Some are grandes dames, palatial setups with gilded touches and dignitaries planted at the bar; others are essentially dream homes, reimagining luxury in a quiet, elegant manner. There are the bold design pioneers that still feel of-the-moment, and the ones that have deftly melded historic environs with contemporary ambience. The evolution of the hotel over the last century is profound, with design schemes reflecting such weighty movements as Art Deco and midcentury modern, and the ascendance of animated boutique and lifestyle-driven properties.
Ett Hem, Stockholm
There are just 12 rooms at Ett Hem, and they are always full, a testament to the warmth and graciousness of staff, but also to the thoughtful design details implemented by Ilse Crawford. A 1910 Arts and Crafts building, Ett Hem is more house than hotel, with a slate of welcoming, muted colors and such Swedish materials as sheepskin, oak, and Gotland stone. Luxury at Ett Hem manifests in guests uniting in the library over meals that revolve around local produce, before sitting by the cozy fireplace, unwinding in the marble tub, or sleeping in a four-poster bed.
Hotel Alfonso XIII, Seville
Visitors from abroad made their way to Seville’s Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, and the crème de la crème stayed at Hotel Alfonso XIII, the landmark hotel built by architect José Espiau y Mu˜ñoz in 1928. Decades later, it still seduces, with large swathes of ornamental tile work, cocktails served in an Art Deco shrine, and guest rooms rife with Andalusian, Moorish, and Castilian style. Courtesy of Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), there are look-at-me features like leather headboards, arabesque plasterwork, and Murano glass lamps.
Gramercy Park Hotel, New York City
One year after Gramercy Park Hotel opened in 1925, Humphrey Bogart got married on the roof. Later, John F. Kennedy lived here for a spell; during the apex of rock and roll, countless musicians passed through the Renaissance Revival building. At once residential and audacious, Julian Schnabel’s design incorporates bronze, leather, velvet, and artworks by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring. In Schnabel’s fantastical world, simple wooden ceiling beams are contrasted with Baroque Louis XV chairs and mahogany drinking cabinets.
Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles
A tony Loire Valley château inspired this Sunset Boulevard celebrity hangout, originally opened in 1929 as the first earthquake-proof apartment building in Los Angeles. André Balazs took over the Chateau in the 1990s, thankfully preserving its romantic luster through elements like Gothic arched windows, wooden ceiling beams, and damask. On the leafy terrace, for example, one can easily imagine the mischief-making that ensued among the Tinseltown stars of yesteryear. All of the airy rooms, suites, cottages, and bungalows, as well as the dimly lit public spaces, evoke a hard-to-find Old Hollywood.
The Langham, Chicago
Situated in the circa-early-1970s IBM Building, that Mies van der Rohe marvel combining anodized aluminum and bronze-tinted glass, the Langham, Chicago made its debut in 2013. Bringing together the design talents of Richmond International, Van der Rohe’s grandson Dirk Lohan, and Rockwell Group, the hotel pairs soft, sleek materials like walnut, Alaskan white granite, and Botticino Fiorito marble. Prominent artwork woven throughout the hotel, whether calling to mind the Bauhaus or showcasing Chicago, fosters a museum-like setting.
The Watergate Hotel, Washington, D.C.
Scandal will always be synonymous with the Watergate Hotel, but that notorious 1972 burglary aside, there is another reason to find fascination here. Back in 1965, when Italian architect Luigi Moretti built the imaginative curved building, it caused quite a stir in conservative D.C. circles. Ron Arad’s 2016 revamp draws on this adventurous design heritage, with hand-painted brass tubes and an art sculpture comprising 2,500 bottles of whiskey beckoning in the lobby. Renowned chef Jean-Louis Palladin held court at his eponymous restaurant in the Watergate for almost 20 years, and now Kingbird, strewn with curvy red banquettes, spiral chandeliers, and twisted columns crafted from mirror-polished stainless steel, pays homage to the glamorous Palladin era.
The Siam Hotel, Bangkok
Bangkok is an energizing city, but undoubtedly a chaotic one, which is why staying at the Siam is such a delightfully restorative surprise. Private, pool-dotted courtyards are a tranquil departure from the inevitable sprawl of traffic just outside. The boutique property, designed by Bill Bensley, arrived on the scene in 2012 and quickly gained a following for its restrained Art Deco spirit. Antiques fill the suites, which are done up in palettes of black, white, and cream and fittingly accentuated by natural materials including wood, leather, and stone.
Royal Mansour Marrakech
Royal Mansour, commissioned by King Mohammed VI, only opened in 2010, but already it’s as beloved as its illustrious Marrakech neighbors like La Mamounia, because of 3BIS Architecture’s modern interpretation of Moroccan culture. Here, guests stay in riads of their own, savoring elaborate tiles, mashrabiya screens, and open-air courtyards buoyed by soothing water fountains. If there is a reason to leave the terrace pool, it is for the centerpiece spa, where hammam rituals are heightened by a dreamy backdrop of intricate white metal lace.
SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace, Jaipur, India
Dubbed the Pink City, Jaipur’s flair for color is amplified at Rajmahal Palace. Although the hotel is new (2015), the building flaunts centuries of history; it was first built as a private palace for a maharaja’s wife in the 18th century. In 1821 the British Resident Political Officer made it his home before it passed on to another maharaja. Soon it was attracting guests like Jacqueline Kennedy and Queen Elizabeth, for whom its suites are named. Designed by Adil Ahmad, the hotel’s swirl of bright colors and vibrant patterns—the guest rooms’ bespoke wallpaper is especially impressive—is cheerful and inviting yet infused with Art Deco intrigue.
The Peninsula Hong Kong
Since 1928, the Peninsula Hong Kong, the hotel that launched one of the most venerated luxury hospitality brands, has wowed with its vaulted ceilings and ornate cornicing. But it doesn’t rest on a splendid past: A few years ago, the Gettys Group updated the property, modernizing while ensuring it remained classy, with design reminiscent of yachts, motorcars, and private jets. Now silk, gold leaf, and copper mesh with cream upholstery, leather-finished wardrobes, and drawer handles that channel vintage luggage.
Palace Hotel Tokyo
Under the orders of the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces, in 1947 the former Forestry Office of the Imperial Household transitioned into the Western-style Hotel Teito, designed for diplomats helping to rebuild Japan in the aftermath of World War II. By 1961 it had become the Palace, which was then razed to make way for the 2012 iteration. This version has a deep connection to nature and the Imperial Palace Gardens specifically—all rooms have views of the landscaped grounds—that is reinforced through the deep green hand-tufted carpets, leaf-shaped bar in Bar Lounge Privé, and the tamukeyama momiji Japanese maple tree sprucing up a lobby seating area.
One Aldwych, London
One Aldwych opened as a hotel in 1998, but before that, this Covent Garden building, one of the most esteemed Edwardian examples in the city built by Charles Mewès and Arthur Davis of Ritz Paris and London fame, was home to the Morning Post newspaper. Since a renovation earlier this year, the double-height lobby bar designed by Fabled Studio has a whiff of Art Nouveau, mixing wrought-iron screens with original paneling. Guest rooms by Robert Angell have a decidedly U.K. bent; coral, celadon green, soft blue, and lavender palettes are rounded out with British-made furniture and Scottish wool.
Hotel Locarno, Rome
Artists, writers, and filmmakers have been flocking to Hotel Locarno since 1925. Long before the notion of a boutique hotel was established, this property off Piazza del Popolo was celebrating its values. Guests keep coming for cod-stuffed ravioli in the garden, but also for the charming time-capsule vibes, spawned by original frescoed ceilings in the annex dating from 1905, painted glass doors, and such furniture finds as a 17th-century dresser.
Le Bristol, Paris
Hippolyte Jammet founded Le Bristol Paris in 1925, within a Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré mansion that during World War II held a secret air-raid shelter. Its natural light-filled guest rooms are fresh but opulent: a mélange of crystal, velvet, taffeta, and silk. In the daytime, a rooftop pool and garden spa, both Parisian rarities, compete with sightseeing; in the evenings, attention turns to the cocktails sipped on one of the sofas in the Pierre-Yves Rochon–designed bar.
La Concha Resort, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Revering local materials, cross-ventilation, and wide, open spaces are hallmarks of Tropical Modernism. The movement, in the midst of a comeback, is exemplified in La Concha, the San Juan resort completed by Osvaldo Toro and Miguel Ferrer in 1958. Best known for Perla, Mario Salvatori’s undulating seashell-shaped event venue with crystal walls, La Concha has a striking concrete façade that filters sunlight toward the interior corridors. A recent overhaul of the guest rooms by Jorge Rosselló has put the resort back in top condition, regaling guests with tropical lighting and a cool palette of blue, white, and cream.
The Fullerton Hotel, Singapore
In 2001, the Fullerton Hotel opened in a 1928 neoclassical building that once housed the nation’s General Post Office, the Exchange Room and Exchange Reference Library, and the swank Singapore Club. Doric columns, imposing porte cocheres, and coffered ceilings capture those early years of magnificence, just as the heritage rooms do, highlighting original cornices. Stay in one of the Straits rooms to access the Straits Club, decked out in Peranakan decor.
Fontainebleau Miami Beach
Miami modernist architect Morris Lapidus was ridiculed for the Fontainebleau when it opened in 1954, but his provocative curvilinear building ultimately ushered in a new chapter of edgy resort design. The Rat Pack–loving La Ronde supper club no longer exists, but parts of the lobby’s original bow tie-patterned marble floor, an ode to Lapidus’s necktie of choice, remains, as does his “Staircase to Nowhere.” These favorites are contemporized by James Turrell LED lighting installations and a trifecta of Ai Weiwei–designed chandeliers worth a cool million dollars each.
Fairmont Royal York, Toronto
Canadian Pacific Railway opened the Royal York Hotel in 1929 to complement Union Station, which had opened just a few years prior. When Rockwell Group was tasked with redesigning the public spaces of this Beaux-Arts building (now part of the Fairmont portfolio) for the hotel’s 90th anniversary, the firm referenced a golden age of rail travel. For instance, anchoring the lobby atrium—a blend of navy and copper hues, geometric Art Deco patterns, and Pullman car–style seating—is a double-height, double-sided clock tower.
Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, Dubai
If there’s a visual that springs to mind at the mere mention of Dubai, chances are it is the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, rising from its own man-made private island. One of the world’s tallest hotels, “the Arabian Tower” was designed by Tom Wright and opened in 1999, cementing Dubai’s reputation as a glitzy, futuristic paradise. A cascade waterfall, golden columns, and aquariums, matched with an abundance of rare Statutario marble that Michelangelo also purportedly used for his sculptures, create an interior that’s every bit as dramatic as its façade.
Alvear Palace, Buenos Aires
Europeans were coming to Buenos Aires in droves in the 1920s, and so Alvear Palace, conceived by a businessman and socialite, opened in 1932 to sate tourists with top-notch service and amenities. Crystal chandeliers and gold leaf walls were in place, conjuring an atmosphere redolent of Louis XV and Louis XVI. An emblem of the posh Recoleta neighborhood, Alvear Palace still feels regal, particularly when sitting down in a cane chair to white glove afternoon tea service at L’Orangerie. The glassed-in winter garden with arched windows and drapery smacks of bygone Paris.
Raffles Hotel Le Royal, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Usually it’s the Singapore outpost that gets talked about most often (even more so after its new look from Champalimaud Design), but the Phnom Penh Raffles is another worthy landmark. Originally, it opened as Hotel Le Royal in 1929, a bastion of Khmer, Art Deco, and French Colonial design, and shuttered in the wake of the brutal 1970s regime. Post–Khmer Rouge, it relaunched in 1997 after a thoughtful refurbishment that led to local artisans painting ceilings and fashioning outdoor sculptures. The guest rooms have a colonial air, but it’s the Elephant Bar that transports most with its subtle safari kitsch and cocktails like the signature Femme Fatale, whipped up for Jacqueline Kennedy during her 1967 visit to Cambodia.
Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas
The Bellagio made a sophisticated splash on Vegas when it opened in 1998 with its collection of celebrity chef-run restaurants, elevating the city’s culinary reputation from the home of ho-hum buffets to coveted fine-dining destination. But it’s since become a Strip standout for its devotion to art. Dale Chihuly’s expansive, colorful glass sculpture adorning the ceiling greets guests in the lobby, a prelude to the hotel’s art gallery, which is filled with a stellar permanent collection. There’s also the mesmerizing dancing fountain shows, sky-lit conservatory and botanical gardens, and Executive Parlor suites featuring their own billiards tables.
Hotel Valley Ho, Scottsdale, Arizona
Fed up with invasive paparazzi, frustrated celebrities have often found peace amid the desert surroundings of Scottsdale, relaxing by the diving pool of Hotel Valley Ho. Dreamed up by modernist architect Edward Varney, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s students, the hotel opened in 1956 but lost its playful, hedonistic sheen when Ramada brought it into its fold in the 1970s. Now restored to minimalist-Southwest glory, its mod decor is balanced with the likes of sleek terrazzo-tile bathrooms and floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking the buzzy OH Pool and shady cabanas.
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest