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Inviting Guest-House Hotels

At its finest, hospitality can transform from a purely transactional affair to something invitational, an opportunity to truly live differently by someone else’s design. After all, a guest should feel like a guest first, and a customer second. Here are a few hotels that have become our homes away from home.

Ett Hem
Ett Hem

It’s right in the name: ett hem means “a home,” fitting enough for this 12-room, brick-and-gable affair. That’s small enough for each room to develop a personality of its own — part vintage elegance, part classic Scandinavian coziness, all thanks to Ilse Crawford’s deft eye. You’ll start the day with a leisurely meal at the kitchen’s communal table, you’ll leave on a first-name basis, no doubt, and chances are you’ll find your way back sometime soon.

Old Parsonage Hotel
Old Parsonage Hotel

Just steps from the university, this charming old character belies its careworn exterior with sleek, contemporary accents within, a visual balancing act inviting guests to explore at length. There is, of course, a library, and the public spaces feature extensive framed portraiture and plenty of comfy seating. Impeccably prepared tea combined with stimulating conversation is the order of the day; they wouldn’t dream of hurrying you along before you’ve taken it all in.

Busue, A Boutique Experience Hotel
Mexico City
Busue, A Boutique Experience Hotel

Polanco, long an enclave for Mexico City’s well-heeled intellectuals and society types, wears its favored literati on its street signs; equal parts posh and private, this eleven-room mansion checks off all the Polanco must-haves: peaceful, tasteful, and hardly a block from the main drag. You’ll want a room on the upper floors to take full advantage of the natural light, which pleasingly draws out the woodbeams’ grain as well as the wrought-iron accents.

Coppola Jardin Escondido
Buenos Aires
Coppola Jardin Escondido

We’re tempted to just leave it at “Francis Ford Coppola’s hidden garden,” but the details at play in this roomy townhouse demand some follow-up. It is, indeed, bedecked with green, a rustic hideaway incorporating curios like Peruvian weavings and masks from Argentina’s northwest around every corner. Bookable in whole or by multi-room section, this boutique equally encourages book-and-malbec lolling or a boisterous family barbecue, and the staff wisely keep well out of the way.

Private Mansions Hotel
Private Mansions Hotel

If you ever wanted to live like a secretive future-goth or brilliant cultist for a day, here’s your chance: the two rooms on offer here pull out all the stops, comprising a former 15th-century convent apartment and a nearby “Secret Chapel.” They lay the atmosphere on thick here with an exquisite piano, fascinating stonework, and perhaps the most jaw-dropping headboard assemblage we’ve ever seen, complete with marble pillars, a candelabrum, and a Latin inscription. Weird homes are homes all the same.

The Zetter Townhouse Marylebone
The Zetter Townhouse Marylebone

This third installment in the Zetter legacy reads like your batty great-uncle’s Georgian wonder cabinet. Its 24 rooms parade porcelain jars, clawfoot tubs, atlas wall treatments, and dizzily detailed carpets before the bemused onlooker, a magnum opus of interior design. Grab a cocktail in the drawing room and dig right in; there are stories to be told here, in classic Zetter fashion, though who can tell where the tale is headed?

Vanderbilt Grace
Rhode Island
Vanderbilt Grace

Blueblood or no, you’ll appreciate the chance to indulge your Gilded-Age predilections in this century-old mansion. A home of this size comes, as one might expect, with more facilities than a guest might know what to do with: a spa, two pools, a fitness center, a billiards room, a hit restaurant — pace yourself, though, and you’ll have the elite New English nonchalance down in no time. A gentleman never rushes.

JK Place Florence
JK Place Florence

JK Place pulls off the practically impossible atmosphere of an elegant private palazzo even as it opens directly on Santa Maria Novella square. There’s some architectural wizardry involved in shifting modes so quickly, but there’s also just some solid interior design, blending Louis XV fireplaces, a muted palette, antiques, and artwork toward a subtly sophisticated gestalt. As the best homes are, it’s a cleansing and fortifying retreat.

Yoshida Sanso
Yoshida Sanso

Similarly, Yoshida Sanso preserves an impregnable tranquility in its urban setting, still very much reminiscent of its first act as an imperial residence. Small hints — stained glass, furnishings — are evidence of modernist inroads, but for the most part, this is contemplative ryokan hospitality par excellence. Make time for the kaiseki dinner, a gastronomic experience that will put you in touch with regional produce and techniques like nothing else.

Sooke Hotels
Sooke Harbour House

This, finally, is the kind of home most of us long to escape to: a haven replete with creature comforts and surrounded by miles of unparalleled natural landscape. The massive rooms avail themselves of timeless, rejuvenating features — a roaring fireplace, a sizable balcony overlooking untamed British Columbian waters. Here you’ll find life is simpler than it sometimes seems.

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