Our annual look at the world’s hottest new hotel openings
Sister to Toronto’s trendy Drake Hotel, the Drake Devonshire, which opens this month, manages to be a bucolic retreat without completely leaving the city behind. Located in the Niagara Peninsula wine region, on the shores of Lake Ontario, this 13-room inn calls to mind an old-school lake house—exposed Douglas fir rafters, snuggly wool throws, a screen porch with a ping-pong table—paired with cosmopolitan surprises. Like the Toronto flagship, the Devonshire hosts open-mic nights, weekly concerts and rotating art exhibits in its on-site gallery. Foodies too will find their scene within the hotel’s walls; they can sip local Pinot Noir and sample chef Matt DeMille’s lake-to-table fare while taking in views of its source.
Founded in 2006 by Sinclair Beecham, the man behind grab-and-go chain Pret A Manger, the Hoxton brand has earned a loyal following among thrifty hipsters. The no-frills, no-fuss approach to hospitality includes room rates that are cheaper when booked in advance, a daily brown paper bag breakfast and self-explanatory room sizes: Shoebox, Snug, Comfy and Roomy. So popular is the brand’s pared-down approach that last September Hoxton opened a second location in a 1960s telephone exchange building in the central London neighborhood of Holborn. As at its sister property in hip Shoreditch, the 174 vintage-furniture-filled rooms are designed with under-bed drawers and tucked-away fridges to maximize space. In spite of the “snug” quarters, the hotel packs in on-site amenities: a neon-adorned nail salon, an espresso bar, a Brooklyn-inspired grill and a basement Chicken Shop. Next, the Hoxton may be coming to a city near you, with new locations set to open in Paris, Amsterdam and New York by 2016.
Santiago’s poshest new hotel, which opened in October in the capital’s bohemian Barrio Lastarria, takes its design cues from early 20th-century French Neo-Classicism. Expect Parisian style flourishes, from an array of framed sketches and paintings hung salon-style on a lobby wall to the restaurant’s waitstaff decked out in white jackets and black bow ties. This chic approach may come as a bit of a surprise to visitors who have been to the Singular’s rustic-yet-luxe sister property in Patagonia, which occupies a 1915 sheep-processing factory near the continent’s rugged southernmost tip. Back in Santiago, if you seek a similar brush with nature, head up to the rooftop pool for uninterrupted views of Cerro San Cristóbal.
Think of Hotel Covell, which opened this February in a 1930s building in LA’s hip Los Feliz neighbohood, as the Great American Novel of the lodging world. Restaurateur Dustin Lancaster (whose Bar Covell is downstairs) and interior designer Sally Breer conceived of the space as one cohesive narrative. Each of the five curated rooms represents a chapter in the life of the fictional writer George Covell, whose biography overlaps in clever ways with his two creators’ stories. Chapter One, for example, is inspired by Lancaster’s Oklahoma boyhood—all leather and raw wood—while future “chapters” follow him to a midcentury bachelor pad in 1950s New York City and a boho-chic 1960s love nest in Paris. Best of all, each room comes with a record player and a collection of LPs designed to sonically evoke the era depicted.
Vieques, Puerto Rico
Just off Puerto Rico’s eastern shore, the island of Vieques is known for its virgin beaches and bioluminescent bays. Cutting-edge design? Until recently, not so much. Opened last October, the 22-room El Blok is inspired by Moorish architecture and suggests the world’s sexiest parking garage—all sinuous, white-concrete curves, intricately dotted with tiny windows to mimic the porous coral found offshore. The brain-child of record exec Simon Baeyertz, the LEED Gold–certified hotel is brimming with such locally made fixtures as a bar hewn from a single tree and coconut-fiber sculptures. After a dip in the hotel’s rooftop pool, grab dinner at the grill-centric restaurant, which is helmed by San Juan’s José Enrique—the first Puerto Rican chef to be nominated for a James Beard Award.
What’s the perfect hotel view? Paris? Manhattan? How about a Bengal tiger? This is precisely what’s on offer at the Jamala Wildlife Lodge, which opened at Australia’s National Zoo & Aquarium this January. Beyond the hunting-lodge decor (animal prints, spears), the 18 suites at this delightfully nutty hotel allow guests to feed giraffes from their balcony, bathe within splashing distance of a brown bear (separated by a thin pane of glass) or dine in a restaurant that looks directly into a lions’ den. Each room comes equipped with a flat-screen TV—the most superfluous amenity in the history of hotels, given that there’s likely to be a monkey with its face pressed against your window.
Key West, Florida
Key West has always felt a bit rowdy and rough around the edges—which might explain why avowed man’s man Ernest Hemingway called the island home for a decade. A much-needed shot of style arrived last month in the form of the Gates Hotel, which boasts midcentury modern cool: Balinese petrified wood tables, a lobby accent wall made of pecky cypress and custom blue bikes by Brazilian designer Lorenzo Martone. Named in honor of the island’s rum-running days, the poolside Rum Row bar sources spirits from the nearby Key West First Legal Rum Distillery. Cocktails pair perfectly with “conch fusion” tapas from the on-site Blind Pig food truck (a nod to the Prohibition-era nickname for a speakeasy) or a hand-rolled stogie from the family-owned Rodriguez Cigar Factory.
When the 19th-century mansion of a wealthy Bordeaux lawyer hit the market, wine and art magnate Bernard Magrez couldn’t pass up the chance to add the property to his collection of acquisitions and turn it into an over-the-top crash pad for those wanting to explore his art gallery and cultural institute, across the street, and his many nearby vineyards. Opened last December in the heart of the world capital of wine, the six-room La Grande Maison features opulent Napoléon III–style decor throughout, with elegant touches like Houlès lace, Moissonnier furnishings and even Hermès bath products. Equally opulent is the on-site restaurant, by Magrez’s close friend Joël Robuchon, who boasts a record 25 Michelin stars. With its roster of Robuchon classics (such as his world-famous potato puree and crispy truffle tart) and a list of more than 259 Grands Crus Classés de Bordeaux wines pulled directly from Magrez’s impressive collection, this spot could very well earn the chef his next three stars.
On the 17th-century facade of the G-Rough hotel in Rome’s Piazza di Pasquino, the building’s original Latin inscription translates as: “Just big enough to give a feeling of security.” Four centuries later, the sentiment still holds true. Everything about the 10-room G-Rough, from its cozy size to its clean design, feels just right. Like its sister property, Venice’s luxe PalazzinaG, the G-Rough is expertly curated with a distinctly Italian flair. Each of its five floors pays homage to an individual Italian designer from the ’30s to the ’50s, with sleek furnishings that make the property feel less like a boutique hotel and more like a Fellini set.
For the past decade, the sprawling, 2,700-acre Rancho Santana resort—featuring private villas and casitas—has represented a welcome dose of luxury on this otherwise laid-back (read: sleepy) stretch of Pacific coastline, beloved by intrepid surfers and unknown to nearly everyone else. This March, the equestrian ranch added a 17-room inn, which calls to mind a rural Andalusian villa, thanks to its terra-cotta roof and exposed stone, plus woodwork crafted in the ranch’s on-site millworks. The property encompasses five beaches, each of which caters to a specific taste: Playa Santana for surfing, Playa Rosada for shell collecting, Playa Duna for exploring dramatic dunes, Playa Escondida for snorkeling and Playa Los Perros for those long walks on the beach everyone’s always raving about.
The Larwill Studio, opened last September in the Melbourne suburb of Parkville, is the sixth masterpiece to join Australia’s Art Series Hotel Group, each of which honors a particular Aussie artist. Named for the late expressionist painter David Larwill, the hotel pulls its design scheme from his colorful, primitive paintings, which hang in the lobby and in each of its 96 midcentury-style rooms or “workspaces.” Bikes can be borrowed from the lobby for leisurely rides through area parks, and nearby neighborhoods like Fitzroy and Carlton offer an abundance of the quirky shops and cafés that have made Melbourne the San Francisco of Australia.
Durham, North Carolina
With outposts in Louisville, Cincinnati and Bentonville, Arkansas, 21c Museum Hotels are emerging as a regional chainlet with a mission. Together these venues comprise North America’s first-ever museum dedicated to 21st-century art (really!). Each is home to a uniquely colored flock of larger-than-life plastic penguins by Cracking Art Group (Durham’s are fuchsia) that show up anywhere from the elevator to the lobby to the roof. In addition to having 10,500 square feet of gallery space, the building itself is a work of art: Once home to a bank and a department store, the 17-story Hill Building is a 1930s Art Deco gem, designed by Shreve, Lamb and Harmon, the team behind the Empire State Building. The store’s display windows now front a restaurant, the sunny bank hall serves as the ballroom, and the vault and safety deposit boxes house the lounge.
Extra, extra! Portland, Maine—which has been stealthily ascending the ranks of America’s coolest Portlands—is finally welcoming its first boutique hotel, and it’s one that speaks to the coastal town’s locally minded, design-focused hipness. Housed in the storied 1923 headquarters of the Portland Press Herald newspaper, the 110-room Press Hotel calls to mind a retro-chic newsroom at every turn, from the vintage writing desks and herringbone rugs in the guest rooms to lobby art installations that incorporate antique typewriters and letterpress blocks. We can’t help but imagine Clark Kent stopping by for happy hour in the aptly named lobby cocktail bar, the Inkwell, where coasters are shaped, appropriately, like typewriter keys.
Though it may not be located in the French Quarter, the Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery, which opened last month in the up-and-coming Warehouse Arts District, has strong ties to Big Easy history. Constructed in 1854, this building once served as a Port of New Orleans coffee warehouse and a chandlery, selling everything a sailor would need on a voyage, such as rope and tobacco. Now, each of the 167 rooms features rustic detailing (like exposed brick and hardwood floors) alongside personal touches like a pillow menu, a custom Spotify playlist and original in-room artwork from the hotel’s partnership with the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts. Combine it all and the Old No. 77 offers a recipe for resting easy—provided of course that you rest at all. Remember, this is New Orleans.
A little over an hour south of Lisbon, the rustic seaside village of Comporta might seem an unlikely hub for style mavens and scenesters. After all, unlike the resort-clogged Algarve farther down the coast, the town is surrounded for miles by the rice and grain farms of the humble Alentejo region, Portugal’s breadbasket. But that hasn’t stopped the likes of shoe designer Christian Louboutin from decamping here, earning “Cool Comporta” (as it’s nicknamed) comparisons to Ibiza or Montauk just before they hit big. Opened last May by pilot Gonçalo Pessoa and his wife, Patricia, the 14-room Sublime is the first property worthy of the town’s newfound hip cred, with petrified wood tables, bamboo furnishings by Italian design studio Gervasoni and heated concrete floors. Outside, in the shade of umbrella pines, guests can relax by the sleek infinity pool or the nearby fire pit.
New York City
One morning last summer, two drunk men got into a scuffle in front of the Lower East Side’s Ludlow Hotel, which had opened its doors a few weeks earlier, in June. It’s likely that Sean MacPherson, the man behind the hotel, wouldn’t have been entirely horrified by this. The 184-room property, set in an old brick building around the corner from Katz’s Delicatessen, has preserved (or added) industrial design details—casement windows, steel front doors, exposed everything—to celebrate the LES’s gritty past, even as it endows the area with another layer of glam. Take, for example, the many plush trappings from around the globe, such as Bellino sheets from Italy, pendant lamps from Morocco and Maison Martin Margiela bath mats from France. Downstairs, the Dirty French bistro follows a similar model, spicing up classic Gallic dishes with influences from the French colonial sphere: Morocco, Louisiana, Vietnam. The bar hums with socialites; rowdy drinkers from nearby saloons get into squabbles outside. Could there be a more fitting expression of 21st-century New York?
New York isn’t the only city so nice they named it twice. The classic spa town of Baden-Baden has been attracting royals to take its healing waters since the days of the Roman Empire—its name literally means “bathe-bathe” in German. Since 1872, the glamorous centerpiece of this Black Forest getaway (“the summer capital of Europe”) has been the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa. This January, the posh Oetker Collection added a 15-room boutique hotel inside a former royal residence, which takes its name from the Duchess Stéphanie de Beauharnais, Napoléon’s adopted daughter. Although the city has always been seen as a bit stuffy (Mark Twain: “It is an inane town, filled with sham, and petty fraud, and snobbery, but the baths are good”), the new villa reverses that reputation with an innovative roster of wellness services and modern design. In place of staid Old World decor, you’ll find clean lines, bright pops of color and tons of sunlight. But that doesn’t mean the villa has lost its aristocratic link. After all, the interior designer, a member of the Oetker clan, is actually a countess.
London-born private members’ club Soho House (which already has swanky outposts in Berlin, NYC, West Hollywood and elsewhere) debuted its newest location last August. Situated in an old warehouse near the Union Stock Yards, the 40-room hotel amps up the luxury without ignoring its history. A mosaic at the entrance still reads “The Allis Building,” a lobby mural is made from the original water tower, and a boxing ring is outfitted with equipment from Chicago’s last remaining tannery, Horween Leather. While these touches make the property uniquely Chicago, Soho House loyalists will be pleased to find classic features like the cult hit Chicken Shop restaurant.
With its limestone Belle Époque facade and its location just off the Champs-Élysées, Hôtel Vernet can come off as a buttoned-up, classically Parisian établissement—at least from the outside. The interior tells quite a different story. Step through the glass doors and you’ll find brightly colored banquettes, funky futuristic lighting and an abstract Jean-Michel Alberola ceiling, alongside Haussmannian details like original fireplaces and a domed glass skylight designed by the one and only Gustave Eiffel. Recently overhauled by Marseille-born interior architect François Champsaur to celebrate the property’s 100th birthday, this grande dame (and its wavy marble bar) has once again become a favorite haunt of well-heeled travelers and, more tellingly, posh Parisians.