Design and travel. Hotels / Global
We peek behind the locked doors and look in on the lobbies of this summer’s smartest new openings from Amsterdam to Hong Kong and Hobart.
The Craftsman’s Cottage
This spring Amanda Bannister’s passion project, The Craftsman’s Cottage, opened in the Wiltshire village of Semley. This brick-built guesthouse, nestled in verdant valleys just a two-hour drive from London, is more than just another holiday let. It’s a project based around British craftsmanship.
“I wanted to create a more immersive offering,” says Bannister (pictured), who is a talented potter and passionate about William Morris’s arts and crafts movement that gives the cottage its name. “The industrial revolution spun the movement and now it’s down to a digital revolution that we’re experiencing a revival of handicraft. The Craftsman’s Cottage encourages people to turn away from their screens and everyday life.”
Set in a tranquil village, not far from Bannister’s second home (her main pad is in London and her other life is as a lawyer), the four-bedroom 19th-century home has solely English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh furniture. Floral wallpaper by Morris – who revived British textile design in the 1800s – adorns the walls, alongside contemporary art by the likes of London-based artist Danny Rolph, while the cottage features pottery by Bannister and ceramicists including Nicola Tassie and Marlene Hartmann Rasmussen.
Having spent 16 years living in the area, Bannister has got to know the craft community here well: she turned to local carpenter Wardour Workshops to design and build the kitchen’s corner-seating unit and table, and to Semley-based furniture-maker Philip Hawkins for the shelves by the fireside. “The region is a mecca for art and craft,” says Bannister, who has lovingly put together a detailed guide and provides guests with a hamper chock-full of regional goods, including Summerdown Mint tea, homemade marmalade, Donhead cider and Thomas J Fudge’s biscuits.
Comment: Bannister also sells the goods with which the cottage is furnished. It’s a clever way to maintain a bond with the makers and allows guests to try the furniture before buying.
The first hotel built on the Kowloon waterfront since 1995, the Shangri-La Group’s Kerry Hotel has just opened in the once-sleepy quarter of Hung Hom. With postcard-pretty views across Victoria Harbour, the hotel boasts interior design by André Fu, who foregoes the usual hallmarks of the group (chandeliers and golden pillars) in favour of marble, onyx and natural, woody tones. “You have all the facilities you’d expect but delivered in a more relaxed fashion,” says general manager Nicholas Smith.
The water-facing curved-glass façade and landscaped terraces reflect the water and add space where guests can enjoy the waterfront views. In the evenings, the best spot in which to unwind is the leafy seventh-floor deck. The hotel also has four restaurants, where executive chef Matthew Bennink calls the shots.
As Kerry Hotel’s third opening after Shanghai and Beijing in 2011, the young hotel brand seems assured in its growing regional clout as well as its point of difference from the more ornate Shangri-La-branded hotels. “Opening in three influential Asian cities puts a letter of intent out there,” says Smith. “Watch this space.”
Comment: The hotel can arrange a chartered boat to whisk you to and from the central business district across the water and without the fuss of flagging a cab.
Tasmania’s compact capital has bolstered its urban credentials with the opening of the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) and the rapid-fire development of a decent culinary scene. But hardscrabble Hobart remains defined by its natural features: Mount Wellington to the west, the River Derwent along the eastern fringe and dark-green bushland in all directions. This new hotel offers sweeping views of the landscape from its 114 rooms, 15 of which boast waterfront terraces. It’s clad in Tasmanian white cypress and occupies a prime stretch along the docks.
It’s the fourth Tasmanian hotel from the Federal Group and already runs like a well-oiled machine. There’s also a knockout menu from Simon Pockran in the Old Wharf Restaurant.
Comment: After stints at London’s Tate Modern and the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, the Museum of Everything has set up shop at Mona, where it will remain until April 2018.
WM Mulherin’s Sons
In 2016 Italian restaurant WM Mulherin’s Sons opened in Fishtown, Philadelphia. Named after a whiskey dealer that used to sit on the site, the beautifully restored building now has four upstairs guest rooms. The design in the light, lofty spaces is clean but warm with plenty of exposed brick, wooden floors and cactuses thrown in for good measure. It also draws heavily on the lore of the building; for example, the stunning wallpaper made by artist Stacey Rozich depicts whiskey-fuelled tomfoolery.
It’s all about “historically accurate pre-existing features complemented by Nordic simplicity”, says Randall Cook, chief executive of Method Co, the company behind the look. Each guest room tries to show off something relating to the building’s past, from a pulley system for shifting crates to a claw-foot bath.
Comment: Opening the restaurant and rooms in two phases allowed the team to hit the ground running on both.
In the city’s vibrant east, Hotel Arena is far from the tourist hordes who now dominate Amsterdam’s centre and yet it’s still just a short tram or cycle ride from the city’s main draws. Overlooking Oosterpark – filled with sculptures and picnic spots – the building manages to feel both historic and modern. A former orphanage and asylum, it dates back to 1886 and includes a frescoed chapel that’s now used for events. The glass extensions blend in by reflecting surrounding trees; the interiors, designed by local agency Tank, are airy, low-key and alluring.
This is a place “where the lines between park and hotel blur”, says general manager Dino Alexakis. “A place with an urban crowd and a village feel.” Muck in with creative sorts who gather on the terrace of its restaurant-café, Park, to try tasty dishes made from vegetables grown on site.
Comment: A grand hotel that feels blissfully further from the crowds than it is.
The Siren Hotel
Ari Heckman, founding partner of Ash, the Brooklyn design firm behind this hotel, spotted a small “for sale” sign on the abandoned Wurlitzer building while visiting Detroit. The city left an indelible impression. “I just found the spirit of the people incredible,” he says. The Siren hotel (due to open later this year) has 106 rooms, seven restaurants and two shopping spaces across 14 storeys. The offerings range from an eight-seat tasting counter by Detroit chef Garrett Lipar to Sebastian Jackson’s Social Club Barber Shop. “Someone can spend all night there having different experiences,” says Heckman.
The rooms feature a mix of custom furniture designed in-house by Ash and vintage pieces. Built in 1926, the original terracotta signs and a 1950s Wurlitzer jukebox preserve the building’s history while a mural on the façade by UK artist Quentin Jones adds a contemporary note.
Comment: The historic Wurlitzer building set the tone for the property that the developer Ash seized upon.
Hotel Bachmair Weissach
“My travels around Japan inspired the new onsen spa,” says Korbinian Kohler, director of the Hotel Bachmair Weissach in the picturesque lakeside town of Tegernsee, an hour’s drive from Munich. The hotel’s Japanese-style hot springs and bathing facilities were designed to complement Bachmair Weissach’s Bavarian heritage and have been named after its already beloved Mizu sushi bar. Needless to say, the resulting spa exceeds its namesake in its capacity to enhance its guests’ experience.
“Many spas create a foreign, artificial world as an escape from reality; we want to do the opposite,” says Kohler, adding that the addition’s design is deliberately minimalistic so as not to feel jarringly out of place from the overall carefree mood it seeks to instil in its guests. Walnut and local limestone form a backdrop for the gently lit pools and the only sound to be heard is the soft trickle of crystal-clear water.
The hotel and spa offer tailor-made treatments for guests and visitors who want to make the most of the region’s first onsen spa. It’s furnished with lounges, treatment rooms and baths filled with water that ranges in temperature from 2c to 42c.
Comment: Relaxation can also be relied upon during a visit to the Altes Wallberghaus. The mountain hut at 1,512 metres above sea level is a two-hour hike from the hotel and is now offering overnight stays alongside hearty mountain fare.
Hotel San CristÓbal
The southern part of Mexico’s Baja California state has a sun-soaked surfy feel and the Hotel San Cristóbal – with its easy-on-the-eye 1970s look – ticks these boxes nicely. Located in Todos Santos, 80km north of Cabo San Lucas (and away from the resorty madness), it’s also the first foreign venture from the Texas-based Bunkhouse group. The hotel’s 32 rooms – which pretty much sit on the edge of the beach – have whitewashed walls but there is plenty of colour in the detailing, from the natural-cotton bedspreads to the Amethyst Artisan tiles used on balconies and in the bathrooms. The décor is complemented by modern Mexican furniture and light fixtures from Guadalajara.
“Practically speaking, it’s just easier to have materials available nearby,” says Bunkhouse founder Liz Lambert. “And as for why the staff are almost all from Todos Santos: one of the most important things to us for this project was to create opportunities in this community.” Indeed, there is a 5km-long bicycle trail linking the hotel directly with the town, meaning you can escape it all on holiday without forgetting where you are. After your exertions, reward yourself with some Mexico-meets-Europe cuisine at the hotel’s Benno restaurant – or a drink around the pool, for that matter.
Comment: A wonderful whitewashed Mexican escape that stays true to its Baja California setting.
Kayu Putih village in mountainous (and less muggy) northern Bali is known for coffee, cloves and cacao, and remains largely untouched by travellers who are put off by the three-hour drive from the island’s international airport. Life carries on here as it has for centuries: producing rice using a technique called subak that relies on a ninth-century irrigation method.
It charmed Gilbert Gagnaire in 2011 when he first visited the island. Three years later, the chief executive of a French software company now based in Singapore, put down roots with the help of his friend and business partner Gusti Gede Darmayasa, an Indonesian rice farmer and tour guide.
Tucked under the pitched roofs of the retreat’s 11 villas made from dark bangkirai wood, guests will feel part of the landscape. Ample natural light and balconies that are open to the elements allude to farmers’ huts and temples that still pepper the rice fields. Only a corner for a game of pétanque hints at the founder’s French heritage.
“The challenge was finding people who could still build the way they built 100 years ago,” says Delphine Leon of Singapore-based design firm dndb. Leon realised Gagnaire’s brief, hinting at the area’s traditional vernacular and creating interiors with plenty of Indonesian batik fabrics.
Comment: Picnic among the yellow or green rice crops (the hue depends on the season) with baskets of jukut ares (banana-stem soup with duck) or pepes ikan and ayam (spiced chicken and fish fillet wrapped in banana leaves).