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10 of the most beautifully designed hotels from the past year

From a luxurious spin on a storied address to Martin Brudnizki’s seductive spot in the heart of Paris, the past 12 months have been the most exciting yet for the design hotel industry

The past year was a vintage one for hotel design, with a slew of openings around the world that genuinely advanced the style agenda in the balancing of local relevance and functionality with an enlightened aesthetic appeal. Here are 10 hotels that particularly piqued our interest:

Cowley Manor Experimental, Cotswolds

Known for its quirky collection of restaurants, cocktail bars and, of course, luxury hotels, Paris-based Experimental Group caused quite the stir among the Cotswolds community when it opened the doors to its first UK property outside of London this summer – Cowley Manor Experimental.

As with all of the hospitality titan’s projects, resident interior designer Dorothée Meilichzon was entrusted with the aesthetics overhaul and, paying tribute to Lewis Carroll’s legendary story of Alice in Wonderland (Cowley Manor was said to have inspired the English author to write the book), guests will stumble across everything from bespoke chequerboard carpets produced by Hartley & Tissier, hidden keyholes, rabbit ears, hearts and spades, and touches of rattan mixed with strong colour, glossy lacquer and lava stone. The 36-room hotel also incorporates a spa, restaurant, cocktail bar, lounge, library and living rooms.

Rosewood Munich, Germany

Set in Marienplatz Square across two historic buildings, the 123-key Rosewood Munich – the luxury hotel group’s inaugural property in Germany – sets a new standard for luxury in Bavaria with sophisticated interior design by Tara Bernerd & Partners.  

Boasting what the studio calls a refined residential style designed to achieve a feeling of simplistic elegance, the hotel, which sits inside a former bank and mansion, combines elements of both old and new Munich, “seamlessly melding the sensitively restored historic elements of the original building with a contemporary aesthetic that speaks to the future,” Bernerd tells Effect.

The result is the perfect layering of both modernist and Art Deco influences complete with Tara Bernerd signature carpets, marble and hardwood floors, brass lift doors and a recurring vertical fluting that can be found everywhere from the bathroom walls and wardrobes to the glass lights and bedroom furniture.

Keep an eye out for the hotel’s impressive art collection too – including abstract prints by Spanish artist Jesús Perea.

OWO Raffles London, UK

Perhaps the biggest hotel opening that London has seen in years, OWO Raffles finally opened on September 29th at one of the capital’s most historically significant addresses, the landmark Grade II* listed former Old War Office that was once inhabited by Britain’s most famous statesmen and spies, from Winston Churchill to Ian Fleming. Now having undergone a monumental and meticulous transformation, it is open to the public for the first time.

Housing 120 rooms and suites alongside 85 branded residences by Raffles, nine restaurants, three bars, and an extensive spa and health club, OWO is quite the architectural feat. This is all thanks to Geoff Hull and his team at EPR Architects who spent the last eight years sensitively restoring the building, as well as The Office of Thiery Despont, who is responsible for the overall interiors scheme. The result? An architectural and design feat that is worthy of its own chapter in the building’s history book.

Mamula Island, Montenegro

A Design Hotel Group highlight for 2023, Mamula Island, just a short boat ride from the charming town of Herceg-Novi, put Montenegro on the map this year as an up-and-coming destination for savvy and stylish travellers.

Exquisitely restoring and reimagining a 19th-century fortress originally built by General Lazar Mamula in the 1850s as part of a network of Austro-Hungarian fortifications guarding the entrance to the Bay of Kotor from the Adriatic, Egyptian billionaire Samih Sawiris enlisted the help of architecture firm MCM London and Polish interior designer Piotr Wisniewski of Berlin’s weStudio to transform the building into one of Europe’s most talked-about hotels, which is also home to world-class culinary experiences courtesy of French-Canadian chef Erica Archambault of the Michelin-starred Parisian restaurant Septime, three outdoor pools, holistic spa, memorial gallery and a private beach.

Six Senses Rome, Italy

The hospitality powerhouse’s first outpost in Italy, Six Senses Rome opened to rave reviews in March this year, comprising 95 guest rooms, a spa, restaurant, events terrace, outdoor courtyard garden and rooftop terrace with a 360° view of the city and monuments. 

Designed to marry the old with the new, the main façade, which overlooks Via del Corso and is protected by the Roman municipality and UNESCO listed, has been restored to its grand origins, while inside, the central staircase has also been preserved. The hotel’s classic-meets-modern interiors are the brainchild of Patricia Urquiola, who has infused her unique aesthetic through the likes of a plant-adorned lobby, centrepiece chandeliers, a restaurant designed to replicate a Roman piazza, and light-filled guestrooms crafted from traditional cocciopesto plaster and travertine limestone.

As to be expected from the Six Senses brand, the spa is a triumph, reinterpreting the themes of classicism and contact with nature, from the mosaic of Daphne’s laurel tree to the biophilic features and locally sourced and organic spa products.

Aida, Kansas City, USA

While Kansas City might not be known for its plethora of design hotels, the recently opened Aida, tipped by writer Caitlin Morton as one of the many reasons to add the city to your must-visit list for 2024, is bucking the trend with its small-yet-mighty façade.

Sitting in the historic Country Club Plaza district just steps from the city’s many highly-lauded museums, Aida is from the team behind its equally-stylish neighbour The Truitt, and all of its eight beautifully-decked rooms are a sight for sore eyes. Decorated in deep oranges, dark greens and wood furniture, expect subtle details like delicately painted headboards, black and white photography, and richly patterned textiles that add a distinct air of luxury to the space.

La Fantaisie, Paris, France

It’s been a busy year for Martin Brudnizki. Not only did his first London-based hotel Broadwick Soho finally open its doors last month, two years after its original planned date, but his whimsical boutique hotel in the heart of Faubourg-Montmartre in Paris, La Fantaisie, also made its debut, signalling triple Michelin-starred Dominique Crenn’s return to the French capital.

Both a destination for international travellers and a meeting place for in-the-know locals and connoisseurs of the area, Brudnizki’s fantastical design centres around a spectacular courtyard garden that pays homage to the hotel’s location on Rue Cadet, named after brothers – and master gardeners – Jacques and Jean Cadet who supplied the court with fruit and vegetables in the 16th century.  

Designed to provide a total disconnection from the hustle and bustle of the urban environment outside, it draws on nature as the chief inspiration, with a colour palette of oft greens, warm yellows and coral touches evoking the natural world.

Raffles Boston, USA

Not content with just taking over the British capital this year, Raffles Hotels & Resorts also brought their world-class design to the US with the opening of Raffles Boston in September, dubbed an urban oasis where global cultures and locally inspired design converge. A haven of refined elegance, the impressive development, which comprises a distinctive hotel and Raffles residences, is a modern landmark on the city’s skyline that enhances the cosmopolitan charm of the Back Bay.

Hotel highlights include elegant and lively public spaces such as a two-story lobby perched high above Copley Square, five carefully-designed F&B venues, a state-of-the-art Raffles Spa with a 65-foot indoor pool, and a bright and airy rooftop garden terrace and lounge.

One&Only Aesthesis, Greece

A glamorous coastal destination that revives the mid-century style of the Athenian Riviera, One&Only Aesthesis – one of two of the luxury hotel group’s Greek openings for 2023 – heralds a return to the golden days of Athens, ensconced within a serene 52-acre beach and forest reserve.

Overlooking the sapphire waters of the Aegean Sea and designed to evoke the essence of a private island, the luxury resort redefines the concept of al fresco living with expansive outdoor living spaces featuring private pools, fragrant gardens and atmospheric showers. Bathed in sunlight, the architecture pays homage to mid-century design with local marble, native timbers, woven leather details and muted tones.

At the heart of this coastal haven lies the iconic Villa One. Spanning a vast 15,000-square-foot, it comes complete with 10,000-square-foot of outdoor entertaining space including a 82-foot statement swimming pool, a seafront Jacuzzi, panoramic vistas from every angle, decking extending to the water’s edge, and a sunken lounge area with a fire pit. 

SO/ Maldives

The Maldives is no stranger to luxury hotels of a sky-high calibre, and SO/ Maldives is no exception. Having opened at the tail end of 2023, this tropical destination was conceived in collaboration with leading artists and fashion designers, with the 80-villa collections on the Emboodhoo Lagoon drawing inspiration from the creativity, craftsmanship and theatricality of contemporary couture.

SO/ Maldives, on the Emboodhoo Lagoon, was conceived in collaboration with leading artists and fashion designers

Set across eight categories, the collection ranges from the 1,291-square-foot Lagoon Water Pool Villa Collection to the spectacular 3,550-square-foot three-bedroom Ocean Water Pool Atelier, while the 2,560-square-foot Family Beach Pool Villa with Capsule have fun adjoining sleep pods for younger guests. Private pools come as standard. Elsewhere expect a complete antithesis of the staid all-day dining buffet in favour of three fine dining outlets, a state-of-the-art spa, and a wellness camp that features specialist treatment rooms alongside hammam, steam rooms and a full-fitted gym.

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