Top 10 Designer Hotels

by  ShermansTravel Editorial Staff | Nov 2, 2009
Bulgari Hotel Bali
Bulgari Hotel Bali / Photo courtesy of the property

For true style mavens, there’s no need to stop at simply wearing decadent designer duds when you can live, breathe, eat, and sleep them, too, quite literally, at one of these deluxe designer hotels. Bearing the high-fashion fingerprints of their high-profile designers (from Lagerfeld to Lauren to Lacroix), fashion-branded properties have become the mode du jour, providing their creators a way to more firmly establish their luxury-lifestyle brands (many already have their hands in everything from home furnishing to beauty product lines). These fortresses of fashion have been derived by either a co-branded, new-concept partnership between the designer and an established hotel brand, or via the redesign of an existing property under their creative control. Of all of the options currently on the rack, we found these 10 runway-ready designer hotels to be the best fit, marrying style and sophistication with extraordinary taste and design sensibility – they’re guaranteed to have a shelf life that will easily outlast yesterday’s catwalk collection. Be sure to see our Designer Hotels Slideshow for glimpses of these hot, haute hotels!

Bulgari Hotel, Bali

Considering Bulgari’s distinguished command of the luxury realm (established as a jewelry brand in 1884, the company has also made a name in watches, fragrances, handbags, and accessories), crafting an exquisite design hotel chain – starting with Milan in 2004 – wasn’t a major stretch, especially with Marriott’s hotel expertise factoring heavily into the mix. Add a tastefully exotic dose of traditional Balinese style to the brand’s dramatic Italian pedigree and you get the Bulgari Hotel Bali, comprised of 59 ocean-view villas, all featuring hand-cut volcanic stones and exotic hardwoods, as well as a plunge pool and patio with secluded tropical garden. Opened in 2006, the super-indulgent cliff-top resort is located on the island’s far southwestern tip, just a 40-minute drive from touristy Kuta. But don’t expect throngs in thongs on the sand below the resort – Bulgari Resort’s true jewel, a secluded beach, is accessible only via the resort’s inclined elevator.

Byblos Art Hotel Villa Amistà, Verona

When Dino Facchini, heir to the Byblos fashion throne, transformed this 15th-century Venetian-style villa (just outside the company’s headquarters in Verona) into a jewel-box designer hotel, he saturated its walls with contemporary art from his eclectic personal collection, including pieces by internationally renowned artists Damien Hirst and Takashi Murakami. The ballroom bears large, striking photographs of female nudes, while the dining room showcases décollages made from shredded Byblos ads. The rest of the décor, handled by legendary Milanese designer Alessandro Mendini, mixes ornate Barocco style with a futuristic punch of pop-art furnishings, like Salvador Dali’s lip-shaped loveseat, tables by Frank Lloyd Wright, and Mendini’s hand-carved Proust armchair (also on permanent display at New York City’s MoMA). The 49 rooms and 11 suites radiate a rainbow of neon hues, many with four-post coronet beds dressed in vibrant swirl-patterned fabrics. Fountains frame the impeccably groomed grounds, which neighbor vineyards and encompass a stately terrace, zero-entry pool, and the Henry & Dominique Chenot Spa.

The g Hotel, Galway

High society’s hippest hat designer, Philip Treacy is the brilliant “mad hatter” behind this whimsical Irish gem in Galway. The native Irishman has created super-couture headwear for the likes of Chanel, Givenchy, and the British Royal Family (and had his first foray into footwear at a Valentino show in October 2009). His fanciful fingerprint reveals itself through ubiquitous stylistic cues in this 3-year-old, 101-room designer hotel, like in sea-shell-shaped bed pillows, a mirrored cocktail bar carpeted in a thousand red Swarovski crystals, and a low-lit lobby that serves as home to a tank-full of sea-horses (bred in nearby Connemara). Follow the raspberry hardwood-hugging carpets down the corridors to the three themed lounges, which boast funky quirks like a mélange of glass baubles dangling from the ceiling and a huge circular rug with hypnotic black and white swirls (dizzying after a few drinks). After relaxing in the spa’s thermal suite or Zen garden, slink into a plush purple banquette in g’s popular restaurant, helmed by (and named for) award-winning chef Stefan Matz – it’s considered Galway’s prime place for people-watching.

Halekulani, Waikiki

Primed for honeymooners and romance seekers, the crowning glory of Waikiki’s fabled Halekulani hotel is its massive, one-of-a-kind Vera Wang Suite (opened in 2005), bedecked with accessories hand-picked by its namesake Chinese-American designer (from Wang’s home furnishings collection). Known for her exquisite bridal gowns, and for her time as Vogue’s fashion editor, it’s clear that the same meticulous attention to detail and aptitude for graceful design required of these other métiers has manifested itself in her work at the Halekulani. Furnishings and decorative accents showcase rare pieces from the Hawaii, Pacific, and Asia regions, while the plush king-size bed (that's a Vera Wang Serta Mattress, naturally) is adorned with embroidered pillows that reflect patterns reminiscent of Wang’s gowns. Panoramic views of the beach and Diamond Head (a landmark extinct volcano) are a focal point for every room and for the heavenly open-air lanai. Even the master bath touts a stunning vista to go with its deep-soaking jetted tub for two, not to mention a selection of Vera Wang fragrances and body products. Suite guests enjoy 24-hour butler service, complimentary champagne, and private limousine airport transfers, as well as an intimate glimpse into the personal tastes of Ms. Wang, from the DVD collection featuring some of her favorite films to a menu highlighting some of her preferred foods (served on Vera Wang tableware, no less). Like what you see? Guests can purchase items from the hotel’s Vera Wang lifestyle boutique downstairs.

Hotel du Petit Moulin, Paris

“Harmony is a jigsaw of inspiration” for Christian Lacroix, famed French fashion designer beloved for his love of wild color combinations and theatrical design. So it comes as no surprise that he created a sensation when designing the interior of this bohemian boutique, set in a former boulangerie (bakery) in Paris’s chic Marais district, frequented by Victor Hugo for baguettes in its day (some 200 years ago). Each of the 17 en-suite rooms at Hotel du Petit Moulin feature a drastically different look – walls are covered in black leather or splashed with Lacroix’s metaphysical fashion sketches; others feature bejeweled headboards, bursts of violet color, and polka-dot prints. Fantastic king-size beds are wrapped in fine linens, attractively tiled bathrooms have large tubs, and WiFi is on tap. The one thing not included is a restaurant – but in this neighborhood, home to some of the best bistros and pastry shops in Paris, why bother?

Hotel Missoni, Edinburgh

77-year-old Rosita Missoni, founding fashionista of the iconic Italian brand renowned for its technicolor zigzag couture, kicked off her foray into the designer hotel fad in June 2009 with this feisty Edinburgh outpost. Housed in a modernist Milanese building just off the historic Royal Mile, the 136-room hotel’s patterned palette, straight out of a Missoni spread, puts minimalist mantras to shame. Shiny beaded curtains in the lobby have a groovy swagger, as do in-room silver-leather headboards and pop-art swivel chairs. Eggplant-toned bathrooms caped in shiny black tile feature heated mirrors – after rinsing off in the walk-in rain shower with colorful Missoni soaps, slip into a snazzy striped robe, and enjoy free-of-charge amenities that include the contents of your mini-bar, (limited) laundry service, and local calls. Free WiFi is also available throughout, and laptops are available for hire. Prosecco is on tap in the intimate ground-floor bar, while celeb-chef Giorgio Locatelli serves up seasonal antipasti (and full Scottish breakfasts) on kaleidoscopic tablecloths at Cucina, the in-house Italian restaurant. Look for more openings of the brand in Kuwait, Cape Town, Brazil, and Oman – Kuwait debuts as soon as spring 2010.

Palazzo Versace, Gold Coast

One of the first in the new-millennium wave of fashion-branded hotels (opened in 2000), pizzazz is replete at Palazzo Versace, situated on Australia’s Gold Coast in Southern Queensland. Donatella, Creative Director and sister of the late and legendary Gianni Versace, oversaw every detail of the resort’s opulent, neo-classical décor – from the imported Italian marble columns in the vaulted foyer to the selection of Gianni’s own designs and artwork gracing the walls. Every item in the 204 carefully appointed rooms and suites (plus 72 nearby condominiums) – from the furnishings to the crystal in each private bar – is “unmistakably Versace,” created either especially for the hotel or derived from the brand’s home collection. Pillow menus, free Internet, and complimentary bottles of men’s and women’s perfumes are gracious touches. Nearly 30 pools blanket the property (including a heated saltwater lagoon with its own sandy beach) in addition to a 90-slip private marina. The spa offers poolside tai-chi classes, and everything from seaplane tours of the Great Barrier Reef to Outback excursions can be arranged. Did we mention there’s shopping? An on-site Versace boutique, of course. Look for a Dubai branch of the chic resort to debut in 2010.

Round Hill Hotel and Villas, Jamaica

This fabled Jamaican jewel – comprised of an 18th century “great house” and 27 posh villas sprinkled over a golden-shored, lushly landscaped peninsula, west of Montego Bay – brings a sublime sense of style to the island’s tempting tourist trifecta of sun, surf, and sand, pleasantly devoid of the tacky all-inclusive elements so common to other Caribbean resorts. An understated elegance and sense of timeless glamour permeates the mood here, a fitting reflection of Ralph Lauren’s brand identity and his own hand on the place. The iconic American designer – known for selling designs that exude transformation and escape – has owned one of the villas as a vacation home here for over two decades (and bought a second one in 1996), and is only one of many celebrity style icons (Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Kennedy among them) who have used the Round Hill Hotel as their private haven. Opened in the early ‘50s as a club of private villas that instantly attracted celebrities and VIPs, the resort continues to draw discerning visitors in search of laidback luxury more than 50 years later, in no small part due to the $6 million redesign of the Pineapple House in 2004, under Lauren’s direction. The 36 oceanfront suites are drenched in soothing white, from the walls to stone floors to many of the furnishings (the latter are from Ralph Lauren’s Home Collection); the four-poster bamboo beds are draped in white netting and bedding. Splashes of tropical colors accent the crisp palette, as do brass and chrome finishings. Lauren's handiwork can also be observed in the resort’s stylish Main Bar. 

The Schlosshotel, Berlin

Karl Lagerfeld, the iconic fashion designer most famously known for his Chanel tours de force, has certainly mastered the classic tweed suit and chain link accessories – and his foray into interior design is proving to be just as demure. Berlin’s Schlosshotel, a palatial 1912 manor located in lush Grunewald (which translated means “green forest”) now wears a very glamorous guise, thanks to Lagerfeld’s fresh interiors. Like with his couture collections, Lagerfeld doesn’t neglect the details: plush fabrics, svelte lines, and rich leathers abound. Original Baroque features remain (note the epic staircase in the lounge and the marble fireplaces throughout the palace), but Lagerfeld has added his own luscious finishes like silk-covered walls and gilded moldings. The 53 rooms overflow with sumptuous fabrics – silk pillows and cascading curtains – and feature shimmering chandeliers, colorful art, and antiques. Evidently, the designer so enjoyed stamping his signature on the Schlosshotel he’s working on another hotel project in Dubai: We predict his Hotel Moda, part of Isla Moda, “the world’s first fashion island,” will be dreamy and dramatic, yet as timeless as a black cocktail dress.

Tcherassi Hotel + Spa, Cartagena

Prominent Latin women’s wear designer Silvia Tcherassi began her career as an interior designer so it’s no wonder her latest venture, the newly opened Tcherassi Hotel + Spa (September 2009), is already such a hit. The native Colombian went from the runway to real estate, intent on turning a 250-year-old mansion in the heart of Cartagena’s Old City into a haute boutique hotel. The décor thoroughly reflects the contemporary glamour of its maker, with original walls restored and brightened with a light dusting of real gold, custom-made amenities by the designer, and sleek guestrooms  and suites – all named after fabrics used in her apparel collections – with super-high ceilings and private balconies. The hacienda-style bolthole also offers a spa, an indoor/outdoor Italian restaurant VERA, and four pools – one of which is located on the third-floor roof deck, complete with daybeds, a bar, and 360-views of the city and sea. In her own words, Tcherassi compares her two creative passions, “fashion and hospitality are both businesses totally committed to the creation of new experiences and new sensations; trying to awaken the inner senses of each person, whether through a new style of clothes or a perfect stay in a beautiful environment.”

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