A collection of intimate hotels perfect for those who are looking for some separation — and looking to gleefully misinterpret Sartre’s famous phrase.
In No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre wrote that “Hell is other people.” It’s an oft-misunderstood line that’s not quite as cynical as it sounds. Sartre wasn’t claiming, as most believe, that other people are awful. His point was that only when we are alone are we truly free to be ourselves. Free from judgment and expectation and from the prison of how others perceive us.
That said, who among us doesn’t occasionally relate to the more common interpretation?
Travel is a great way to discover new places and meet interesting new people. Sometimes, though, you’ve got no patience for strangers, and just want to be with your closest friends and family members — if that. For those times there exist small hotels with no more than a few rooms, making it possible to book up the entire property for yourself (and for the handful of people you can currently stomach).
Mere blocks from Nijo Castle, Kyo no Ondokoro offers the rare opportunity for Kyoto visitors to call a 150-year-old downtown house their home. Architects Yoshifumi Nakamura and Akira Minagawa have revamped the interiors of this distinctive two-story merchants’ house, resulting in a warm, airy collection of blonde-wood rooms, the two floors separated by a winding staircase.
The appeal of Villa Sal is almost too simple to effectively describe. It’s not one but two villas, set in the seaside town of Lagoa on San Miguel in the Azores, the Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic almost a thousand miles due west of Lisbon. And they get right to the point, looking straight out to sea from a south-facing clifftop setting.
Safe to say we’ll never feature a hotel smaller than Cyprès Si Haut. Whether it’s a one-room hotel or a one-bedroom guest house is purely academic — what matters is the privacy afforded by this treehouse, perched four meters high in a stand of pines and larches in Corrèze. There’s a Jacuzzi on the balcony, a sauna, and room service that arrives via a pulley contraption, so you never have to touch the forest floor.
Spoor 62 is a masterfully designed two-room b&b housed in a historic railway station in the countryside outside Bruges. It’s clear that great care went into restoring the old brick station, a stop on the storied Pullman Express line between Paris and the resort towns of the Belgian coast, and today it positively glows with warmth and an understated countryside glamour.
There’s pedigree and then there’s pedigree. This hotel is housed in a palace owned by a princess, and it’s named after one of its most famous guests, Napoleon III, who lived here in 1830. None of which would matter all that much if Residenza Napoleone III weren’t still a deeply pleasurable place to stay, as unapologetically opulent, one has to imagine, as the day the emperor checked in.
With just three villas, Vora is scarcely a hotel at all. The color palette is restrained, even by Greek standards, with some earth-tone accents in natural materials set against the cloud-white walls. It’s a substantially more refined look than what you’re used to here, even at the high end — and still the merest glance outside at the majestic caldera proves that nature is in no danger of being overshadowed.
Few hotels are more clearly a labor of love than seven&nine. Set a scant minute’s walk from the Avon Theatre, one of the anchors of the annual Shakespeare festival, it was built as a private house, and an extraordinary one at that. Architects Shim/Sutcliffe were inspired by raw-concrete modernism, and the house is decorated with modernist classic furnishings and contemporary artworks to match.
Mexico City, Mexico
Let the big chains scramble to outdo each other with bigger spas and restaurants, sparkling fitness centers and Olympic-sized infinity pools. An achingly hip little hotel like La Valise in Mexico City doesn’t need any of that. In fact, the three-suite property, located above a shop in a 1920s townhouse in the happening Roma neighborhood, makes a virtue of its small size.
On Lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas is something genuinely surprising: a restaurant, Sister, and a café, Duro, both “Italianish” in concept, and both by the small but highly regarded Duro Hospitality Group. And upstairs from both is Casa Duro, a three-room guest house, or a trio of apartments, by the same owners, where their appetite for Italian culture is allowed to run wild.
Bruges is famous for its picturesque beauty, and places like the B&B Exclusive Guesthouse Bonifacius are exactly why. This delightfully ramshackle 16th-century restoration perches right at the edge of a canal, and its interiors are rich with antique character; in fact it’s a bit of a surprise to see fellow travelers in modern dress rather than period costumes.
The name isn’t an attempt at hominess, but a matter-of-fact statement: the Roozen Residence was built as a private beach house for artist and surfer Ron Roozen, just outside of the Western Australian beach town of Margaret River. The architecture is stunning, as are the interiors, and the 180-degree ocean view certainly doesn’t hurt.
Housed in a centuries-old tower that was designed to keep intruders out, the fully restored guesthouse known as Tainaron Blue Retreat now welcomes visitors from around the globe, but not too many of them — there are just three suites, one at the base of the tower, another in its upper section, and a third in the adjoining tower house.
Milan’s 10 Corso Como is what you might call a mini-mall — this former warehouse has been transformed by gallerist Carla Sozzani into a venue containing a bookshop, a café, a restaurant, a roof garden, an exhibition space, and an upscale flea market. It’s also home to 3 Rooms, which is just what it sounds like: a three-room boutique hotel spanning the building’s upper floors.
The mountain town of Pontarlier is home to much of France’s pastis and absinthe production, and to La Maison d’à Côté, a truly minuscule bed and breakfast featuring a mere two rooms, spanning the top floor of a 19th-century building in the town center. The décor is somewhat rustic, and extremely eclectic; one room is more historical in style, the other rather more contemporary, but both are stylish and memorable.
Barely a hotel at all, Avalon Coastal Retreat is a stunning modernist three-bedroom house on the east coast of Tasmania, midway between Hobart and Launceston. The sea views through the house’s glass walls are extraordinary, but the interiors give them a run for their money, thanks to the fine work of local architect Craig Rosevear.