Changing of the Guard

The hotel brands that changed the game, and the hotels with which they did it.

In the years since we launched Tablet the landscape’s changed a lot — from the early days when it was more or less Ian Schrager vs. the world, to the situation today, where a thousand independent hotels and dozens of strong, well-differentiated boutique chains cater to every conceivable type of traveler. Here’s a look at the hotel brands that changed the game, and the hotels with which they did it.


Standard Hotels


The Standard Miami - boutique hotel in Miami
The Standard Miami


The name was always meant to be somewhat ironic; the Standard hotels have certainly lived up to their name, benchmark-wise, while simultaneously proving their properties anything but standard-issue. That’s André Balazs in the driver’s seat, a wizard of the risqué with a penchant for upending received wisdom to a chorus of gasps. From their upstart days in Los Angeles to their more recent expansions into Miami and the Big Apple, the Standard hotels combine a mid-century design influence with a present-day tastemaker’s eye and a flair, always, for the dramatic.

The Standard Downtown LA
The Standard Hollywood
The Standard Miami
The Standard High Line
The Standard East Village


Grupo Habita


Condesa DF - boutique hotel in Mexico City
Condesa DF


The budding American chains always had competition from south of the border. The brainchild of Moisés Micha and Carlos Couturier, the Habita group has built an impressive empire of flawlessly hip city hotels, modeled on the Mexico City flagship Hotel Habita. From there they’ve spread all over their native country, and lately they’ve been setting up shop in places like New York and Chicago as well.

Condesa DF
Distrito Capital
La Purificadora
Maison Couturier
Hotel Americano
The Robey

Firmdale Hotels


The Whitby Hotel - boutique hotel in New York
The Whitby Hotel


Kit Kemp’s interior style is instantly recognizable, and the Firmdale hotels as a whole may have been the first independent boutique hotels to offer a product that’s genuinely every bit as luxurious as the biggest of the big chains. The London originals are still sentimental favorites, but we’re grateful to have Crosby Street and the Whitby right here in town so we can get our Firmdale fix without passing through Heathrow.

Ham Yard Hotel
Haymarket Hotel
Soho Hotel
Covent Garden Hotel
Charlotte Street Hotel
Dorset Square Hotel
Knightsbridge Hotel
Number Sixteen
Crosby Street
The Whitby

Bunkhouse Group


Hotel Havana - boutique hotel in San Antonio
Hotel Havana


When we first heard of Austin’s Hotel San José, there was nothing like it in Texas. And when Liz Lambert followed it up with the magical Hotel Saint Cecilia, it was clear it was more than beginner’s luck. Since then the Bunkhouse group has expanded across the Lone Star State and even into Mexico, and they’re showing no signs of flagging. Keep ’em coming!

Hotel San José
Hotel Saint Cecilia
Hotel Havana
Hotel San Cristóbal

Ace Hotels


Ace Hotel London Shoreditch - boutique hotel in London
Ace Hotel London Shoreditch


It’s almost hard to believe, now that the Ace juggernaut has grown powerful enough to set the agenda for all the world’s hip hoteliers, that it all began as one defiant little oddball of a hotel in Seattle. (Come to think of it, maybe that’s not so strange, if you remember your ’90s rock history.) It’s not just the impeccable taste in neighborhoods, or the always-on-point design — it’s the dedication to the idea of a hotel as the hub of a real-life social network.

Ace Hotel Seattle
Ace Hotel Portland
Ace Hotel New York
Ace Hotel Downtown LA
Ace Hotel New Orleans
Ace Hotel Pittsburgh
Ace Hotel Palm Springs
Ace Hotel London Shoreditch
Ace Hotel Chicago

Sean MacPherson’s Hotels


The Bowery - boutique hotel in New York
The Bowery


It’s an association so loose, it doesn’t even have a name, but we’d know that pastel button-down anywhere: Mr. MacPherson’s New York creations evade neat summation, much like the man himself, though somehow they keep you coming back night after night. The Maritime has long been a delightfully retro fixture on the West Side nightlife scene, and now, along with the Bowery, the Marlton, and the Ludlow, it’s the place to get in touch with the spirit of old New York.

The Bowery Hotel
The Ludlow Hotel
The Maritime Hotel
The Marlton Hotel

21c Museum Hotels


21c Museum Hotel Louisville - boutique hotel in Louisville
21c Museum Hotel Louisville


“Bold” is an understatement when it comes to describing 21c’s choice of locations. When the original opened in Louisville, boutique hotels between the coasts were more or less unheard of, and Kentucky may as well have been Jupiter. But the success of their art-meets-hospitality model was smashing — and has since been replicated in several other seemingly unlikely cities.

21c Museum Hotel Louisville
21c Museum Hotel Cincinnati
21c Museum Hotel Durham
21c Museum Hotel Bentonville
21c Museum Hotel Oklahoma City
21c Museum Hotel Nashville

VIK Hotels


Playa Vik Jose Ignacio - boutique hotel in JOSE IGNACIO
Playa Vik Jose Ignacio


Spare a thought for Alexander Vik, who, along with his wife Carrie, does the hard work of establishing impossibly luxurious small hotels in Uruguay and Chile so that you don’t have to do it yourself. Each one of them is architecturally distinguished and packed with a first-rate art collection, and the Chilean wine is looking promising indeed. The Viks have certainly raised the stakes in South America.

Playa Vik
Bahia Vik
Vina Vik
Estancia Vik

25hours Hotels


25hours Hotel Tailored By Levis - boutique hotel in Frankfurt
25hours Hotel Tailored By Levi’s


The manic energy of the 25hours group is hinted at in their name, and their design sense, too, is electrifying. They’re a cosmopolitan brand, looking outside of Germany for inspiration — which has contributed, ironically enough, to making the German-speaking countries rather more attractive for modern, design-hungry travelers.

25hours Hotel Berlin
25hours Hotel Frankfurt
25hours Hotel Hamburg
25hours Hotel Vienna
25hours Hotel Zurich



Palihouse West Hollywood - boutique hotel in los Angeles
Palihouse West Hollywood


Avi Brosh’s trio of L.A. hotels has us sitting up and paying close attention — not an easy task in such a big and bewildering travel market. These hotels are notable for the way they combine classic style, contemporary design, and budget-friendly prices, all without feeling like a second-best compromise. They’re not the biggest name in hospitality, but they’ve been quietly influential all the same.

Palihouse West Hollywood
Palihouse Melrose
Palihouse Santa Monica

Mama Shelter


Mama Shelter Paris - boutique hotel in Paris
Mama Shelter Paris


After literally decades of designing some of the highest-profile boutique hotels in the business, Philippe Starck finally struck out on his own as a hotelier — with some help from the Trigano family, of Club Med fame. This is a hotel group that knows its audience, with everything perfectly measured for maximum youth appeal; that includes the design, of course, which is Starck at his most playful and down-to-earth.

Mama Shelter Marseille
Mama Shelter Paris
Mama Shelter Lyon
Mama Shelter Bordeaux
Mama Shelter Los Angeles
Mama Shelter Rio de Janeiro

Sydell Group


The Line - boutique hotel in Los Angeles
Freehand Los Angeles


Ron Burkle and Andrew Zobler helm this sophisticated brand in tandem, expertly situating their headline hotels in urban neighborhoods with the streetscapes and foot traffic to suit their high-design proclivities. They rope in cream-of-the-crop talent spanning interior design, fine dining, fine art, and retail, with particular skill in fashioning must-see bars and eateries that somehow manage to dispense with the velvet rope: desirable and accessible at the same time.

The Ned
The NoMad Hotel
The LINE Hotel
Freehand Miami
Freehand Chicago
Freehand Los Angeles
Saguaro Scottsdale
Saguaro Palm Springs