The clothes maketh the man, but it takes some of the shine off if said clothes reside in a dull wardrobe in an uninspired hotel in the blandest part of the city. While not everyone can design a hotel to their exact tastes, at the very least you can find somewhere far cooler to stay than the usual chains and comfortable, traditionally luxurious places – somewhere that’ll have your Instagram followers eating out of the palm of your hand. Here, then, are the coolest design hotels in the world.
1. Treehotel, Sweden
There’s getting back to nature then there’s Sweden’s Treehotel. The ‘tree’ part of the name is right; this magnificent slice of Architectural Digest is situated among the pines of the Arctic Circle, a dramatic, sweeping landscape generally under a good layer of snow. The hotel part… now that’s up for debate. Rather than a single hub, Treehotel is made up of seven individually-designed treehouses, each suspended somewhere in the canopy of the pines. They range from a teetering cabin to a mirrored cube camouflaged in the forest to an actual UFO, accessible via ladder. Eclectic doesn’t even begin to describe this place.
Inside, the treehouses are perfectly comfortable with heating, electricity and water all self-sustained within the hotel – which is a good thing, given that it’s pretty damn remote. But then that’s the point; book your quirky cabin of choice and head out into the Scandinavian wilderness in style.
Rooms from £375, treehotel.se
2. Pumphouse Point, Australia
hydroelectric power plant might not be the first place you’d want to stay, but this extraordinary hotel jutting out into the middle of Tasmania’s Lake St Claire begs to prove you wrong. Pumphouse Point is a miraculous feat of engineering and its transformation into a hotel has left plenty of the industrial heritage intact. On the other hand there are floor to ceiling windows in most rooms granting unobstructed views across the surrounding water.
The result is a kind of rugged comfort, a brutalist luxury that it’s hard not to love. Like the hotel itself, the food and drink is uncomplicated but comforting, with fresh, seasonal ingredients in line with the natural environment around the obviously man-made hotel. Bear in mind though that there are actually two buildings to the hotel – the shorehouse and the pumphouse. Make sure you book the right one.
Rooms from £170, pumphousepoint.com.au
3. Mama Shelter, France
If you feel like you’ve an appreciation for cool, industrial design then you’re probably a fan of Philippe Starck. The Frenchman is one of the most influential modern designers and at Mama Shelter in Paris’ historic Bagnolet district, he has channelled every inch of his creativity into an impressively unique hotel. This is a world away from the staid, classical interiors you’ll find in most Parisian stays; it’s darker, edgier and tinged with plenty of neon.
Throw in plenty of off-kilter furniture and evocative objets d’art and you have the kind of interiors that keep you entranced. Fortunately for anyone staying longer than an Instagram pic, it’s also pretty comfortable, especially with a Michelin-starred chef helming the restaurant and a stunning rooftop terrace. There are a few Mama Shelters around the world now – all quirkily different of course – but the original remains the best, and one of the best-value propositions in Paris.
Rooms from £82, mamashelter.com
4. The Warehouse Hotel, Singapore
Singapore is a striking modern city-state, the kind of place that seems to have been planned out from inception to be the perfect urban environment. The Warehouse Hotel therefore is a welcome dose of the old world, situated in a converted spice warehouse dating back to the 19th century. Its riverside location speaks for itself, but the hotel’s charm lies in the remaining architecture.
It’s dwarfed by most of the buildings nearby yet feels anything but small inside, with the cavernous lobby echoing the hotel’s industrial heritage. Mixed with plenty of modern design touches in the rooms, it’s old world meets new. The hotel’s restaurant Po, however, strives to keep to the old with a traditional Malay feel and some seriously good Singaporean food to match. It’s the perfect place for a flying visit to Singapore.
Rooms from £160, thewarehousehotel.com
5. Artist Residence, London
If the over-the-top grandeur of most London hotels is getting a bit much for a quiet stay in the capital – we wouldn’t blame you – then check out Artist Residence, which combines quaint Victorian architecture with galleryclass artworks. London’s branch of Artist Residence (others being dotted around the UK) is situated in a quiet part of Pimlico, a stone’s throw from the most desirable addresses in the capital. There are only ten rooms to this most boutique of boutique hotels, each individually designed and each with its own selection of contemporary artworks from the likes of Tommy Clarke and Harland Miller. The building itself used to be a pub, and there are plenty of upcycled touches throughout to hammer that home, creating a quirky, comfortable and almost painfully British hotel for the ideal under-the-radar London visit.
Rooms from £160, artistresidence.co.uk
6. Sanluis Hotel, Italy
Looking more like a lakeside commune than a traditional hotel, San Luis is a quiet, pensive retreat surrounded by the mountains, trees and waters of Italy’s rugged Tyrol region. If you enjoy being on the water, there’s surely nowhere you’d rather go than this. Each of the chalets and treehouses has floor-to-ceiling windows, and the locally-sourced wooden buildings make you feel very at one with nature – as do the hot tubs sat in the middle of the lake.
A huge communal spa acts as the central hub of San Luis, and takes great advantage of the surrounding natural environment. Don’t worry about the time of year you visit either. In Summer you get glorious warmth while in the winter the lake freezes over enough to ice skate before retreating to each room’s open fireplace in true Alpine style. If you want utmost privacy from the world, San Luis is for you.
Rooms from £261, sanluis-hotel.com
7. The Silo, South Africa
What was once the tallest building in sub-Saharan Africa, a massive grain elevator, has now been transformed into… well, one of the tallest hotels in sub-Saharan Africa. Lording over Cape Town, The Silo is a work of architectural art, with 18-foot pillowed windows lending stunning views across the V&A Waterfront. In fact, so important to Cape Town is The Silo that the bottom half of the hotel is home to the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which aims to compete with the likes of MoMA and our own Tate Modern.
From the inside those huge, geometrically-framed windows provide a sleek, industrial feel, especially when paired with colourful furniture and plenty of art. It’s a heady mix, no matter which floor of the hotel you find yourself on and like nothing else in South Africa.
Rooms from £699, theroyalportfolio.com
8. Hotel Unique, Brazil
When São Paulo architect Ruy Ohtake was given the brief to create an individual, eye-catching hotel, he didn’t hold back. Rather than opt for something as prosaic as four square walls and a roof, he instead decided to seemingly run a cruise ship aground and build the hotel from its hulk. The result is Hotel Unique – and unique it is. The design doesn’t stop at the eye-popping exterior either. Narrow, almost claustrophobic corridors give way to huge, high-ceilinged atriums with plenty of glass and an impressive amount of natural light, a dazzling contrast that you won’t soon get used to.
Floor-to-ceiling windows and ships’ portholes offer unbeatable views across São Paulo, though the best views are from the rooftop. The rooftop bar and pool area is where you’ll find yourself spending every spare second. Luridly coloured and with an extensive cocktail list, it’s the ideal place to soak up the tropical sun. Oh and the pools all have underwater sound-systems. Well, this is Brazil; party vibe is a given.
Rooms from £212, hotelunique.com