders for years, including Bob Dylan, D H Lawrence and Swami Vivekananda. All of the 10 suites boast floor to ceiling windows, which open fully to merge the inside with the outside. But, the star of the show is without a doubt the hotel’s dramatic cantilevered restaurant providing panoramic views of the impressive mountains. Just breathe it all in.
East really does meet west at Hotel Zoo Berlin. Situated on the Ku’damm (Berlin’s answer to the Champs-Élysées), this slick hotel is also where contemporary interior design meets total opulence. Originally opened back in 1911, Hotel Zoo Berlin used to be the official VIP hotel to the Berlin International Film Festival, with a glittering guest list, boasting the likes of Romy Schneider and Sophia Loren. It has since been re-incarnated by Hollywood design duo, Dayna Lee and Ted Berner, also known as the Powerstrip Studio. Hailing from the movie industry, this dynamic pair previously worked as Art Director, Set Decoration and Production Designers, for famed titles such as Thelma & Louise and Dances with wolves firmly under their belts. Together, they bring their combined experience and big scale ‘movie set’ vision to design signature styles for their high end clients, and Hotel Zoo Berlin is no exception.
Let’s start with the 70ft jade-green runway style carpet by Diane von Furstenberg, adorned with crouching leopards, beckoning you as you enter. Or even the 23ft high show-doors. Or perhaps the oversized lilies rendered into the two-ton moulded ceiling. It really has a “go big or go home” vibe here. The Tom Dixon wing chairs and specially-commissioned photos by Andreas Kock provide that ‘fashionista’ feeling, whilst the glass-walled rain showers and Nespresso machines in all 144 rooms, along with specially designed robes by Maison Martin Margiela, ensure comfort and style are always to the max. The attention here is in the very high-end designer details. And don’t miss the opportunity for after-dark shenanigans at the divinely decadent speakeasy-style, Grace Bar.
If you’re looking for somewhere to get away from it all, then you need to check out Hotel Chetzeron. Set at an altitude of 2112 metres above sea level at Crans-Montana, one of Switzerland’s finest ski resorts, the only way to reach this former cable car station is by foot, ski, or snowmobile. It’s the ultimate ski in/ski out destination with spectacular views to match.
Designed by Lausanne-based Actescollectifs Architectes, the landscape has been built into the décor, perfectly framed by giant picture windows to best showcase the rugged mountains outside. The restaurant is the best example of this with its immense wall of glass dominating the room, second only perhaps to the heated pool, which takes pride of place on the roof, with the chance to enjoy the finest view of them all. All 16 rooms, each named after a summit, offer comfortable and cosy interiors that are all warm wooden paneling, plush robes and yes, you’ve guessed it, spectacular views — even from the bathrooms.
If you’re all skied out and in need of a little TLC, the hotel’s wellness zone will be a sure pick-me-up with a choice between hot or cold treatments — a snow bench and ice buckets are available but only for the brave! And with solar panels and a pellet-fired boiler, this mountain retreat is caring for the environment too.
Italian designer, Piero Lissoni, is well known in the industry for his contemporary furniture design, including the modular sofa system he created for B&B Italia, as well as injecting his humanistic philosophy into each of his projects:
“Through materiality and innovation architecture and design have an opportunity to build locally. Authentic place-making is about being true to the local context, culture and community.”
This ideology was certainly applied in his reform of Casa Fantini. The original white stucco home dates back over 200 years, so the aim was to modernise it whilst maintaining its sense of history, and in keeping with its natural surroundings. Set on the shores of Orta Lake in Pella (which has a population of just 1000!), the result is a stunning fusion of old-world charm and modern comforts wrapped up in the traditional craftsmanship of stone, metal and wood. The view here is everything, reflected through the abundant use of glass. As Daniella Fantini puts it (CEO of Fratelli Fantini), the hotel strives to attain “lake time” for its guests; a place where you come to “contemplate, read, draw, relax.” If you’re looking for peace and tranquility, you’ve come to the right place.
© 2020 HIP Media Group Limited All Rights Reserved.