Some of the world’s best hotels were hand-crafted by a single visionary with the burning desire to have every detail be perfect. Because if you want something done right…
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a vast team of architects, designers, contractors, and consultants to create a great hotel. Some of the world’s best hotels were opened by one or two ambitious visionaries with little more than a desire to get every detail just right. From check-in to check-out, these self-reliant hoteliers strive to ensure that your stay is an incomparably hand-crafted experience. Their precision is evident in the hotels below.
Małgorzata and Wojciech Żółtowsky are furniture makers, and this hotel on the shores of Lake Wulpińskie is essentially their showroom. Almost everything you lay eyes on here was made by their own hands, from materials sourced as locally as possible. That DIY ethos infuses absolutely every element of Galery69’s design, making it the perfect hotel to kick off this list.
This is it. The original. The blueprint. Alex Calderwood, may he rest in peace, launched the Ace expedition right here, in every way setting the agenda for today’s boutique hotels. It’s tough to remember that those principles — unforced idiosyncrasy, poised intentionality, material richness with room to breathe — find their source in his fertile mind. He called himself a cultural engineer, and when we’re in one of his spaces, we’ve got to admit he had a point.
Torre Di Moravola
Thanks to the electric pairing of architect Christopher Chong and designer Seonaid Mackenzie this petite seven-room concern should go down in history as a prime exemplar of gut renovation. It didn’t hurt that they began with a millennium-old Umbrian watchtower, of course, but they deserve every accolade for turning its innate capacities for climate control and structural soundness towards a strikingly modern, minimalist marvel.
Click Clack Hotel
Founders Tomás Beltrán and Juan Felipe Cruz have a landmark’s landmark on their hands here: Click Clack’s asymmetrical, futuro-geometric style fairly hums with contemporary energy. Everything’s sexily backlit, glossy, and framed by floor-to-ceiling views; all together, it adds up to the certainty that hand-curation can speak as convincingly in the city as it can anywhere else.
The Rose Hotel
Venice Beach, California
“It’s not like any other hotel. And we like it just like it is.” So say Glen Luchford and Doug Bruce, a pair of fashion photographers turned hoteliers with a soft spot for Venice’s irrepressibly bohemian atmosphere. In their hands, vintage dècor and painstaking renovations join hands to create something vivacious yet surprisingly affordable, a stylish statement a stone’s throw from the Pacific.
Atrio Restaurante Hotel
The Atrio hotel places Juan Antonio Pérez and José Polo’s formidable culinary skills front and center. Yet though the hotel is built around their magnificent restaurant, the lodgings are hardly an afterthought; more a natural outgrowth of their propensities for diligence, care, and memorable presentation. It’s a story worth telling and telling again — over a delicate meal with fine wine, preferably.
Herdade Da Matinha
When this Alentejo homestead first hung its hospitality shingle, it didn’t even have electricity. That didn’t stop them, clearly, but it also speaks to the loving, piecemeal process by which the owners Mónica Belleza and Alfredo Moreira da Silva built up the charming country escape we see before us today. The activity centers, as it should in any welcoming household, around the kitchen, where the region’s legendary produce takes on magical properties in their expert hands.
Catskill Mountains, New York
When people call the Roxbury theatrical, they’re hardly exaggerating: Gregory Henderson and Joseph Massa’s combined stagecraft is a mighty force to be reckoned with. Their deliriously colorful hotel is like nowhere else on earth — especially this close to New York City — and they’re justly proud of the sheer range of conceptual whimsy at play. Trust us, you’ll want to make a point of booking a new room each time you return.
It all began quite cinematically with Don Antenor Patiño, a Bolivian tin magnate who died before realizing his dream of a massive Costalegre beach resort. Enter Isabel Goldsmith, the enterprising granddaughter with the moxie to transform the Don’s brainchild into a hyper-exclusive, low-impact resort on 1,500 pristine, beachfront acres. You’d be a shoo-in for the restless protagonist, if we do say so ourselves.
That’s Kimber Cavendish at the helm, and no one is better suited to guide this architectural gem like a sound ship through the wild and weird waters of present-day Austin. Simply put, this is Kimber’s magnum opus, built and designed from scratch to work in harmony with the landscape, both physical (plantlife and curvilinear elements) and metaphorical (local artists and artisans are incorporated everywhere you look). If only every boutique could have such passion, and such free rein to express its character.
Hotel Primero Primera
Turns out there’s a hideaway in Tres Torres, Barcelona’s mansion district, and it’s been in the hands of the owner’s family since 1955. In fact, they still live on the first floor. Timeless comfort defines these interiors — curl up with a book in a cozy leather chair, or catch up in earnest at the honesty bar — an affect beyond welcoming in comparison with the press of bodies in nearby Las Ramblas. We wouldn’t fault you for asking to check in a bit early.
Los Angeles, California
A heartening tale of the American Dream given form, Beverly Garland’s passion project encompasses everything serendipitous and sun-kissed about the North Hollywood hills. Together with her husband, she set about building a Spanish colonial bolthole replete with colorful mod details and glowing public spaces, perfect to socialize with her many friends on their own terms. These days it’s still in the family, flourishing under the capable leadership of their son James, clearly an expert in the glam-sophisticate, only-in-LA idiom.
What grows on this farm? In a nutshell, deliriously colorful artistic inspiration, nurtured by a heartening ethos of playful recycling and repurposing. The proprietors — husband and wife team Surya and Ritu Singh — explicitly embrace an attitude of avant surprise, welcoming any and all visually keen visitors in the mood for an ocular shakeup. “Refreshing” is too mild a word; they’re driven like mad scientists to experiment ceaselessly with form, material, and purpose. Go and be remade.
The Maidstone Hotel
East Hampton, New York
You’ve got to hand it to Jenny Baker — née Ljungberg, proudly Swedish — for making her mark, coined “Scandinavian Cozy,” on a Greek Revival landmark with more than a century and a half of history. Her exacting standards and flawless Nordic design sense find full purchase here, every vivid pattern and eclectic set piece placed just so. Beach chic works across the globe, it seems.