Travelers want a real sense of place when they stay in a hotel, and designers are doing their part to make sure guests feel completely immersed in a destination from the moment they arrive. Here are just a few notable hotels from historic to ultra-modern (and modern twists on historic properties) that are evoking destination in their design.
The airline-inspired Yotel brand already has a solid presence in airports and in urban hubs alike. The New York property, opened in 2011, was designed in collaboration by Rockwell Group and Softroom, and blends the airport aesthetic with a distinctly Gotham vibe, starting with the façade – pre-cast concrete surfacing lit with LEDs based on the brand’s logo. The lobby combines a “streamlined and futuristic” look with natural, classic touches. For example, a warm oak canopy covers the central feature of the space – the Yobot, a theatrically-lit robotic baggage drop-off machine. The inner workings of the robot are exposed to create a mechanical performance for the guests as it loads and stores their belongings.
Yotel will open its first conversion hotel later this year in San Francisco. The historic Grant Building was constructed in 1904 and is one of three buildings in the area to survive the city’s infamous 1906 earthquake. Now, it is under construction and is slated to become the 203-guestroom Yotel San Francisco this fall.
In Napa Valley, Las Alcobas, a member of Marriott’s Luxury Collection soft brand, opened in mid-2017. The main building in the complex, Acacia House, dates back to 1905 and has been fully restored with a wraparound porch. Encouraging guests to take advantage of the location, the property’s guestrooms have terraces with fireplaces, and 10 have outdoor soaking tubs. Guests can sit outside and look out over the adjacent vineyards, reportedly close enough to smell the grapes on the vines. (Bonus: Guests can get special access to the bottles, making this a great choice for wine lovers.)
The property’s interiors, designed by international firm Yabu Pushelberg, have custom furniture and spa-like bathrooms with soaking tubs and showers, stone-carved sinks, and marble throughout. In-room amenities include local wine and unique “alebrijes” — Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures (seen in the recent film Coco) that were handcrafted in Mexico City.
In Costa Rica, El Mangroove is a boutique 85-suite hotel that joined Marriott’s Autograph Collection soft brand in 2016. The resort’s design incorporates natural elements from the country – think local wood and water features, along with bamboo, stone, and natural furnishings that merge all indoor and outdoor spaces. The hotel has a fitness center with outdoor “wild-fit” areas and multi-functional exercise decks.
The 350-room Hotel Indigo Los Angeles Downtown opened last year as a sister property to the larger InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown. Although it is a chain, each property can create its own story and theme. The Los Angeles property celebrates the life and career of Anna May Wong, Hollywood’s first Chinese-American movie star. Much of the artwork at the hotel evokes Wong and 1920s Hollywood. For example, the design on the carpet looks like camera flashes, and old photos are recreated in large scale on the walls. A video installation celebrates the Fiesta de los Flores, a flower-themed parade that used to be held in the area. Other floral artwork can be seen throughout the public spaces, complementing the historic Hollywood elements.
In downtown Los Angeles, the historic Mayfair Hotel emerged from a major renovation last year that brought the property back to its historic heyday. At nearly a century old, the hotel now evokes its heritage with old maps of the city covering one wall of most guestrooms and preserved historic elements in the public spaces. Designer Gulla Jonsdottir recreated the look of the hotel’s original ceiling with a new chandelier that casts upwards shadows with the original pattern. Most of the lobby’s custom-made furniture is a mix of antique and new.
Whether a hotel is historic or new, there are plenty of ways to evoke a destination in its design, from small touches to the whole architecture. It’s never too late to update a property’s look with some local inspiration, and even the smallest details can have a big impact on a guest’s experie