A New Wave of Hotels Offer High Design on a Low Budget

by  Karen Gardiner | Nov 13, 2013
Qbic London
Qbic London / Photo courtesy of the property

With the Millennial generation growing up, the travel industry is beginning to see a gap in the market for sophisticated young travelers on a budget. Budget-chic brands such as CitizenM and Marriott's Moxy, which offer high design and low price points, are booming, while budget brands such as Radisson are undergoing a design-focused overhaul. The result is that the high-end experience is being redefined: luxurious is no longer synonymous with expensive. That's good news for travelers of all generations; gone are the days when a low budget meant bland and basic accommodations - as the following worldwide hotels prove.

New York City: Playland Motel

Located way out in Rockaway Beach in Queens, the Playland Motel, which opened in summer 2013, restored a 19th -century building and engaged 12 artists and designers to curate each of the guest rooms. Each season, artists and designers will update the rooms' designs according to their own aesthetic. Rooms currently available to book include Kate Pane's Coconut Castle room, which the artist describes as "a hot and heavy girlhood frolic with glitter sunburns, ponies and wet swimsuits."

The Playland Motel is also home to a popular bar, diner, and pizzeria. The scene is young and the music loud. Rooms (with shared bathrooms) go for around $160 a night.

London: Qbic

The Qbic, which has another property in Amsterdam, prioritizes the hotel experience by saying they "treat a hotel not merely as a place to sleep but as a meeting place for the like-minded. A theatre for the spontaneous. A space that opens to its surrounding area and welcomes life in." That's not at the expense of amenities, though, all rooms feature “immaculate cleanliness, a comfortable bed, a great shower, soundless bedrooms and free WiFi,” all for rates that start at around $100.

The Qbic London is located just off Brick Lane in the hip East London Shoreditch district and funky design details include rugs that resemble postage stamps and bright pops of canary yellow in the bathrooms. The hotel is running a remarkable sale in which you can score a room for £1. Go here for further details.

Reykjavik: Hlemmur Square

Pricey Reykjavík has long lacked accommodation options that are both affordable and stylish; the new Hlemmur Square helps remedy that situation - though you might have to share a room. Hlemmur Square, which opened in the spring of 2013 and is located on the city 's main street, is the latest property from hotelier Klaus Ortlieb of New York's Gotham Hotel and London's Claridge's.

The hotel's 248 beds are available across the three floors of dormitory space where rooms are outfitted in bright Danish-designed furniture, while 18 hotel rooms have their own floor and many have private balconies with views across the colorful rooftops of the city. Hlemmur Square has a bar featuring a large selection of beers from around the world, and the hotel also offers a changing selection of discounts on accommodation, drinks, tours, car hire and more when you book via their website.

Rates for a bed in the hostel start at $20 and hotel room rates start at $175.

Mexico City: Downtown México

Downtown México is part of design-savvy Grupo Habita's collection (they are also responsible for the Hôtel Americano in New York City. Located city’s historic center, Downtown occupies a renovated 17th century palace. Habita’s typical contemporary design blends with original features such as high ceilings and a brick faςade. The hotel has two courtyard restaurants, as well as a rooftop bar and pool.

Rates at the 17-room Downtown start at around $130 a night, which is such a reasonable price that you almost don't need to hear about the rates at the hotel's hostel annex:  for the record rates at Downtown Beds start at $15 per night in an eight-person dorm, or $42 for a private room ($46 if you want your own bathroom).

Edinburgh: Motel One

The German hotel chain, Motel One have 45 properties throughout Europe - from Austria to Germany and Belgium - and are expanding quickly, with planned openings in London and Glasgow. At the Motel One Edinburgh Royal, in the heart of the city's Old Town, next to the Waverley Railway Station, you'll pay only $95 for a basic room (with no view). That rate includes WiFi but no breakfast - a buffet breakfast costs $12 extra.

Bedrooms at the Motel One Royal are decorated in neutral palettes with a bright pop in the turquoise-colored blankets. Bathrooms feature sleek marble furnishings and you'll find tartan accents - and an extensive whisky collection - at the bar.

Miami: Freehand

Interiors at the Freehand, which opened in the summer of 2012, were designed by Roman and Williams, the duo responsible for New York City's Ace Hotel, Royalton, Viceroy, and Standard. The designers took inspiration from oceanside summer camps and boathouses. The interiors and 60 rooms (15 of which are private) feature bright colors and artwork from local Miami Beach artists, and facilities include an outdoor pool.

Rates start at $24 for a bunk bed in a shared dorm and $109 for your own room with a king size bed and private bathroom. The restaurant is scheduled to open in early 2014, but, as for now, at the onsite Broken Shaker bar, you can sip handcrafted cocktails such as the Rhum and Funk, made with Cocoa Puffs–infused rhum agricole.

Barcelona: Generator Hostel

The hip Generator chain have hostels all over Europe - including Copenhagen, Berlin, Venice, and London - but the Barcelona property is the only one to also have private hotel-style accommodation. Anwar Mekhayech (of Soho House) was responsible for the property’s bright and colorful urban design look. The 154-room property offers a variety of room types, all of which are en-suiteLocated on the top three floors of the property, each hotel room has its own private balcony with striking views of the city, and the penthouse suite includes a terrace with wrap-around balcony, hot tub, DJ decks, and a wet bar.

Rates start at $65 for a private single room with bathroom, or $13 for a bed in a mixed-sex dorm.

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