Madelin Tomelty

Modern design-led hotels deliver more than immaculate facades. Creative concepts and innovative programming make for transformative guest experiences.

A dated, printed bedspread; the token, geographically vague landscape painting on the wall; high-gloss wooden furniture; a bulky TV cabinet with a puzzling amount of storage; beige walls, beige carpet, a beige bathroom and a beige ambience. It wasn’t so long ago that hotel rooms looked like this. As recently as the 1990s, boutique hotels with design-led interiors were thin on the ground. The hospitality landscape was dominated by global hotel chains that had a uniform look, so that whether you were in Bangkok or Berlin, your experience would be largely the same.

Today, the very opposite is true: a boutique hotel revolution defined by intelligent design, luxurious comforts and local flavour is sweeping the globe. High-thread-count linens and expensive goose-down duvets top sumptuous beds; unique artworks by local artists that have been handpicked for just that room adorn the walls along with a mounted TV offering complimentary Netflix; beautiful wooden floors are underfoot; designer fittings pepper the room; and the ambience is one of warmth and familiarity, the likes of which used to be found only in high-end residential apartments. Guests can even stay at the same hotel repeatedly and have a completely unique experience each time, thanks to the rise of individualised rooms.

The humble hotel has become an experience in and of itself, rather than playing a supporting role in a riveting holiday tale, and Design Hotels founder, Claus Sendlinger, saw it coming a mile away. He knew there was a need for a portfolio of curated boutique hotels, because that was the kind of hotel he and his friends wanted to stay in, and yet they were rarer than hens’ teeth.

In 1993, Sendlinger launched Design Hotels, the first hotel marketing consortium dedicated to design-led accommodation, with just 10 unique member properties that defied the copy-andpaste ethos typical of previous decades. The company now has a portfolio of 350 hotels in more than 200 destinations around the globe, and of the 400 member applications Design Hotels receives each year, an average of just five per cent are accepted, based on a rigorous selection criteria. Aesthetic is important, but even more so is whether the project has an original, distinct and timeless concept underpinning it

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