For architect lovers, one of the most thrilling aspects of travel is discovering how locally inspired design plays a role in creating a hotel’s aesthetic. The interpretation of a storied, historical past, artifacts intertwined with contemporary touches, and indigenous flavors, all help create the feeling of being elsewhere, of understanding the cultural importance of a place. I’ve fallen in love with the earthy, terra cotta tones of Mexican hacienda style design, verdant bamboo set against Japanese tatami mats, opulent French haute couture, and small accents that captures a city’s essence. If you’re looking to discover properties around the world that embody their location’s history and aesthetic, here are five to get you started:
The Mandarin Oriental, Paris
When it comes to elegant design, say oui to the Mandarin Oriental in Paris. Located on the fashionable rue Saint-Honoré, this 5-star luxury property epitomizes timeless French aesthetic. Here, architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte creates a contemporary twist on a golden past with accent colors of fuschia and orange and the haute couture that defines French fashion -- plush suites with handcrafted embroidery, lacquer, crystal and vintage sequins. A gilded gate welcomes guests into the 138-room property, complete with a lively bar and French cuisine at two restaurants: Camelia, and Michelin-starred Le Sur Mesure from Chef Thierry Marx. Just steps away are Paris’ famed Tuileries gardens and The Louvre.
The Modern, Honolulu
Clean, contemporary design meet Waikiki’s laid back beach scene at this oceanfront, boutique hotel. Say “Aloha” to the lobby’s sea of surfboards, signed by their riders, blue glass tiles in the pool that mirror the ocean outside. Architects George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg created a clean, geometric exterior with an interior surrounded by a lush haven reflective of Hawaii’s tropic appeal. Colorful sarongs are included in each room, completing a true island vibe. In the 1,400-square foot Penthouse suite, a locally sourced teak table, minimalist white furniture, and sweeping views of Waikiki’s harbor from its 1500-square foot terrace are just the beginning. Hang ten vicariously through a collage of iconic surfer shots on the walls. Downstairs, a happening pool is surrounded with native trees and white cabanas. In the evening, a fireworks show over the harbor at Ravish restaurant is best with a glass of champagne and freshly caught sushi.
The Rosewood, San Miguel Allende
Reflecting the rich history of the UNESCO World Heritage city where it is located, The Rosewood in San Miguel Allende, Mexico stays true to its surroundings. Colonial design, terra cotta tones, integration of the city’s local art scene, and local cuisine are all highlighted at this 67-room property. Accommodations feature wood-beamed ceilings and hacienda style design. The spa offers indigenous ingredients such as mole and lavender honey from local bees. Do not miss the stunning Luna rooftop, where panoramic views of the city and San Miguel’s own homegrown Casa Dragones tequila is served alongside flavorful tapas.
The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto
Step into the heart of Japanese luxe, minimalist design at The Ritz Carlton, Kyoto. Architecture mirrors the traditional Machiya wooden townhouse found throughout Japan and a contemporary take on the Meiji period. The resort’s design concept, helmed by Remedios Studios is based on five key words: Utage (Festive), Seido (serenity and movement), Miyabi (elegance), Hana (splendid) and Nagomi (harmony). The 134-guestrooms and suites contain a mix of Zen garden views, floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Kamogawa River, and traditional touches of bamboo, tea sets and tatami mats. Tempura Mizuki offers food served Kappo-style, with the Chef interacting directly in front of guests. Outside, a calming Japanese garden with a three-story waterfall is the essence of zen.
Wine country splendor gets a peachy design at The Fairmont Mission Inn & Spa. Belltowers and red-tiled floors welcome guests to the mission-style architecture; an open space lobby hosts communal gatherings in a laid back setting typical of Northern California’s easy going vibes. 227 signature rooms and suites, many with patios and fireplaces, mirror wine country Provence-style decor. The property sits on top of an ancient thermal spring and its wellness spa features natural elements, including soaking mineral baths and waterfalls. For a nearby winery visit, don’t miss a local favorite, B.R. Cohn. The family owned vineyard sells savory olive oils, vinegars, and a buttery 2016 Sauvignon Blanc with citrus notes that is a highlight in its wine collection. On Sundays, enjoy live music and fresh oysters from the San Francisco bay that make for a perfect al fresco lunch. Or, opt for a more traditional wine and cheese tasting. It is wine country after all. Cheers.