5 Top Design Hotels To Check In… and Out

11 Mirrors - Kiev, Ukraine (c) Design Hotels

11 Mirrors – Kiev, Ukraine (c) Design Hotels

There’s more than one thing that we love about hotel stays when we travel (spa, spa, spa, room service, room service, room service), but at the top of that list of “Pros” is the opportunity for us to discover, examine, and fully experience the many facets of art and design that go into creating a property. The idea that we can be transported to another world, inside a new world, thrills us. Design Hotels™ has been a part of our own travel story for years. Created by a global community for passionate travelers who love design, architecture, and culture, today, through it’s collaborators and community, these innovators, designers, and dreamers are behind some of the most original hospitality experiences around the globe.

So, take a journey through five inspirational properties, handpicked by Design Hotels™’s very own travel experts.

Incheon, Korea - nest hotel

Incheon, Korea – nest hotel

nest hotel, Incheon, South Korea recommended by Carsten Lima, Area Director, APAC, Design Hotels™

Located on the island of Yeongjongdo, the setting of nest hotel is absolutely spectacular with views overlooking the Yellow Sea and neighboring islands. Perfection is sitting on one’s balcony and being surrounded by pine trees and reed fields, a nesting ground for the local bird population and the inspiration for the hotel’s name. The reeds sway with the sea breeze and when the sun catches the landscape, it produces the most exquisite kaleidoscope of colors. The sense of tranquility is continued through the simple and sleek interiors of the 360 rooms, all of which feature diagonally placed windows designed to optimize the amount of sunlight streaming through.

Hotel Hotel - Canberra, Australia

Hotel Hotel – Canberra, Australia

Hotel Hotel, Canberra, Australia recommended by Brandon Chan, Director of Sales & Marketing, APAC, Design Hotels™

Housed in a Japanese-inspired building, at first glance Hotel Hotel would seem to be entirely removed from its location. However, the functional and minimalist interiors of the 68 guestrooms have been created using humble, locally-sourced materials such as natural clay, recycled oak and aged cork. Hotel Hotel’s program of thoughtful sustainability is evident at almost every level: from the off-form concrete structure, to the repurposed furnishings and central staircase fashioned from salvaged timber. Taken as a whole, this breathing cornerstone of the Australian capital is a “vertical village” that contains the Palace Electric cinema, cafés and bars. The hotel’s public lounge is a series of nested spaces formed by rough-formed concrete, home to two large fireplaces and a library thoughtfully stocked with independent magazines and vintage books.

Sir Albert Hotel - Amsterdam, Holland

Sir Albert Hotel – Amsterdam, Holland

Sir Albert Hotel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands recommended by Henning Schaub, Sales Manager, Central & Eastern Europe, Design Hotels™

The building was once a diamond factory but there’s no doubt that Sir Albert Hotel is shining at its brightest right now. Amsterdam’s cool and creative crowd is flocking to the hotel’s IZAKAYA Asian Kitchen & Bar, created by Yossi Eliyahoo, and the restaurant’s adjoining private terrace with sweeping city views is the perfect spot for sundowners. For those staying in one of the 90 stylish guestrooms once the party winds down, Sir Albert’s unique brand of ‘bedside burger’ room service comes courtesy of De Pijp foodie hotspot The Butcher. Wait… BEDSIDE BURGER ROOM SERVICE? I think I’m in love.

Vertigo Hotel Spa - Dijon, France

Vertigo Hotel Spa – Dijon, France

Vertigo Hotel, Dijon, France recommended by Samantha Schellhase, Head of Portfolio Development, EMEA, Design Hotels™

Set in the historic heart of Dijon, the capital of Burgundy and one of the four official French cities of gastronomy, Vertigo Hotel is intrinsically linked with world-class food and wine. This may be reason alone to visit for us and the hotel has fully embraced this culinary heritage, starting with the chic retro bar which serves a wide selection of vintage burgundy wines, alongside classic French cocktails. Quite possibly my favorite. For the best and most unique sampling of the region, the mini bars in each of the 42 rooms are sourced strictly with products from Burgundy. Bedside wine tastings come in the form of single-serving ‘test tubes’, a personal favorite and a great way to sample the region.

The Gate Hotel - Tokyo, Japan

The Gate Hotel – Tokyo, Japan

The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon, Tokyo, Japan recommended by Aik Wee Ong, Director of Account and Revenue Management, APAC, Design Hotels™

The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon and its 136 rooms is nestled in the culturally-rich neighborhood of Asakusa, steps from the main temple gate of Kaminarimon and surrounded by independent shops and restaurants oozing with the charm of old Japan. Far from being stuck in the past, the district is constantly evolving by embracing innovative art and design, and The Gate Hotel with its clean, contemporary vibe is playing a considerable role in this evolution. The sweeping panoramic views from the hotel’s lobby and restaurant offer guests a birdseye view of the shifting and contrasting landscape of one of Tokyo’s most exciting destinations.

Melbourne: Art Hotels, Beer Hall Drinks, and Jazz

Melbourne's Jazz Festival (c) PiecesofVictoria.com

Melbourne’s Jazz Festival (c) PiecesofVictoria.com

Most people don’t know that Melbourne is well voted, time and time again, as one of the world’s most livable cities. With it’s impressive calendar of high profile events throughout the year, including the Melbourne International Jazz Festival (May 30 – June 8, 2014), Melbourne International Film Festival (July 31 – August 17, 2014) Melbourne Spring Racing Carnival (November 4, 2014), and the Australian Open Tennis Championships (January 19 – February 1, 2015), it’s also the gateway to regional Victoria, with her deserts, alpine ski resorts, mighty rivers, great lakes, wildlife, and unparalleled spectacle known as the Great Ocean Road. At the same time, art and design groups are flourishing, alongside Melbourne’s natural beauty.


For example, luxury boutique hotel group, Art Series Hotels is bringing their well-known art inspired concept to regional and urban cities around Australia in a compact & affordable way. First stop, Bendigo – the regional hub of art and culture – and the perfect location for the first studio inspired hotel.

Artist Mark Schaller, today regarded as one of Australia’s strongest mid career artists with his expressionistic, vigorous style, will join the fold. A founding member of the renowned Roar studios in the early 1980’s, his paintings and prints that have been acquired by major institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra and National Gallery of Victoria. He’s the real deal.

And… we love the idea of the art studio hotel. No, we actually live for it. A hotel is the best possible location for an experience filled with art and design. To not simply to stay in a location, but to experience the vision and emotion of each designated artist while also on vacation. That is at least one meaning in life. If not the best one.

PS. The second Art Series Studio, Larwill Studio will open in Parkville, Melbourne in December.



If that’s not reason enough to check out Melbourne, you also have their unique dining and cocktail scene. We hear Adam D’Sylva’s Tonka is a throwback to his Indian and Italian heritage, featuring cocktails including the Darjeeling Fizz, Tonka Lassi and Miguel’s Milk Punch, while Cookie combines Thai food with its mantra of being a Beer Hall, Eating House and Disco to create the perfect environment to dine, flirt, sip and reminisce. The walls are adorned with murals and artwork from Melbourne artists, and the popular ‘kiss wall’ eventuated of its own accord and is now covered with scores of lipstick kisses amassed over the years.



Sounds pretty good to me.

For more information on things to do, places to go, and sights to see in Melbourne, click the link to for Travel Victoria’s website.

We also liked the list of Melbourne’s hot Jazz clubs on the blog, PiecesofVictoria.com. According to their blog, they said to check out, among others:

Bennetts Lane Jazz Club, a Melbourne institution known for late night jams and dubbed by Lonely Planet as “the world’s best jazz club”. Located in a back alley off Little Lonsdale Street, the club has been around for more than 20 years.

25 Bennetts Lane, Melbourne

Uptown Jazz Café, hidden up an unassuming set of stairs on Brunswick Street in Fitzroy, there’s live music four nights a week and the stage is graced by a renowned list of local and international acts. There’s also a solid Japanese restaurant downstairs if you want to grab a bite prior.

177 Brunswick St, Fitzroy


The Woodstock Film Festival

Famous faces, fierce film and fabulous fall foliage. The summer season is barely upon us, but I’d like to draw your attention to a major event just north of NYC that will be a very special travel destination this autumn.

This year, the Woodstock Film Festival (WFF) will be held October 10-14, 2012 and for the first time there will be limited number of special packages at some of the region’s finest lodging that will include priority access for purchasing festival tickets, a key benefit since many of the events are in intimate venues and sell out quickly.

The Woodstock Film Festival was recognized as one of the top 50 film festivals in the world and regularly attracts major actors and filmmakers with connections to the beautiful Hudson Valley. Besides the iconic town of Woodstock, WFF takes places in many towns across the area, known for its scenic beauty, historic landmarks and picturesque towns including Rhinebeck, chosen for Chelsea Clinton’s “royal wedding.”

Hudson River Valley

Hudson River Valley (c) Chris Ramirez The New York Times

Hudson Valley is known for majestic mountains dotted by shops, galleries and restaurants featuring fresh local produce, home cooking and gourmet cuisine courtesy of graduates from the nearby Culinary Institute of America. A limited number of special WFF lodging packages with priority access for booking tickets at some of the region’s finest lodging such as The 1850 House Inn & Tavern, newly re-opened in Rosendale, recently remodeled with the amenities of a boutique hotel, the Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, a Victorian stone castle resort set on spectacular cliffs with commanding views of the foliage and The Looking Glass Bed & Breakfast quaintly situated near the center of Rhinebeck with included wine tasting courtesty of Old Mill Wine & Spirits. Availabilty is limited, so attendees should consider booking before August 1.

Mohonk Mountain House

Mohonk Mountain House

This year WFF’s roster of more than 150 events will include an Actor’s Choice curated program where some of the many accomplished actors with ties to the Hudson Valley will spotlight a film and filmmaker that will include a screening and panel with fellow actors and filmmakers. “WFF is always a pleasure to attend,” said award winning actor and filmmaker Steve Buscemi, ”The talent that is showcased always amazes me.”Academy Award Winner Melissa Leo, Keanu Reeves, Ellen Barkin, Mark Ruffalo, Adrian Grenier and Edie Falco are among the accomplished actors, directors and filmmakers with ties to the Hudson Valley who have also recently attended.

The Looking Glass Bed and Breakfast

The Looking Glass Bed and Breakfast

Tickets go on sale in September, and the full schedule will be announced just weeks before. The venues are intimate and many events sell out quickly, particularly those with celebrity participants. Tickets can be purchased at box offices in Woodstock and Rhinebeck or below!


A Chic Pop Up Caribbean Cabana Camp? You betcha.

A Pop Up Cabana Camp!

Design Hotels strikes again! Papaya Playa, a Design Hotels Project, has developed a genius idea. For several months, they’ve been working with a small team on realizing an idea: a temporary “pop up” camp with 99 rustic cabanas on a 900 meter stretch of pristine Caribbean coastline in Tulum, Mexico!

Taking inspiration from the pop-up phenomenon happening around the world in the form of retail, art and gastronomy, they cleverly felt that now was the time to translate it into hospitality. So from December 6, 2011 – May 5, 2012, the Papaya Playa Project welcomes adventure seekers and creative souls to join them in shaping a temporary, and they think, extraordinary environment.

Simply. Chic.

Their idea was to create a transitory, yet culturally-rooted experienceCapitalizing on the natural environment and multicultural character of Tulum, they’ve put together an international team of real visionaries, each enriching the experience with their own food, music, design or wellness concept. They’ve got KaterHolzig of Berlin’s Bar 25 fame, 42°Raw, Mampapacola, as well as a spa incorporating Mayan shamanism. A playful communal concept is at the fore here – whether it’s spontaneous creativity at the amphitheater, beach jam sessions or inviting innovative companies to explore the ultimate green workspace.

The project may come as a surprise for those who associate Design Hotels™ with bold architecture and striking design. Fear not, that will continue to hold true, yet equally important are the intangible qualities – like the sense of community, connection and belonging, as well as the personality and vision – which make each hotel so one-of-a-kind. With this project they’re peeling off a few layers to expose the heart and soul of great hospitality experiences. Their ultimate goal?

To give guests a deeper understanding of what Design Hotels™ stands for, and why their Made by Originals core message rings true in so many shapes, places and forms.


Bonaire’s Underwater Photography Class

Underwater Photography in Bonaire

For those who want a little education with their vacation, we came upon Divi Flamingo Beach Resort in Bonaire hosting a master class in underwater photography, July 7-14, 2012, led by renowned underwater photographer Stephen Frink.

For those unaware, Bonaire is actually a special municipality of the Netherlands, consisting of the Caribbean island of Bonaire and, nestled in its western crescent, the uninhabited islet of Klein Bonaire. Together with Aruba and Curaçao it forms a group referred to as the ABC islands of the Leeward Antilles, the southern island chain of the Lesser Antilles. As Wikipedia points out, “The name Bonaire is thought to have originally come from the Caiquetio word ‘Bonay’. The early Spanish and Dutch modified its spelling to Bojnaj and also Bonaire, which means “Good Air”.

For this delicious photo/dive excursion, class participants will dive and shoot each morning and attend classes at the resort in the afternoon taught by Frink and his hand-picked experts in video and Photoshop® techniques.

Accommodations include deluxe beachfront room (double occupancy), daily breakfast, transportation to and from the Bonaire airport, five days of two-tank morning boat dives, unlimited shore diving, tanks, weights, weight belt and beach towels.

Eddie Tapp, well-known for his skills in Photoshop®, will be on location with Frink.  Tapp is a Canon Explorer of Light, as is Frink (the only marine specialist in this elite, international group of photographers). In addition to hands-on guidance on camera and computer techniques, participants will have their morning’s dive photography evaluated by the pros in the afternoon class session.

Divi Flamingo Beach, Bonaire

The Digital Master Class in Underwater Photography is a rare departure for Frink, who normally teaches this class in his home waters of Key Largo, Florida.  “Bonaire will be an incredible classroom for those divers wanting to improve their photography skills.  There are unparalleled photo opportunities there,” says Frink.  Bonaire is a world-class dive destination, presenting divers with ideal conditions for superb underwater photography in its clear, calm water that teems with fish.

Divi Flamingo Beach, a colorful and quaint beachside resort, offers 129 modern rooms – all recently renovated, restaurants, on-site casino, and the island’s premier dive operation with multiple boats, guides and dive shop.  The resort is also completely handicapped accessible. The resort is offering a travel package that assures a “picture perfect” vacation combining deluxe accommodations, dive guides and photography instruction priced at $1874 per person.

So snap some fishies, fellas!


Girls Getaways to Italy’s Amalfi Coast!


Girls Getaways… get on it!

ItalyVacations.com has just created a dream trip for single ladies looking for an exclusive week long “Girls Getaway” combining great food, wine and scenery with lots of free time to shop, dine and explore two beautiful locations in Italy, Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast.

The journey will commence with a three night stay at one of the oldest hotels in Italy, NH Porta Rossa, a four-star hotel located in the historical center of Florence. The first full day will be spent visiting three characteristic villages of the Cinque Terre, a unique area suspended on steep cliffs overlooking the sea and UNESCO World Heritage Site. The next day guests will embark on a full day tour of Chianti, an area known to have one of the best wines in the world and indulge in a fabulous wine tasting at a local farmhouse, followed by a traditional Tuscan lunch.

NH Porta Rossa

En route to Sorrento, guests will visit the city center of Naples to taste the original Pizza Margherita and enjoy a short stop in the picturesque town of Positano. In the evening, guests will arrive at Grand Hotel La Favorita, a four-star hotel situated on the corner of Sorrento’ s most famous alley ways where guests will embrace spectacular views of the gulf of Naples and the grand volcano Vesuvius. The next two days, guests can look forward to sublime shopping opportunities on full day excursions to the island of Capri and the Amalfi Coast. The last night in Sorrento guests will learn how to prepare a typical Italian Mediterranean dinner from a great local chef at Esperidi.

The view from Sorrento's Grand Hotel La Favorita

This hosted trip is $3,499 per person, double and is scheduled to depart the U.S. on Thursday, April 19, 2012 and return on Friday, April 27, 2012. The prices include all costs aside from gratuity for the guides: Round-trip airfare from New York (JFK) to Florence – return from Naples to New York on group flights; fuel surcharges and air taxes; arrival and departure airport transfers; three nights in a four-star hotel in Florence; four nights in a four-star hotel in Sorrento; seven breakfasts; first class train tickets from Florence to Naples; pizza lunch in Naples; cooking class with dinner in Sorrento; full day visit of Cinque Terre; full day visit of Chianti and vineyards; one day visit of the Amalfi Coast cities, Positano, Amalfi, Ravello; visit to Capri, with jetfoil to/from Sorrento; all hotel VAT taxes.

And let me just say… I did a very similar girls getaway to Italy when I was in my 20s and it was as amazing as I thought it would be!

Seja lá ou ser quadrado…

Buzios, Brazil - Hotel Insolito

Nestled in a rocky hillside in Buzios, Brazil, Jaunt Magazine is bringing our sassy friends some news about this swanky gem: The Insolito Boutique Hotel, a tranquil coastal boutique resort with a brand new restaurant, nine new guest rooms and a Parilla. That’s right… a barbeque straight from Rio Plata.

The property, as you can see to the left, encompasses 20 themed guest rooms based around Brazilian history and culture and include nine new spaces that reflect Brazilian Modernism.

A bit about… The Parilla
We hear that the new Parilla is fueled by a mixture of firewood and coal that gives ingredients it’s distinct flavor. The barbeque, situated in the popular beach lounge restaurant, is close to the sea to create an interactive dining experience for guests. The open barbeque ‘kitchen’ allows guests to get close to the action and learn tips from the parrilleiro (cook), including the origins and cuts of the meats and how best to cook them. Diners can choose from Argentinean, Uruguayan and Brazilian meats, seafood or vegetables, and enjoy them with a special dressing from the Plata River region. There is also a range of tapas and finger foods, and a choice of two menu options in which the cook prepares a range of starters and main courses that present the typical taste of a Parilla. Dishes include pork sausage with dried tomato and mint, roasted potatoes with roquefort cheese and baby beef medallions. Hungry yet?

The pool at dusk...

A bit about… The Restaurant
The new sophisticated restaurant area serves Franco-Brazilian cuisine and aims to delight the senses through a variety of Brazilian ingredients. The dishes, reflecting local traditions with a contemporary French touch, include delicacies like jabuticaba, a fruit similar to a cherry, used to complement meats in dishes such as ‘Beef filet in a jabuticaba sauce with a mandioquinha gratin’. The chef also grills crayfish and serves it with banana prata risotto. Other seafood dishes include Grilled Brazilian lobster with banana and Parma ham risotto and Provencal jumbo shrimp with Sicilian risotto. Buying my ticket just to eat that grub NOW.

Outside, guests can dine in a lounge area on the swimming pool deck and take in the sea views and fresh sea breeze, while inside there is a large room with a wall of blue tiles hand-painted by Laura Taves. Taves is founder and director of The Tile Workshop, a collective of artists and craftswomen in Rio de Janeiro. The kitchen area is framed by a unique vertical garden produced by São Paulo company Quadro Vivo and designed by architect Luis Fernando Grabowsky. The restaurant’s furnishings include items from the 1960s by designer Jorge Zalszupin, with lighting by Maneco Quinderé.  And you know how much we love – and live for – swanky design elements.

A bit about… The Rooms
The nine new spaces include two superior rooms, four luxury rooms and three master suites. Located in a new house connected to the main building, the rooms show off interiors related to Brazilian Modernism. This is achieved through books, objects, furniture, paintings and photographs. For instance, there are items of Brazilian furniture from Jorge Zalzupin and, on the walls, photographs by Almir Reis who portrays modernist architecture and the human body.

Insolito's Rooms

A bit about… The Hotel
Converted from her beachfront home, owner Emmanuelle de Clermont Tonnerre’s has created a personal, relaxed hotel, with a variety of inviting spaces for guests and locals. The focus point of the hotel is the 3,000m² beach lounge between the beach and the garden with a bar carved out of a 1,000-year-old tree root. Guests can choose from three pools, one with fresh water, one with heated water, and another with sea water. There are also saunas and Turkish baths, a jacuzzi, a gym, bicycles and a lounge decorated with designer objects. The hotel also owns two speedboats for taking guests to nearby beaches and for water sports like wakeboarding and skiing.

And where is this hot Brazilian hotel? 
Insólito Boutique Hotel is located in the Peninsula of Buzios. The hotel is approximately 2 hours by car from Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport.

So be there or be square (and no one wants to be the square one in Brazil).