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Marked by a dedication to craftsmanship and individual expression, the best design hotels represent the physical embodiment of the art of storytelling. Architects and interior designers join forces to craft narratives about a specific time and place, with every piece of bespoke furniture or custom artwork on the wall, every textile and toiletry revealing a little bit more about the yarn they’re spinning. Best of all, these hotels can take nearly any form—you just know a design hotel when you see one: a wellness retreat that melts into its desert surroundings; an urbane Scandinavian hideaway that feels like your chic friend’s pied-à-terre; the world’s coolest airport hotel, courtesy of Eero Saarinen; or even a maximalist Middle Eastern tower, dripping in crystals and gold. As part of our Hotels We Love series of the best hotels and resorts of 2023, we’ve collected 10 unforgettable stays that embody the wide and ever-expanding spectrum of the design hotel scene.
In no particular order, here are our picks for the 10 best hotels for design and architecture around the world.
1. Fogo Island Inn
- Location: Fogo Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
- Why we love it: furniture made by local artisans; an on-site art gallery; outdoor equipment available to borrow
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Fogo Island Inn sits at the very edge of the North Atlantic on Newfoundland and Labrador’s isolated Fogo Island. Designed by internationally renowned architect Todd Saunders, the inn’s arrestingly modern appearance is meant to call to mind the shape of an iceberg from a distance, with its raised section representing the island’s traditional stilted fishing platforms. But when visitors get up close, they see the wooden boards layered together, and it’s clear that everything is handmade. The by-hand ethos spreads to all the furniture and furnishings, too, which are created by local artisans who’ve worked with artists in residence to create contemporary versions of traditional objects; Donna Wilson’s Berta Chair, for instance, is a modern take on vintage barrel chairs, which were made from unused flour barrels, while Elaine Fortin uses soft juniper timbers for her boatbuilding-inspired Punt Chair.
Staying at the inn is admittedly expensive, but this is essentially a living art piece that supports the local community and aims to honor the island’s past while carrying it through to the future. It feels like a grand home with staff to tend to your every need. A private 42-seat cinema, partnered with the National Film Board, carries a vast movie library for guests to enjoy at any time; there’s also an art gallery, a well-stocked library, and even a supply of Gore-Tex hiking boots and other outdoor equipment to borrow. The inn is designed to show off the dazzling landscape, and it’s easy to spend all day glued to the windows and watching the sea while whales breech, icebergs float past, or storms dash on the rocks.
2. The Tasman, A Luxury Collection Hotel
- Location: Hobart, Tasmania
- Why we love it: a design scheme that truly pays homage to the property’s history; rich textures, care of native Tasmanian woods; works from new and old Australian artists
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In 2011, the game-changing MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) opened its doors in the Hobart suburbs, almost instantaneously turning the Tasmanian capital into a see-and-be-seen art-world hub. But it took a decade for the city to welcome a design hotel worthy of its new status. Enter the Tasman, a member of Marriott’s Luxury Collection that opened its doors in 2021 with an imaginative architectural plan that stitches together an 1841 former hospital, a 1937 art deco building, and a new-construction glass annex that juts out dramatically toward the harbor. Rather than ignoring this heritage and creating uniform interiors throughout, the designers have allowed each wing’s history to influence the decor: Think convict-hewn sandstone accents and restored fireplaces in the Georgian wing, blackheart sassafras timber–inlaid ceilings and streamlined geometric light fixtures in the deco wing, and abundant contemporary artwork and natural lighting in the modern extension.
Perhaps the best place in the building to soak up this intersection of history and design is in the St. David’s Park Suite and, more specifically, in its polished Tasmanian blackwood bathtub, which was crafted by artisan Emanuel Oppliger, who usually makes bespoke surfboard fins. (Beauty and the Bees, a Tasmanian ecofriendly hair and skincare brand, has also designed a custom Leatherwood Honey Cream Bath for the suite.) He’s just one of the many Aussie makers to have his works represented across the property, which also includes pieces by botanical quiltmaker and illustrator Ruth de Vos and Aboriginal painter Polly Ngale.
3. TWA Hotel
- Location: New York, NY
- Why we love it: the stunning Eero Saarinen architecture; a rooftop pool overlooking the runway; the cocktail lounge housed inside a 1950s airplane
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When the TWA Flight Center opened in 1962 at John F. Kennedy International Airport (then called Idlewild), the jet age was just beginning. Perfectly encapsulating that sense of optimistic futurism was the sweeping design by Eero Saarinen, the Finnish-American architect behind the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Nearly two decades after the terminal closed in 2001, the once-abandoned landmark reopened as JFK’s first on-airport hotel, with 512 guest rooms that feature mid-century modern–inspired furniture, tambour walls, and walnut martini bars made by a family-owned business in Ohio’s Amish Country.
Even if you don’t stay overnight, there are plenty of ways to engage with the architectural stunner. Stop into The Sunken Lounge, which New York–based architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle restored to its original 1962 design, complete with a trademark chili-pepper-red carpet and a menu of cocktail classics that includes the Royal Ambassador, which was once served to TWA passengers in gold-flecked glasses. The Connie Cocktail Lounge, meanwhile, occupies a meticulously restored 1958 Lockheed Constellation L-1649A airplane parked outside. No detail has been overlooked here, including the eight vintage airplane seats that have been reupholstered with a retro pink-and-orange plaid. Even the cockpit has been restored, complete with a hula girl figurine on the dashboard. But the coolest spot in the hotel might be the rooftop infinity pool, which looks out over the runway and is inspired by the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc on the French Riviera. Yes, nonguests can snag a pass to watch jets taking off while swimming in water that’s heated to 95º Fahrenheit during the winter months.
4. The Siam
- Location: Bangkok, Thailand
- Why we love it: the plant-filled atrium; the one-of-a-kind curios you’ll find scattered around the property
- Loyalty program: I Prefer
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There is nowhere else in Bangkok quite like the Siam Hotel. For starters, it’s owned and run by a Thai rock star, Kamala Sukusol, and her son Krissada. The boutique property includes midcentury timber buildings constructed by the legendary silk baron Jim Thompson, as well as open and modern structures, with a focus on harmony and comfort, designed by one of Asia’s best-known architects, Bill Bensley. But beyond the glamorous background, it’s the design of the Siam that makes it stand out the most. There’s a 1920s jazz theme mixed in with some Asian colonial flair, with a vibe that’s meant to evoke the splendor of King Rama V’s reign, from 1868 to 1910; the result—with lots of natural light, antiques, potted plants, and a black-and-white palette—is simply beguiling.
Throughout, you’ll find an eclectic mix of design items and objets d’art, including imported Italian bathtubs, mounted taxidermy, tiger-shaped chairs, and an installation above the bar comprising dozens of vintage brass instruments. The views of the river here lack temples or interesting landmarks, but it’s a lazy spot to watch boats go by, which adds to the relaxing atmosphere. Service is personalized and extremely professional, as you’d expect from a property of this caliber. In all, this is the closest thing one can find to a resort in Bangkok, and it is one of the most stylish accommodation choices to boot.
5. Jack’s Camp
- Location: Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, Botswana
- Why we love it: a natural history museum that brings the safari experience into the mess tent; private plunge pools at each updated tent
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The father-and-son team behind Jack’s Camp was flying over Botswana in search of a site for their retreat when the plane went down. To honor his father, who died in the crash, Ralph Bousfield opened this luxury tented camp in 1993 and named it after the safari legend, a crocodile hunter who turned into a conservationist toward the end of his life. Located on the edge of the vast and otherworldly Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, it’s still one of the most exclusive camps in the country, and it’s easy to see why.
During the pandemic lockdowns, Natural Selection took the chance to completely reimagine and rebuild the beloved camp, unveiling nine ultra-luxurious tents that combine a 1940s campaign style with a dedication to ecofriendliness; the camp now runs on solar, for instance, and tent poles are made from trees that have been felled by elephants and gathered by community members. Surrounded by Mokolwane palms, the tents—each of which has its own plunge pool—are a colorful riot of global influences, with Persian and North African rugs, crushed velvet and brass accents, rich mahogany furnishings, and Mamluk-style lanterns that once hung in mosques. When you’re not out visiting habituated meerkats or going on a bushwalk with members of the Zu/’hoasi tribe, time is best spent in the mess tent, which is filled with design treasures—art dating back to 1660, an 1820s dining table that seats 36—and is home to a complete natural history museum, overflowing with rare and unusual specimens.
6. Ett Hem
- Location: Stockholm, Sweden
- Why we love it: the snacks available at all hours in the shared kitchen; the cozy design; the beautiful gym
- Loyalty program: SLH Invited
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Ett Hem isn’t a hotel. After all, its name means “a home” in Swedish. And the kitchen is open to guests at all hours, to snack on its stash of homemade cakes and healthy treats, and to pour a glass or two of its world-class wines and fresh-squeezed juices. The winding collection of airy, stylized rooms—decorated with an elegantly comfortable combination of modern and curated vintage that belongs on the pages of Architectural Digest—act like a designer friend’s living room and library, their comfortable chairs beckoning guests to relax with a glass of wine and a good book.
A conservatory (similarly outfitted) spills out onto a secret garden, a hidden oasis in the lively city, and a gourmet, farm-to-communal-table dinner results in new friends and fascinating conversations. The hotel began with 12 rooms in the 1910 arts and crafts house, each of which feels like a private apartment, decorated in celebrity designer Ilse Crawford and owner Jeanette Mix’s signature style. Last year, to celebrate a decade in business, Ett Hem expanded into two neighboring townhouses, adding 10 additional guest rooms, three longer-term residences, and even an impeccably stylish gym, with herringbone wooden flooring, a muted color palette, and potted plants lining the sill.
7. Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
- Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
- Why we love it: over-the-top decor elements that will make you feel like a sheikh; a new tour that offers insights into the building’s architecture and design
- Loyalty program: Jumeirah One
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A night at the Burj Al Arab is extra in every sense of the word, from the boldness of its sail-shaped architecture (inspired by the spinnaker of a J-class yacht) to the mind-boggling scale of its 590-foot-tall atrium and audacious interior design. When she got the assignment, London-based designer Khuan Chew immersed herself in Arab culture—from art and astronomy to poetry—and spun it into a maximalist dreamscape. Here, you’ll find real gold adding bling to ceilings and pillars, thousands of Swarovski crystals, and even bathtubs made from Statuario marble, the same, ultra-rare kind favored by Michelangelo himself.
An Inside Burj Al Arab tour launched last year and reveals the gold-encrusted, silk-adorned, leopard-print-filled Royal Suite, complete with rotating beds. Hotel guests have access to the more than 100,000-square-foot terrace, with its freshwater and saltwater pools lined with 10 million gold and azure mosaic tiles; here they can order a bottle of bubbly while soaking up the only-in-Dubai opulence.
8. The Brando
- Location: Tetiaroa, French Polynesia
- Why we love it: the resort’s innovative sustainability initiatives; an outrigger canoe that whisks guests away to other private islets in the atoll
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Encompassing 35 private villas on the Motu Onetahi coast of Marlon Brando’s very own French Polynesian island, Tetiaroa, the Brando is one of the most luxurious places to stay in the South Pacific. It also has some serious sustainability cred: The LEED Platinum–certified resort—the world’s first—is carbon neutral, thanks to such efforts as an air-conditioning system that draws from cool ocean water, on-site composting, and a desalination plant that produces fresh water for the resort. The design is equally thoughtful, with a reliance on local, recycled, or renewable materials, including wood from the invasive aito (ironwood) tree and abundant pandanus leaves to cover the roofs.
A partnership with nonprofit group Tetiaroa Society connects guests to naturalists and researchers who lead snorkeling and scuba outings and guided nature walks. Travelers with an interest in Polynesian culture may also want to test the resort’s traditional outrigger canoe on a trip out to one of the surrounding private islets that share an atoll with the Brando. All villas at this all-inclusive resort have their own private pools and direct beach access; the spa offers a range of healing modalities, including a traditional Polynesian taurumi massage.
9. Tierra Atacama
- Location: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
- Why we love it: tiny decor details you’ll want to take home, like carved llama figurines; incredible views out over mountains and volcanoes
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A short drive outside the town of San Pedro de Atacama, Tierra Atacama is part of the Tierra hotel group, owned by the Chilean-American Purcell family, which also runs Tierra Patagonia, Tierra Chiloé, and Ski Portillo. The property originally served as a cattle corral, but Chilean landscape artist Teresa Moller has transformed the grounds, preserving the ancient algarrobo and chañar trees and restoring the adobe walls.
The bedrooms are decorated in natural colors, with local touches like ceramics marching along the sills of the extra-large windows and llama figurines carved from locally sourced volcanic rock. Animal-skin rugs and alpaca throws provide a touch of warmth for the cool desert nights. You can see the incredible silhouette of Volcano Licancabur from all the rooms, but the Poniente rooms are slightly larger and have better views. There is a friendly communal vibe at the hotel, and upon arrival guests meet with the head guide in the main lounge to choose from the range of group activities on offer each day, which might take you to explore ancient petroglyphs, a flamingo-filled lagoon, or geysers in the desert.
- Location: Canyon Point, Utah
- Why we love it: gorgeous views out over the desert; minimalist architecture with subtle Navajo influences
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Set within a postcard-perfect corner of southern Utah and surrounded by national parks, the 600-acre Amangiri is tucked away in a protected valley among the canyons, flat-topped mesas, and desert landscapes of the Grand Circle. The resort’s architecture and decor allow the area’s natural beauty to take center stage—interiors are decorated in a minimalist fashion, using natural materials such as white stone and concrete, Douglas fir timber, blackened steel, and polished glass. Though decidedly modernist, the spaces feel timeless, with subtle nods to traditional Navajo hogan dwellings.
The 34 accommodations range from 1,150-square-foot mesa- or desert-view suites to larger options with private pools, plus one four-bedroom home with living and dining areas and a kitchen; all include private outdoor space (terraces or courtyards), fireplaces, and heated floors for cooler desert nights. The local landscape also shines through in the cuisine, which includes Southwestern-inspired dishes served in view of the sweeping desert. In the sprawling 25,000-square-foot spa, treatments are inspired by Navajo healing traditions and begin with sage smudging ceremonies. When you’re not exploring the surroundings on guided hikes and horseback rides, or kayaking on nearby Lake Powell, linger on property for the cold and heated pools and yoga pavilion.
Nicola Chilton, Lyndsey Matthews, Nikki Bayley, Sandra Ramani, Kate Thorman, Jenna Scatena, Jennifer Flowers, Gabriel O’Rorke, and Margot Bigg contributed to the reporting of this article.