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The beloved bohemian hotel, Café Cultura—known for whimsical frescoes, blazing hearths, and a cozy, lived-in feel—has traded its postcolonial villa for a princely mansion in the same New Town district of Quito, Ecuador. Built in 1937, the mansion’s former incarnation was as the elite Club Pichincha where the crème de la crème of society would gather. A striking mixture of Art Deco details and Republican–style architecture, the structure won Quito’s most prestigious architectural award in 1937.

“The new house was an opportunity we couldn’t resist,” says owner László Károlyi. “The social areas and gardens are unmatched.”

Before the hotel moved in, Károlyi had local craftsmen spend a year restoring every detail, from the elaborate wood paneling to the intricate stone carvings around the archways. Suites will be decked out with antique freestanding bathtubs, vintage furniture and, in some, balconies. Seven suites will be ready in February, with an eventual total of 27, including a grand terrace suite with views for miles.

Despite its fancier digs, we predict Café Cultura’s quirky atmosphere will carry over, and it’ll continue to be the kind of place where locals meeting for a drink brush shoulders with nonprofit types and celebrities, or where an Argentine artist might ask to stay for a month or two in exchange for paintings and is welcomed with open arms. From $150/night; cafecultura.com

From the Smart Luxury Awards 2009 issue of Sherman's Travel magazine

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