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Imagining the Perfect Hotel

We’re not actually in the hotel-building business, at least not yet. But we don’t let that stop us from daydreaming about the kind of hotel we would open if money were no object — to say nothing of other limitations, like location, profitability, or even minor details like the very nature of space and time itself. Here’s the recipe for the Frankenhotel of our dreams.

Alila Ubud
Alila Ubud | Bali, Indonesia
The Pool

By now we’ve all seen enough infinity pools to know that what makes a great one is the view. And by that score, the pool at Alila Ubud is just about impossible to beat — from here you look out over a densely forested valley, complete with monkeys creeping from branch to branch and a picturesque mist hanging in the distance. We’re not sure how to make the whole idyllic jungle vibe work in an urban setting, but we’ll leave that to our landscape architects.

Antonello Colonna Resort & Spa
Antonello Colonna Resort & Spa | Labico, Italy
Focus on Food

Plenty of hotels have great restaurants — we seem to remember writing about a few just last week. But to be a pilgrimage-worthy culinary destination, a hotel has to show some real devotion. The Antonello Colonna Resort is like the Rothko Chapel of chef-driven restaurant-resorts, a place that exists solely to set the scene for a near-religious experience at the dinner table. Can anyone get us in touch with René Redzepi’s people?

1 Hotel Central Park
1 Hotel Central Park | New York, New York
Green Hospitality

Midtown Manhattan isn’t normally where you’d go to get a lesson in environmentally friendly hospitality, but 1 Hotel Central Park is a master class, from the exterior garden walls to the salvaged wood throughout its interiors. The lobby’s Farmstand is like a miniature farmers market, and the expected luxury cars are replaced by a fleet of electric Teslas. Providing a second home for travelers is an inherently wasteful business, but it’s possible to reduce your footprint.
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Setouchi Retreat Aonagi
Setouchi Retreat Aonagi | Matsuyama, Japan
The Architecture

When life gives you the chance to inhabit a structure built by an architect of Tadao Ando’s stature, you take it. Setouchi Retreat Aonagi is a temple in concrete, designed by the acknowledged modern master of the medium, and while it’s a practical, eminently livable space, it’s also an artwork unto itself. We should all be so fortunate.

Hotel Saint Cecilia
Hotel Saint Cecilia | Austin, Texas
The Garden & Grounds

This one has a famous pool as well, and those handmade Hästens mattresses make the Saint Cecilia an enviable place for a good night’s sleep. But its defining characteristic is probably the spot where the lounge opens onto the hotel’s gardens beneath a vast live oak tree — it’s a magical atmosphere, with a vibrant but intimate crowd, and you’d never believe it’s just off busy South Congress Avenue.

Chiltern Firehouse
Chiltern Firehouse | London, England
The Social Life

Speaking of a vibrant crowd — Andre Balazs knows how to open a hotspot, and Chiltern Firehouse very quickly became the toast of London. If there’s one thing that keeps its most notable guests coming back again and again, it’s the air of absolute, down-to-earth discretion. And it helps that it’s a perfectly charming and subtly luxurious hotel to boot.

Crosby Street Hotel
Crosby Street Hotel | New York, New York
The Bedrooms and Bathrooms

There are those who find Kit Kemp’s décor a touch on the colorful side, but for anyone who’s spent half a life in beige business hotels, it’s the perfect antidote. And the Firmdale group has perfected their rooms in ways that go beyond the visual — the furniture is solid, the linens and upholstery are plush as can be, everything’s exactly where you want it, and you’ll walk out of the marble and granite bathroom feeling ten years younger than when you went in.

Cowley Manor
Cowley Manor | Cheltenham, England
The Spa

If a spa is going to have its intended effect — ideally, nothing less than a total reset of your physical and emotional life — it’s got to offer a transformative experience along with a massage and a swim. The hyper-modern C-Side spa at Cowley Manor is a retreat within a retreat, set well apart from the country house that contains the hotel. Abandon all stress and anxiety, ye who enter here.

Taj Lake Palace
Taj Lake Palace | Udaipur, India
The Picture-Perfect Setting

The Taj Lake Palace isn’t just onan island in the middle of Lake Pichola, it basically is an island — its walls seem to rise straight from the water, and you half expect it to move, like some 250-year-old cruise ship made of white stone. The word “iconic” gets bandied about a bit in the travel business, but this is exactly what it means.

Bulgari Hotel Milano
Bulgari Hotel Milano | Milan, Italy
The Silence

No matter how much you’re enjoying yourself in a hotel, at some point you’re going to want to sleep. (For some of us, that’s the highlight.) And there might not be a hotel — certainly not a city hotel — that’s quieter than the Bulgari Milano. Not only is it set in a rare green enclave on the site of a former monastery, but it’s a building that combines heavy, solid construction with soft surfaces and gentle touches. The corridors are so quiet you’ll suspect the room service waiters are actual ghosts. It must have cost a fortune to build, but in an ever noisier world, this kind of quiet is priceless.

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