For all its pristine beaches, the star-studded seaside strip of Malibu never really excelled at hotels – until now. Visitors in 2017 can access the magnificent California coastline thanks to a pair of new hotel openings on the Pacific Coast Highway. Nobu Ryokan brings considered Japanese-ish design and hospitality to seaside Los Angeles. The ocean-facing oasis has a peaceful stone-lined courtyard that flows onto a wooden deck and contains 16 bedrooms skirted with slatted teak. Plus there are Japanese design elements, including shoji screens and sand-colored limestone walls.
A few miles west, the 13 bedroom Native hotel is nestled in coastal greenery. Occupying a one-storey building that was once a motel, Native’s interior has a mid-century look and there are beach-house elements such as exposed wooden beams and artisan-made fringed hammocks. The hotel’s restaurant Coffee and Waffles is a retrofitted roadside trailer run by French-Angelino chef Ludo Lefebvre, and serves elevated takes on American comfort-food classics.
We sat down in New York for a word with the president of the lauded Ace hotel group (currently 10 properties: eight in the US, plus one each in Panama and the UK). We learn of Ace’s new openings in New Orleans and Chicago, and why the brand has an eye on the Japanese market.
The Ace Chicago opened its doors in August. Which markets are you eyeing up next?
Well our growth plan is relatively slow and deliberate. We like to do projects that inspire us so we are always looking at a lot of cities. We try to do one or two hotels a year. We are inspired by modernism and a lot of American modernism took its roots in Frank Lloyd Wright’s visits to Japan. We have always been very involved with and inspired by Japan. We love its diligence, thoughtfulness and craftsmanship. Those are values we try to bring into what we do and we are really proud of the fact that our brand has been well received by Japanese visitors. I worked for a Japanese hotel company in the past and Alex [Calderwood, the founder] started his career selling used vintage jeans in Japan so we have always loved Tokyo and that is something we are certainly interested in. We are keeping our eyes open.
Hotels need to strike a balance between being unique to the city they are in while also being true to the brand. How do you achieve that?
When we come to a city and we are focusing on a new project we spend a lot of time getting to know the city and, even more than that, the people who are doing interesting things there. Generally we try to partner with them; we try to bring in people who are the “best of” in each of the cities we come to. More than anything we want to find the best of what’s around and bring that together into one space. And that ends up making our hotels feel local – it’s not our only method but more than anything we want to collect people and experiences.
How does Ace set itself apart and what would you like the brand to stand for?
When [the late] Alex Calderwood opened up the first Ace Hotel he painted on the front door the words “a friendly place” and more than anything else that’s what we want to stand for in the end. We are a place about people. In the end it is a collaboration of people and then an environment for guests on top of that. I think we would always want to be a place where people go because it is alive and interesting, and they are always learning something.
A bit of a cheeky question but are there other hotels you enjoy staying in?
Hotels are really about the experience and some of the best experiences come from odd, unique little hotels. One time, while travelling in India, I ended up staying in Udaipur in the Lake Palace. It is literally a marble island floating in the middle of a lake in India and built by the Maharaja as his “pleasure palace”. It is 100 per cent marble with views in every direction and the service is beyond believable. You go there and it’s just a memory that you are going to have for the rest of your life.
Aces in the pack:
The original Ace opened in 1999 and is still going strong.
The Ace’s only European outpost is located in ever-lively Shoreditch.
This spot in the West Loop opened in 2017 and comes in the midst of a citywide rejuvenation.
Cosy Casa C’Alma overlooks the quiet Praça das Flores. The hotel melds Portuguese tradition and Scandinavian design with white walls and polished-wood floors. There is a small library and each of the five bedrooms has
a distinct character and, is flooded with natural light.
In the Tenderloin neighbourhood not far from the thick of the action, The Tilden has taken a punt by positioning itself in a non-touristy area. Designed by New York’s Studio Tack, the hotel has a mid-century feel with plenty of wood in the lobby and a newly uncovered skylight; the rooms are smartly decked out in black, white and
grey. For a pick-me-up, drop by the in-house café for coffee and pastries or grab a drink or dinner at The Douglas Room.
After a six-year hiatus, architect Soo K Chan has retaken the reins on his 48-villa and three-restaurant property within Bali’s southwest Tabanan region. Every villa at Soori is skirted by traditional irrigation channels called subak and the grey sandstone inside is extracted from nearby riverbanks and volcanic stone: the latter comes from the base of Mount Batukaru, a dormant volcano that’s visible across a kilometre of black-sand beach.
Roomers, the third Munich property from Frankfurt-based Gekko Group, is in fast-gentrifying Westend. The hotel’s green-stone and gleaming-brass reception desk motif carries through to the generously fitted rooms, while the open-plan izakaya-style restaurant and bar behind reception act as the heart of the house.
The 10-minute walk from the terminal at Marco Polo Airport to the docks and their boat taxis has been integrated inside a new extension complete with walkways for added speed. The upgrade is part of an €630m development plan for what’s now the third-busiest intercontinental hub in Italy. Architecture firm One Works has constructed a long lattice-roof gallery that allows natural light to pour in, and includes gorgeous views of the lagoon. A new business lounge also pays homage to nearby Merano surroundings by making extensive use of glass.
Housed inside a 1916 department store, the newly restored Quirk is Southern hospitality at its finest. The hotel features high ceilings and original maple flooring after a makeover from designers Pilar Proffitt and Rob Bristow of Poesis Design. “Many design elements capture the city’s spirit by taking a touch of Richmond’s past and reinterpreting it,” says Proffitt. With a dedicated art space, the Quirk Gallery, it has an artsy edge too. Fitting then that it sells installation art by local artist Sarah Hand, alongside a variety of branded goods.
“Our goal was to show the world the best of Richmond in a hotel,” says Bristow. “What that means is gorgeous old buildings, a vibrant energy driven by the 3,000 artists in the city, an incredible food scene and the South’s elegant traditions mixed with youthful irreverence.”