Best Boutique Hotels for Design Lovers 2018

By: House Method

Standards for hospitality are often set in the great hotels. Excellent boutique hotels are those that have mastered the art of environmental experience. Some transport guests to different worlds and others are a microcosm of their own environments—the perfect distillation of a time or place. This is why design loves great hotels, and why the House Method team loves great hotels as well.

The House Method team has stayed in many of these hotels (some of them many times), some were submitted by our readers, and some are just on our hotel bucket list.

With this list, we sought to capture the most unique boutique properties around the country. We looked for all sorts of styles, some bold and statement-making, others understated and subdued, all of them worth the experience of taking in the design.

Not seeing your favorite boutique hotel? Leave us a comment below to let us know what we missed!

Bungalow

Long Branch, New Jersey

Bungalow features just 24 rooms—each with sweeping Atlantic coast views. The New Jersey hotel was originally designed by the talented Novogratz design family and just completed a fresh redesign at the hand of local artist Nicole Cohen. Guest rooms feature sparse yet statement-making decor set against a clean eggshell backdrop and artwork created and curated by Cohen. The hotel is just steps from the beachfront boardwalk, plenty of entertainment, and, of course, easy beach access.

Art and culture lovers will love the Bungalow’s commitment to furthering the Garden State’s art scene. This fall, Bungalow is launching a new event space in an adjacent converted ice cream shop. The event space will be both art gallery and culture lounge experience and will open its doors for readings, performances, and galleries.

Hotel Ella

Austin, Texas

Old-school taste meets new-school style at this historic Austin hotel. The Greek Revival–inspired structure dates back to the early aughts, but most of its vivacity comes from its rebirth in the Roaring Twenties.

It seems the original owner of the mansion that is now Hotel Ella was just as obsessed with her home as we are: the hotel was originally built as a private residence and wedding gift for Ella Newsome and her fiancé Goodall Wooten (son of University of Texas founder Thomas Dudley Wooten). In 1910, Ella’s new husband asked if she would rather travel the world or have renovations made to the house, Ella chose both and then gave her new home the works.

Ella was known for her fabulous parties and impeccable taste. And, in case you couldn’t already tell, was completely extra in the very best way: in 1925, Ella hired Neiman Marcus to redecorate the entire place.

Hotel Ella comprises just 47 guest rooms in a blend of contemporary and classic styles (think plenty of luscious chesterfields). Guests can enjoy Ella’s cabana-lined pool, wrap-around veranda, and, in keeping with Ella Newsome’s tradition of hospitality, a classic Salon on Thursday nights, featuring talks from authors, professional athletes, and artists.

Our favorite parts about Hotel Ella—aside from its colorful originator—is its art program, which features works from Texas modernists curated by Ana Stapleton.

Hotel: Kim Sing

Los Angeles, California

Located in the historic Kim Sing Theatre in Downtown Los Angeles, Hotel: Kim Sing is an immersive Los Angeles experience. Originally a vaudeville theatre, once a kung fu film house, now an 3,500-square-foot event space that can accommodate up to eleven guests at a time, Hotel: Kim Sing is truly the most indulgent boutique experience you can find.

Find a mix of mid-century and brutalist styles, plenty of concrete, bentwood furniture in delicious curves, deep shag carpets, and all the colors you’d never think to marry, but somehow work. The central courtyard, accessible via private doors, is shrouded in privacy and even features a bamboo grove.

Broken Shaker at the Freehand Miami

Freehand Miami

Miami, Florida

Freehand Miami is a reinvention of the historic Indian Creek Hotel, a 1930s Art Deco building. Kick back in classic Miami style at one of the Freehand’s weekly backyard barbecues, grab a fruity cocktail at The Broken Shaker, float in the pool, or hit the beach, which is just a block away.

Design lovers will love the beachy and bright rooms in white and blue nautical touches with pops of red and yellow. Think playful Cuban colors and patterns shaken with laidback south-Florida vibes. Freehand Miami offers quad rooms (bunk beds for four travelers), classic kings and king suites, and even a private bungalow.

21c Durham

Durham, North Carolina

21c hotels Durham wrote the book on the museum hotel experience. 21c Durham occupies Durham’s historic Art Deco Hill Building, formerly the home of Durham Bank & Trust. Guest rooms are sleek, sexy, and modern and accented with 21c Durham’s signature fuchsia.

This hotel is full of playful surprises. Wander the more than 10,500 square feet of gallery and event space and find yourself followed by and even dining with the hotel’s mischievous giant fuchsia penguins, or find yourself in the building’s basement, which still houses the original bank vault, now a mid-century inspired lounge, which will transport you to a 1960s-era James Bond film.

The museum is completely free and open to the public 365 days of the year. Exhibitions frequently rotate, so you’ll always find something new in the world of contemporary art.

The LARK

Bozeman, Montana

The LARK is downtown Bozeman’s colorful, quirky boutique hotel perfect for lovers of retro style. The building dates back to 1963 when Los Angeles–based Imperial 400 Motels took advantage of the quickly expanding National Park and Interstate Highway system, which saw Americans hitting the road and drinking in all the delightful kitsch of the family road trip. The hotel changed names a time or two, but then closed its doors in 2009. Four years later, the imaginative minds at Bozeman’s ThinkTank Design Group decided to begin the process of turning the shuttered structure into the playful urban escape that is the LARK. In June of 2018, The LARK completed a two-year expansion project that added 29 new guest rooms and a new café, where patrons can grab an espresso and a pastry or a light lunch and enjoy the Main Street vibes.

Rooms are modern, minimalist, and Montana-inspired: find nods to the outdoors and local Bozeman flair, thick wool blankets, and reclaimed wood barn doors. Neon minty green, rusty orange, and canary yellow against the white walls and concrete floors make for a cheeky environment that invites guests to pop out of their shells. 

In case you’re not familiar with Bozeman, the local community is tight and hometown loyalty is strong—but they always make room for more. And that’s what you’ll find in the spirit of the LARK: a celebration of local talent, local flavor, and local views, with plenty to go around.

Elliott House Inn

Charleston, South Carolina

Elliott House Inn dates back to 1861 (though some elements of the property predate this) when it served as a private residence by local bookseller John O’Mara. It stands in the classic Charleston style: extensive piazzas over a bricked central courtyard bordered by lush lowland vegetation. Today, the Elliott House is one of the only Charleston inns to employ a full-time in-house historian who offers custom-crafted history tours of the area.

Guest rooms feature beautiful hardwoods and plantation-style shutters with gently-hued contemporary furnishings. Guests can enjoy the escape of central courtyard, continental breakfast brought to your room each morning, and a wine and cheese reception every evening.

The location of the Elliott House Inn can’t be beat. This charming boutique hotel in sherbet peach sits right next to one of Charleston’s most beloved restaurants, the Husk, and just a few blocks from The Ordinary (you can thank us later). Just around the corner you’ll find (one of our favorites) the Charleston Library Society and down the block, classic French café Gaulart & Maliclet.

Melrose Georgetown Hotel

Washington, DC

Located on Washington Circle just one mile from Embassy Row, Melrose Georgetown Hotel is our top pick for book lovers.

This DC hotel is full of rich colors and warmth and boasts more than 1,000 classics and plenty of lush seating in its dark and decadent lobby. The Melrose’s lobby is Art Deco–inspired and begs for a great conversation over boozy cocktails. Oversized wingback chairs, chesterfield sofas, and luxurious rugs make this hotel feel indulgent, sumptuous. Grab a farm-to-table meal at Jardenea, or relax with a Negroni at the glittering hotel bar.

Hotel Revival

Baltimore, Maryland

Hotel Revival easily features some of the most innovative and forward-thinking design choices we’ve seen in a hotel, yet the blending of styles and inspirations is seamless. Guest rooms boldly mix loud patterns, colors, textures, and styles. See a modern minimalist bed against old-money floral drapes on top of deep-ocean-blue walls. Everywhere you look, the inventive design choices in Hotel Revival will have you wondering, why didn’t I think of that?

Hotel Revival is Charm City’s only boutique art hotel and part of Joie de Vivre Hotels, and its rooms hosted the Baltimore Museum of Art’s inaugural exhibition in 1923. Its mission is to make art and culture more accessible to all who experience the hotel, and you’ll even be delighted to know that much of the art you see in this hotel can be purchased.

Catch a bite at the hotel’s two restaurants, Topside and Square Meal, and once you’ve had a few Melon DeGeneres at Topside’s insanely cool rooftop garden bar, hit up Hotel Revival’s very own—yes, ma’am—karaoke bar, B-Side.

The Blackstone

Chicago, Illinois

The Blackstone, which features one of Chicago’s most striking interiors, sits on Chicago’s Cultural Mile. This Chicago boutique is our top choice for history lovers.

Originally opening in 1910, The Blackstone is rich in early-20th-century opulence. The hotel’s exterior features an arched marble street-level façade and a grand, sloping Mansard roof. Inside, visitors can take in the rich ornamentation of the dark, wood-paneled wainscoting, Victorian sconces, marble floors, and voluptuous furnishings of this storied hotel.

The Blackstone has hosted US Presidents, foreign dignitaries, mob exchanges, Hollywood actors, and more than a dozen movie productions. President Eisenhower watched his nomination for president in this hotel, and it was here that President Kennedy prepared for negotiations on the Cuban Missile Crisis. Gangster Al Capone’s “barber shop” was also located here in a below-street-level lounge.

Noelle

Nashville, TN

Noelle sits a block from Music City’s famous Broadway strip and next door to Printer’s Alley (go for karaoke at Ms. Kelli’s). The hotel was originally built in 1929 and opened in 1930, and the Noelle itself was born in December of 2017.

Noelle’s lobby is full of light, wood-paneled walls, and velvet cobalt sofas. Classic and studio guest rooms are bright in whites, coral, and gold. Think dusty colors of velvet, crisp white bed linens, and creamy-colored wainscoting. Larger suites are a rich dark navy with gauzy ivory drapes shading city views.

Its spacious rooftop bar, Raire Bird, offers 360-degree views of downtown Nashville. Enjoy a drink with friends on the glass-surrounded patio that features benches wrapped around rooftop-blooming trees.

Hotel Yountville

Yountville, California

Nestled deep in Napa Valley wine country, Hotel Yountville is the choice for wine lovers looking for breezy valley serenity. Catch some blissful privacy and enjoy a bottle of Napa Valley vintage, complimentary with your room.

Rooms are bright and airy, decorated with natural fibers, shades of cream and camel, and pops of sunset orange, some featuring vaulted ceilings and French doors that open onto a private patio and cool Napa breezes. Suites have white bead-board barn doors, in-room wet bars, and stone fireplaces. Bathrooms are spa-like with white herringbone subway tile showers and deep alcove bathtubs.

Post Ranch Inn

Big Sur, California

Post Ranch Inn boasts breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean from 1,200 feet above the Pacific waters of Big Sur, California, and is easily the most luxurious boutique property on our list.

The inn stands on land whose long family history of ranching and hospitality. The entirely environmentally friendly inn comes from four generations of Posts who loved and cared for the land and fostered its beauty. Opened in 1992, the Post Ranch Inn has become the premier destination for travelers who come to absorb the beauty of Big Sur and the Pacific Coast Highway.

The Post Ranch Inn is built into the side of the the emerald slopes that drop into the rolling Pacific waves. The Cliff Houses, which are free-standing guest houses that blend almost seamlessly with their environment, have green roofs and provide floor-to-ceiling views of the Pacific. Rooms are appointed in California mountain minimalism, allowing the panoramic views to take center stage, and two ocean-view infinity pools offer even more opportunity to take in the spectacular landscape.

Hotel Boulderado

Boulder, Colorado

Opened in 1909 as Boulder’s first luxury hotel, Hotel Boulderado is rich in late-Victorian style with hints of Italian Renaissance and Spanish Revival influence. The hotel was introduced to the public with a New Year’s Eve gala in 1908, and its first guests checked in on the first day of 1909. It was created to be Boulder’s first luxury hotel, and today still ranks among the very best in Boulder hospitality.

This Colorado boutique is the ideal destination for those looking to drink in a bit of turn-of-the-century decadence. The fully updated rooms are in two styles: Some still exude Victorian charm with their striking floral wallpaper, antique-style metal bed frames, tufted chintz sofas, and antique fringed lamps. Others are in a modern mountain style—simple blues and neutrals and plaids and plenty of Rocky Mountain Views.

But the crowning gem of this hotel is its lobby. With a stained-glass ceiling and cantilevered five-story cherry wood staircase. The second-floor gallery offers the perfect perspective of the lobby’s glass canopy and the grand vault of a room.

Surfcomber

Miami Beach, Florida

This Miami hotel is all about embracing the South Beach spirit. The Surfcomber is a beachfront hotel made for the color lover, the pool swimmer, the cocktail drinker, the sun bather, the cabana napper. Order a piña colada and relax in your very own poolside cabana or stroll just a few yards to the south Florida shore. Take in some live music, play a beach game, catch a yoga class, and wind down the day with bottomless sangria at The Social Club.

The design of this hotel is all Florida coolness and beach bum chic. Guest rooms are dressed in bold pops of color and loud patterns. Furniture is mid-century-modern-inspired in sandy heather weaves and nautical fabrics. Bright yellow, rich green, electric blue, and coral pink stimulate the senses and reflect that brilliant Florida sunshine. 

Mr. C Seaport

South Street Seaport, Manhattan

Owned by brothers Maggio and Ignazio of the famous Cipriani family, Mr. C Seaport is a brand new 2018 vintage, a luxury boutique hotel fit for even the most discerning tastes.

From the family who wrote the book on fine entertaining, Mr. C Seaport offers the best accommodations South Street Seaport has to offer. Catch views of the Brooklyn Bridge, the East River, and of course, the beautiful Manhattan skyline.

The hotel’s design blends old-world European elegance—think rich Italian marble paired with lacquered black cherry wood and gilded Art Deco touches—with New York City swank. Indulge in old Hollywood–inspired velvet armchairs, white marble floors, and larger-than-life floral arrangements.

Zero George

Charleston, South Carolina

Pour me a bourbon, dahling, I’m about to get deep into that porch swing. The Zero George is ripe with that old-school Charleston charm, that easy, low-country cool.

Guest room designs are in three styles, all inspired by Charleston’s European influences: “British Trade,” “French Romantic,” and “Yachting Style.” Linens and silk in brown, gray, French blue, and apricot lend coastal sophistication. Take a seat on the deep, wide-planked porch and sip a cocktail or a glass of tea.

Sit in Zero Restaurant + Bar’s courtyard and enjoy a plate from award-winning executive chef Vinson Petrillo. Petrillo’s dishes themselves are a visual treat for the design lover, and you can learn a bit of the art yourself at the Zero George Cooking School.

Salish Lodge & Spa

Snoqualmie, Washington

If you’re looking for that classic lodge feel among the Cascade Mountains, Salish Lodge & Spa is your spot. Perched atop Snoqualmie Falls, this boutique inn offers the very best views on our list.

Rooms offer sweeping views of the falls and the emerald mountain ranges and are designed in simple, clean, mountain-inspired style, but don’t let the rustic feel fool you, this place is all indulgence. We need to talk about the bathrooms: book a room with a view of the falls from the freestanding bathtub. You’re welcome.

Guests should also book a day in the lodge’s award-winning spa, which offers a range of services (think couple’s massage overlooking the falls), a sauna, therapeutic pools, and—of course—mountain views.

The Dean

Providence, Rhode Island

This is absolutely a bucket list hotel. The Dean’s eclectic mix of neon signage, classic portraiture, antique rugs, mosaic tile floors, and crystal chandeliers make this boutique hotel the most impeccably stylish on our list.

All guest rooms feature original works of art, from classic European portraiture to photos by prominent RISD photographers, and are full of custom furniture by local Providence makers and artists. Rooms range from expansive suites to smaller lodgings appointed with bunk beds, perfect for companion travelers.

The Dean features Providence’s first and only karaoke bar. The Boombox, whose design was inspired by popular karaoke “boxes” of Tokyo and Seoul. And one of the hotel’s sexiest secrets is the Magdalenae Room, a cocktail bar fashioned in classic European style.

Photo by Nick Simonite

South Congress Hotel

Austin, Texas

South Congress Hotel is another great Austin boutique. Smack in the heart of the South Congress neighborhood, which is full of critically praised restaurants and great local shopping, South Congress Hotel is quintessential Austin.

The lobby is styled in mid-century-meets-that-which-is-completely-Austin—a little bit of leather, a little bit of plaid, pepper in some cubist art, slather with Southwestern fibers, and embellish with a avant-garde photo or two. This spunky hotel is perfect for the art-loving traveler, foodie, and socialite. Enjoy the picture-perfect swimming pool or show up your friends with a snap of that gorgeous cocktail you got at the cobalt and gold hotel bar.

Graduate Oxford

Oxford, Mississippi

Southern prep meets modern urbanite in this Mississippi boutique hotel. The Graduate Oxford is centrally located on Oxford’s famous Square and features a playful mix of old-school preppy style and 21st-century modern taste fit for Holden Caulfield.

Enjoy live Blues and craft cocktails (make a selection from their mule series) at the Graduate’s rooftop terrace bar, The Coop, which overlooks Oxford’s historic skyline, or grab a fried chicken biscuit at Graduate’s own Cabin 82, a café inspired by the Neshoba County Fair.

Design lovers will appreciate the updated mix of tartan plaids, tricolor gingham, bright and fruity florals, and mid-century polka-dots. Old  steamer trunks turned nightstands, salvaged southern cafe signs, and grandma’s-quilt-upholstered restaurant booths create a playful and charming blend of old and new in this Southern boutique hotel.

The Dwell Hotel

Chattanooga, Tennessee

The Dwell Hotel is the spot for color lovers—and is easily the boldest boutique hotel to make our list. These Tennessee digs house just sixteen guest rooms all in unique “reimagined-retro” dressings. No detail is too small to have been perfectly mastered in this animated, even effervescent hotel that’s something like Hollywood heyday meets the flower power of the Mamas and the Papas.

The Dwell’s building was originally home to The Colonial Hotel, commissioned in 1909 and designed by German immigrant L.A. Hirtzfield. It later went by the moniker The Stone Fort Inn (in tribute to the land’s Civil War role as Fort James). The Dwell has been around for just a few years, but it still carries with it that charming and hospitable Chattanooga spirit that keeps guests, and design lovers, coming back.

The Mill

Dover-Foxcroft, Maine

The Mill is a small, central Maine boutique accommodation on the winding Piscataquis River. The 60,000-square foot historic mill was renovated in 2015 to comprise private residences, office space, a café, and this charming boutique inn.

The Mill has just six guest rooms that sing with rustic New England charm. The design is simple, understated, and lets the original mill’s mighty exposed ceiling beams and warm brick walls speak for themselves. Large windows spill brilliant morning light into the expansive guest rooms adorned with nods to Maine’s famous nautical economy. Grab an espresso and a sandwich at the Mill’s café and watch the lazy Piscataquis River roll by.


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