Guest article by Mikaela Bandini (Urban Destination Therapist) for Yatzer.com
Some hotels around the world just give you that feeling. They make you want to draw the curtains and hang up that ‘do not disturb’ sign for a couple of hours every time you set foot in your room. It makes no difference whether they’re boutique or bohemian, multinational or microscopic: they just have that certain something. The right ‘look & feel’ doesn’t just happen. And the experts now tell us that what we’re after is decidedly not the lofty monochrome interiors and harsh horizontal lines that have been considered the last word in hotel design for way too long. My classification contains some new entries and a couple of classics that, in my opinion, are still seriously in the running, based on (more-or-less) proven theories, and a dash of that plain simple gut feeling. Bear in mind that this is an Urban Travel Index so we’re excluding over-water bungalows or tented camps: stuff like that would be way too easy.
A few basics from Feng Shui are a good place to start if you’re aiming to unleash that positive ‘harmony’. It trashes some stereotypes we’ve gone along with for years. First and foremost, the ‘mirror over the bed’ trick. Get the mirrors out of the bedroom: off the walls, wardrobes, ceilings and wherever else they’ve been pasted. Next, steer clear of bathtubs in the bedroom and forget the shower-with-a-view. Feng Shui teaches us that water kills fire, and all that plumbing around the bed is really not good for your libido. Wiring and circuitry and indeed anything electrical should also be as far from love-makers as possible, so avoid the hotel with light fixtures above the bed. Bedrooms shouldn’t have pointy elements: they produce too much Yang in a place where we apparently need a predominance of Yin - feminine energy with softer lines. I never thought that too much Yang could do any harm, but I’m not going to argue just in case... And do away with all those electronics you’re carrying around. They’re also producing Yang, so get the Kindle off the bedside table and stash all your i-stuff where it can’t be seen or heard. What we do need are furnishings and décor in pairs, such as a couple of vases, matching armchairs, or anything hanging on the walls in multiples of two.
Color therapists assure us that red is the pigment of passion. We’re not talking necessarily Ferrari tones: just a dash of red to turn sky blue into lilac, or a drop of Pantone ®484 to warm up a dull brown or transform white into an almost- pink will do the job. Look for furniture in wood and leather, sheets in Egyptian cotton or bamboo, down feather duvets and upholstery in linen and silk. Stay with 100% natural materials.
Though I do a fair amount of travelling, I’m mostly on tour with my Viaggi di Architettura clients or Italian television troupes, so I don’t get much of a chance to do any serious R&D out there. But here’s my list of the best love-making hotels around the world, places where I’d gladly have traded in the cameraman for my long-time companion...
Waterhouse, Shanghai | CHINA
Shanghai deserves its very own list, with some of the hottest bolt-holes on the globe which have been mushrooming there over recent months. If I have to choose just one, my vote goes to the Waterhouse. In the developing neighbourhood of the South Bund, Neri & Hu took a rationalist building used by the Japanese army and turned it into an industrial-chic boutique hotel. The hall, bar and restaurant on G have the original concrete walls and ceilings, exposed brick and sexy sheets of Corten steel for window shutters. Move on up to the 19 rooms and the music changes, with a perfect colour scheme, soft fabrics, clean-cut design furnishings by B&B Italia and Moooi and lighting by Fontana Arte (to name but a few), not to mention the magnificent views over the Huangpu. To clinch the mood, enjoy a drink at the roof bar overlooking Pudong by night.
Dar Darma, Marrakech | MOROCCO
The Dar Darma is a XVIII century noble home transformed into a 6-room boutique in the Moqf quarter of the Medina in Marrakesh. You enter the low-lit main house through the typical Moroccan patio with fountain and lush greenery in oversized vases. A recent revamp enhanced chequered B/W floors, antique portals, original hand-painted woodwork and finishings. Warm earthy colours make for a superbly relaxing, intimate atmosphere. The rooms are just perfect: enormous, with heavy wooden furnishings, oversized armchairs and day beds, velvet and raw linen. Deep red and charcoal prevail, together with the scent of jasmine, throughout the huge salons and suites. When you can bear to leave your room, try the Hammam or the shaded roof terraces with sun beds by the pool and breathtaking views over the city.
Nobis, Stockholm | SWEDEN
The sexiest Scandinavian makeover of 2010 was actually an Italian Job. Roman-born Alessandro Catenacci, firstborn of five siblings in a family of restaurateurs in Stockholm for over half a century, transformed two bourgeois stone buildings into Stockholm’s finest hotel. One of the best atmospheres I’ve experienced in years comes from a blend of exquisite service, discretion in every aspect, airy living areas and perfect indirect lighting. The colour scheme moves from soft cappuccino to voluptuous hot chocolate, with dashes of purple and grey: absolutely perfect for our job.
> Award winning interiors by Claesson Koivisto Rune. Check.√
> Low slung design furniture. Check.√
> Egyptian cotton sheets. Check.√
> Giant four poster bed in original wood clad suite. Check.√
> Sex - therapy colour schemes throughout. Check.√
> Best bars in Stockholm. Check.√
> Room service from brother Stefano’s dig Caina downstairs. Check.√
The Crosby Street Hotel, New York | U.S.
Kit Kemp transformed this former SoHo car park into one of the slinkiest hospitality spaces this side of the Hudson. Their first venture in the States after six successful boutique hotels around London, Crosby Street also has a HD screening room, making it a favorite with the cinema crowd in true Firmdale style. Huge loft-style windows, stripped wooden floors throughout, fireplaces and bold colours mixed with loud fabrics give the whole place a kind of Biggie-Best-on-acid feeling. After one of their trademark high teas in the drawing room or leafy sculpture garden, retreat to the Meadow suite with its perfect tobacco colour palette, soft rugs, and French doors onto your own secret garden. Eco-friendly features make it even more seductive: it’s one of the few hotels that comes with LEED gold certification in NY, and you’ll find a vegetable patch on the 12th floor providing the kitchen with berries and herbs. BTW screenings are open to the public on Sunday evenings.
Portrait Suites, Rome | ITALY
The Sunday Times Magazine recently referred to Rome as one of the sexiest cities in the world, perfect for ''romantic getaways'' and I tend to agree. Portrait Suites is situated atop the Ferragamo flagship on via Condotti (with the entrance discreetly tucked away around the corner on via Bocca di Leoni just in case you don’t want to be seen checking in...). It’s the best of the pack since Salvatore Ferragamo moved into the Haute Hospitality business, opening a host of slick, fashion-oriented hotels around Italy. Limited-edition pictures of Ferragamo shoes hang on walls clad in boiserie and wallpaper. The 14 suites and lounge area in the 5-star lodging were inspired by the roaring 1950s Dolce Vita, put together by gifted Florentine architect Michele Bönan who chose crunchy taffeta and velvet upholstery in lilacs and greys with some of the best finishing touches I’ve ever seen in a hotel. Portrait Suites don’t come cheap, but prices include killer views over the Eternal City and Trinità dei Monti from the higher floors and butler service you could easily get used to.
A Room for London, London | U.K.
Another creation by Living Architecture who are known for their contemporary hospitality solutions and funky one-roomed hotels around the world. This time they made space on the roof of the Queen Elizabeth Hall to perch a one-room hotel-cum-installation. I never actually managed to get inside this one, as reservations for the first 180 nights were sold 12 minutes after on-line sales opened. Architect David Kohn was inspired by the 1920s river boat in a Conrad novel. He roped artist Fiona Banner into the project for this solitary South Bank hotel room decked out in deep red and boiserie. The upper deck boasts a small private library and access to your very own roof terrace. It has all the qualities for a surreal and seductive stay in London: huge bed, bow window with 180° views across the Thames and Renzo Piano’s sexy ‘Shard’, as well as a specially-installed lift to guarantee privacy.
Silken Puerta America, Madrid | SPAIN
Ok, I know what you’re thinking... this hotel has been around for a while and it’s not in the best neighbourhood, so let me remind you that we’re not here for the Movida this time. But with 14 floors decorated by as many designers, there are a few dos and don’ts to follow when staying at the Silken.
> DO stay on the 2nd floor, with its impeccable interiors by Sir Norman: parquet flooring, enormous beds with oversized leather headboards, back-lit marble shelves - all those materials that age so well. The Foster-designed rooms have about 10 different lighting solutions to choose from (why-oh-why do so many hotel designers still underestimate the importance of lighting?).
> DO have sundowners and tapas at the bar on the13th floor.
> DON’T even get out of the lift on the 4° floor after a few sundowners.
> DON’T dive headfirst into the plunge pool on the roof: it’s only 1.50m deep.
Hotel Alma, Barcelona | SPAIN
The historic building right in the middle of Eixample reopened its 72 rooms a couple of months ago after a five-year face lift. Original XIX century touches like the wrought iron banisters work brilliantly with the lofty open spaces. Floor to ceiling French doors in the reception area make it light-filled and airy. No tacky key cards for the Alma: you enter your room with a finger scan, to tempting interiors of cool lilac, light blue, grey and cream. The look is decidedly uncluttered, with the few furnishings - but the right few - carefully positioned on hardwood floors, and leather headboards working wonders against soft linen. Bathe with your Bulgari amenities, and take a cosmopolitan breakfast on the patio. Coming back soon.