Twenty years ago, hotels would have never been seen as design inspiration. But what once only served weary travelers now attracts decor aficionados who travel with the mere purpose of seeing hotel rooms designed by Ralph Lauren or Vera Wang.
"When I came to Toronto 40 years ago, there weren't many hotels," says Klaus Tenter, who has been in the hotel business for over 40 years and is one of Canada's most preeminent hoteliers. "Now there are so many new hotels. As a hotel, you can no longer steal people away because you're a name, you have to steal people away because you look good."
This isn't just a Toronto phenomenon. Cutting edge hotels are popping up all over the world. Though you're sure to find design inspiration from cities around the globe, you're just as likely to find it in the washrooms at Toronto's five-star Hazelton Hotel.
Read on to find out which hotels most inspire us.
1 Mandarin Oriental
Why we love it
Mandarin Oriental is known the world over as a leading hotel chain. The Miami location is situated right on the waterfront. Inspiring enough, right? Well, once you walk into one of the fabulous Spa Lifestyle rooms, you’ll be taken with the balanced, stress-free and healthy environment.
The inspiration for Miami's Mandarin is unmistakably healthy living. The rooms have beautiful, crisp white upholstery and bedding that will have you waking up feeling refreshed, and it looks really sharp in contrast with the dark wood furniture. The bed and couch have bright coloured, Asian-inspired cushions and throws that pop against their white background.
The Zen-like decor is free of clutter and incredibly calming. The Bamboo-accented marble bathroom and the room's small accents, like the lightly scented candles, encourages you to relax and pamper yourself whenever you feel like it—while looking out towards Biscayne Bay and the Miami skyline!2 Four Seasons Hualalai
Big Island, Hawaii
Why we love it
Avid travelers know that Four Seasons hotels and resorts exude luxury, and the Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island in Hawaii is no exception. What we love the most is how the rooms offer a feeling of seclusion—as though you're the only one taking in what the Big Island has to offer. Once finished exploring the beach, the resort's six pools, spa, the renowned Jack Nicklaus golf course, the expansive island art collection and exceptional dining amenities, the rooms offer a perfect place to kick back and relax while taking in the scenic sunset.
The style of the resort itself is inspired by common mid-1900s Hawaiian architecture. The guest rooms, located in bungalow-style buildings, are truly inspired by Big Island's environment, with bamboo, thatch and slate used predominantly in both design and decor. Cherry wood doors open wide to the view of the bright blue North Kona Coast and its beautiful beaches.
The rooms have a very laidback quality, which mimics the feel of the island. Crisp white bed linens topped with sand-coloured throws, soft-coloured walls and bright windows offer an open, light and airy quality to the rooms.
We also love the minimalist approach to wall hangings, furniture and upholstery. The lack of distraction instills a sense of wellbeing and truly allows for some rest and relaxation.3 Evason Six Senses and Spa
Why we love it
The Evason Six Senses and Spa in Phuket, Thailand is located on the southeastern side of Phuket Island amongst 64 acres of tropical scenery and looks out over the phenomenal Andaman Sea. The hotel mimics the refreshing and relaxing feel of the island, all the while maintaining a modern approach to design.
The Evason Junior Suite is a room dominated by bright, vibrant colours. It features a large balcony overlooking stunning scenery with a spot on a lounge chair to relax and a table and chairs to eat breakfast at with your travel mate.
We especially love the bright, open-style bathroom. The wide doors allow for the sun to flood the bathroom, making it appear larger than it is. The unique light fixtures accentuate the height of the room and the big mirrors play up the room's space. We also love the "his and hers" sinks; this makes getting ready for a day at the beach quick and easy.4 Ka'ana Boutique Resort and Spa
San Ignacio, Belize
Why we love it
Ka'ana Boutique Resort in San Ignacio is a perfect choice for travelers seeking luxurious accommodation in Belize. The resort, located in Belize's Cayo district, is surrounded by the lush Maya Mountains. Its setting is perfect for relaxing by the resort's infinity pool. Or, better yet, enjoying one of the many spa services in a pool side treatment room.
The resort features 15 white bungalow-style stucco cottages, or casitas, located along a quiet tree-lined path. The cottages' pitched roofs are supported by exposed rafters, which gives the bungalows a spacious feel. White walls, upholstery and furnishings also contribute to the crisp and airy quality of the cottages' rooms. The Ka'ana Boutique Resort and Spa truly embraces simplicity in its most luxurious form.
What we love the most is how both the designer, Brendan O'Donogue, and resort owners, Irish brothers Colin and Ronan Hannan, insisted on using local resources when it came to decor. The stunning furniture is all made in Belize with local wood and local artisans created all of the resort's artwork. Even the local spa technicians use Belize-grown ingredients in their spa treatments, which are based on ancient Mayan remedies.5 Klaus K Hotel
Why we love it
The Klaus K Hotel, located in Helsinki, Finland, has been around since 1913. After serving tourists and locals alike for over 65 years, new manager Marc Skvorc decided to shake things up. In 2005 and 15 million euros later (about $24 million CDN for us on this side of the pond), Helsinki saw Klaus K transformed into a modern marvel and is now one of Helsink'’s foremost design hotels. Not only is it well known to tourists, but locals flock there to enjoy Klaus K's two restaurants and its trendy Ahjo lounge.
The design of the hotel is inspired by Finland's famous epic poem, The Kalevala, which illustrates the four emotions of mysticism, passion, desire and envy. Like its national epic, Klaus K depicts these emotions thoroughly, only the medium is the decor of the 137 guest rooms.
The rooms are mystical indeed! We love the dark, chocolaty browns mixed with the rich burgundies in the Passion Room (picture above). The white bedding and curtains look really sharp against the dark hardwood, and the textured fabrics add a creative touch to the room. The Scandinavian-style bed with a high headboard lends a grandiose, fantastical feel to the room.6 Mantra South Bank
Why we love it
Located in Brisbane, Australia, the Mantra South Bank hotel and apartments is a perfect example of contemporary design. The modern building is situated across the street from the scenic South Bank Park and overlooks the Brisbane River. The hotel has 161 studio rooms, plus one- and two-bedroom apartments, and the top four floors consist of private residences. It boasts a chic bar and restaurant, gym, spa and a heated lap pool.
We love how the Mantra hotel took a minimalist approach when it came to decorating the studio rooms. The crisp white walls and natural light perfectly showcase the room’s modern art. The simple furnishings (the light coloured hardwood bed, dresser and desk, plain lamps and clean-lined, modern chairs) are unobtrusive and make the room feel very spacious. The orange throw, salmon pink chair and colourful contemporary art contribute a fresh look to the modern rooms.7 Hazelton Hotel
Why we love it
The Hazelton Hotel, located in Toronto, Canada is a design inspiration from top to bottom, inside and out. This five-star hotel is a hot spot for glitterati during the Toronto International Film Festival, so needless to say it has many aspects that warrant mention. However, the hotel's granite laden bathrooms are worth a mention here.
We love the large-cut granite stone and are partial to both the super deep soaker tub and rain head shower. Another great feature of the bathroom is the TV that’s built right into the mirror. Talk about a space saver.
"The bathrooms are unique for a hotel. We used full-scale stones, which were massive. We added walkthrough wardrobes and heated floors. The two-person tub is also unheard of, but we wanted to give a residential-style washroom," commented Yabu Pushelberg, the Hazelton's room designer. "It's luxurious without being ostentatious. It's timeless and classic design, not trendy."8 Four Seasons Gresham Palace
Why we love it
The Four Seasons Gresham Palace in Budapest, Hungary is a perfect example of art nouveau architecture. A misleading name, Gresham Palace was never a palace, despite its grandeur. The building, rich in history, was completed in 1906 to house Britain’s foreign headquarters of the Gresham Life Insurance Company; during World War II it provided shelter for Soviet troops; suffered severe damage during the 1956 Hungarian uprising; and then was neglected for decades. The palace was restored (a five-year, $110-million renovation) and reopened as a hotel in 2004. It is renowned for its grand, sweeping staircases, beautiful stained glass, leaded glass windows and peacock-adorned gates.
The lobby is, in a word, breathtaking. The high, glass-domed ceiling does justice to the building and the stunning chandelier, made with clear glass, makes a perfect focal piece. We also love the marble floor and columns in the lobby, which lend perfectly to the grandiose feel. A palace, indeed!9 Claridge's
Why we love it
Claridge's hotel, located in the Mayfair area of London, England is known around the world as a traditional and elegant representation of English design. The hotel is rich in both history and style that is truly reflected in its decor. From its inception, Claridge's has had the most influential architects and designers contribute to the Art Deco Jewel of Mayfair, as the hotel is now known.
C. W. Stephens, famous for designing the renowned Harrods, was commissioned in 1894 to redesign the row of houses that once served as Claridge's. In 1898, Claridge's reopened. Come the late 1920s, the hotel wanted to embrace the popular and funky art deco style, and asked the famous Basil Ionides to redesign the restaurant and some of the suites. Most of Ionides modern style-choices still exist at Claridge's and are still thought of as contemporary.
Though famous designers continue to make their mark, they all pay homage to the original, unspoiled traditional and art deco decor.
In 2008, British furniture and interior design company LINLEY was commissioned to redesign some of Claridge's rooms. The LINLEY 'Hybrid' Suite, pictured above, was one of them. LINLEY sought to combine Stephens' and Ionides' styles, which was done quite successfully. By using original pieces from the turn of the century and the 1930s, LINLEY kept the traditional feel, and by incorporating new, specially designed pieces was able to attain a 21st century look.
We love how the monochromatic look lends a dramatic and sleek style to the room. The use of long mirrors and reflective surfaces makes the room appear more spacious. The use of textured fabrics elevates the room to a level of luxury and glamour, all the while maintaining a look of comfort.10 Place D'Armes
Why we love it
Montreal's Place D'Armes Hotel and Suites is a beautiful boutique hotel located in Old Montreal. The hotel's exterior is the perfect fusion of architecture that spans over three different centuries. One part of the building was built as early as 1870 where the Great Scottish Life Insurance Company built its Montreal offices. This sort of history is what gives the exterior of the building its character and fine detail. In 1975, the building was designated a historical site by the Quebec provincial government.
Once you set foot inside, you'll notice the seamless integration of contemporary decor and design. It's the perfect marriage of old-world charm and modern design.
We love how the rooms are stylish, yet comfortable. The Executive Suite is spacious and offers all the amenities of your own home—the most notable, an electric fireplace. We love the high ceilings and large windows, which flood the room with light and allow for impromptu people watching. Rich woods and dark leather give the room a modern and sophisticated look. The textured black throw fits perfectly against the crisp white bed linen.
The hotel's prime location significantly adds to the experience. Situated in the heart of Old Montreal, an area that has been undergoing a mass gentrification, the hotel perfectly reflects the grandeur of the neighbourhood that once served as Montreal’s main hub.