The Art of (Hotel) Living
I remember the first time I stayed in a hotel. My family and I were driving cross country on a summer holiday. My brother, sister, and I were given the task to pick where we were going to sleep that night. And at eight, I was intrigued to call a new place home. A home where we threw towels on the floor, never made our own beds, and had access to an unlimited supply of ice. I’ve loved hotels ever since. And that experience begged me to explore the idea of home and what that meant.
I’ve made a career (and slight obsession) with hotels. Which is why, The Art of Hotelling, was created. My personal list of recommendations I felt carried that magic of home. And I don’t mean home specifically resembling the one you grew up in or living in now. But that spark that makes us feel illuminated and curious, tapping into when we were children and life was unexplored. This curation has a criteria: mainly small properties with charm, personality, and storytelling. I tried to stay away from the big or “cool” hotel groups, even though I love them too. It’s more a list of the unexpected, one that culminates an overall feeling of discovery. I included my playlists that I usually make for the trip. From one hotel obsessed junkie to another. Happy hunting.
As unique as their guests.
la VALISE HOTEL, Mexico city (mexico)
As soon as I was shown to my room in this lovely home-converted-to-hotel property I knew it was going to be hard to leave. Was it the ridiculously comfy king size bed that could be also slid outside for nighttime stargazing slash sleeping? Or the huge clawfoot tub with bath salts? Or the locally design textures that hung on the walls. Maybe all of the above. I lived here like it was my own place, I meditated and did yoga on the terrace. Had coffee and reading in the living room. A bath in the evening. The cherry on top though was delish coffee brought up from the place downstairs along with a healthy breakfast of fruits and yogurt, finished with this incredible lavender cookie. Way to win over my heart.
A gem among Kardashians.
petite ermitage, west hollywood (California)
I don’t want to play favorites, but this is in my top 3 favorite hotels. It’s hidden in the middle of West Hollywood. And isn’t what you expect from an LA hotel. Plus, there are Dali paintings in the hallway that you can admire while waiting for the elevator. (Right up my alley!) I especially like that the decor feels like a single person’s point of view, not a design team with some Tracy Ullman neon light affirmation. All this and a rooftop pool with a crowd of interesting people. Everything about this place feels organic in it’s vibe, curated taste, and energy.
Living my best (modernist) life.
lauTNER house hotel, palm springs (California)
When in Palm Springs, once must stay in a mid century modern home and pretend to be Michelle Pfiffer from Scarface. Or at least that’s what I like to do. Lautner House, originally a home by American architect, John Lautner, is a tasteful time warp to a time of the Hollywood Rat Pack era.
The crazy aunt you want to stay with.
casa antonieta, oaxaca (Mexico)
First off, Oaxaca is my favorite place in Mexico. I can do an entire website dedicated to my obsession with this area, it’s a design lover’s paradise. Staying at Casa Antonieta is the perfect place to come home to after all your treasure hunting. It’s one of the oldest buildings in the city, being built in the mid 1500’s. It’s designed as if you are staying at your eclectic aunt’s house, who traveled the world, partied with Frida, and has an incredible collection of moo moo’s. The architecture is swoon worthy and the rooms are huge with great bathroom selfie opportunities.
Discover a life unscheduled.
villa santa cruz, todos santos (Baja)
When in Baja Sur, you do like the locals and follow unpaved roads to the beach. Down one of these unpaved roads, you will find yourself at Villa Santa Cruz. A property that is literally in the middle of a palm tree oasis. A husband and wife team, who added so much personal character, all plus resort perks like a massive salt water pool and hot tub, rooftop complete with fire pit, and a crow’s nest on the beach (where the couple got engaged). The beauty of this property is the ability to really turn off and fall into the pace of the surroundings. Nature’s time we called it, when I woke up at sunrise ready to conquer the world. And with just 6 rooms, you feel like this is your villa away from home.
I miss old new york.
lafayette house, NYC (New York)
When I first when to this hotel, it was for a birthday party in 2008. My friend rented a room here for the weekend and I was shocked that it was in the middle of the east village and wasn’t just another brownstone which you would expect just walking by. To this day, even my most knowledgable New York friends don’t know about this place. It’s a sister property to the Bowery Hotel and is as if hotelier Sean Macpherson did an apartment building. Each room spacious and different, some with fireplaces, or terraces. There isn’t any lobby or guest services, so it’s really like you have your own apartment. Unfortunately, now only long term stays.
This is definitely not Old Macdonald’s farm.
blackberry farm, knoxville (Tennessee)
Although this is the most expensive property on the list, it falls within criteria. I don’t want to say anything and let this picture speak for itself.
Some Victorian Charm.
simpson house inn, santa barbara (California)
I was doing that scenic drive down the PCH from San Francisco to San Diego. I knew we were going to stop in the charming town of Santa Barbara. And was so surprised to discover this gem. Nestled within downtown was this hidden English garden and historic landmark. A Victorian estate built in the 1800’s. Simpson House Inn captures the English charm coziness, with fireplaces, lush gardens, and extremely comfy beds. They even have an afternoon tea service with fresh baked cookies. Of course I made sure I was around for the carb loading.
When good taste smacks you in the face.
casa azul, oaxaca (Mexico)
This hotel plays like an arthouse film. Expanding your visual senses and delighting with high taste wonder. Even returning after 6 years, I still loved how this space reveals itself to you as you wander through each room and into the grand courtyard. Their store and gallery is well curated and worth stopping into too.
mason panza verde, antigua (Guatemala)
For years I’ve had a love affair with Antigua and particularly this hotel. From the moment you walk in, you feel something is different. They nailed allowing the guest to discover its many nooks. That and the backdrop of volcanos is always a win.
El Convento, Antigua (guatemala)
villa l’orange, marrakesh (Morocco)
Glamping, Berber Style.
La Pause, Marrakesh (Morocco)
I’ve been slightly obsessed with the Berber tribe for years, a nomadic tribe from North Africa. So the opportunity to post out in the desert, an hour outside of Marrakesh was a dear diary moment. La Pause is part desert camp and part luxury experiential hotel. Full of oversized tents and rooms made by stucco huts inspired by the tribe traditions. It had all the Moroccan details like a hammam, patterned pool tiles, jute rugs, and a gift shop that I wish outfitted my home and wardrobe. The owner is french with a hospitality background from Paris. And you could tell. I loved all the hang out nooks and tents everywhere. The views are still burned into my brain. Since this place had no wifi or electricity, every night thousands of candles were light for such a dramatic effect. My room was sprinkled with floorsize candleablras while I sat on the floor pillows high fiving my life choices. This place is worth the disconnect and seeing the show of shooting stars every night.
A (hot) surfer hideaway.
SWELL HOTEL, EL PAREDON (GUATEMALA)
This opened in a secret surf destination of Guatemala, El Paredon. The 8-room property sits on a volcanic black sand beach, with its dedication to design and defines the term barefoot chic. My fondest memory from here wasn’t that I could literally swim back to my room or that a handsome german surfer was staying next door to me, but one evening when I was watching the sunset (ahem, surfers), I witnessed people from the community cheering them on. The feeling left me with awe and it melted my cold black heart.
A hidden farm on an island of fist pumping.
La Granja, Ibiza (spain)
So this is where all the cool, chic Europeans are in Ibiza, was my first thought. Hidden and tucked away deep in the center of the island, far from the electro vibes at Pacha is La Granja, spanish for the farm. It is incredibly tasteful with the perfect balance of rustic. Needless to say, their food and beverage program was on point.
Roughing it in the wilderness.
Autocamp, russian river (california)
I am not a roughing-it-in-the-wilderness kinda person (or else we wouldn’t have this little list would we?) so when I learned that I could stay in a new airstream, among the Redwoods, with Malin + Goetz products? I was all in. I particularly liked that if you want to bbq they bring you everything you need so you don’t have to do any shopping. Roughing it indeed.
My taco basecamp.
nima hotel, roma (mexico city)
Sleep while doing good.
The good hotel, Antigua (guatemala)
Hotels are finally taking the sustainability movement seriously. This hotel opened schools and hires parents of the schools giving them opportunities to improve their economic situation. The rooms are outfitted with scandanavian meets Guatemalan design and I love the detail that each room is named after a child at the school.
Down the rabbit hole.
HOTEL VIURA, RIOJA (SPAIN)
On a trip to Rioja and basque country, I picked this hotel because it was built into this old gothic town. As you can already tell it’s totally modern and has an Alice and Wonderland meet modernist thing going. How could I say no, I was curious how they made this design contrast work. They did!
My Miami dream home.
The standard spa, miami (florida)
I moved to Miami because of this hotel, like literally left NYC and moved because I was convinced life would be better if I lived here. And since I couldn’t technically live at the hotel, due to closet space, financial practicalities, etc. I moved across the street and became a member. I still treated this place like it was my playground, as Andre Balazs, the hotelier behind this fun hotel group, intended. I mean, they did the custom scent thing at a time no one did. I once was told there was an employee with the title, Vibe Coordinator, that’s how serious they take the vibe here. I haven’t even gotten into the hammam situation, if you’re unsure what that is google it now. Every part of this hotel is to promote fun and relaxation. It’s an rare juxtaposition to capture, one can do a sound meditation class, then go skinny dipping at 2 am in the pool (which also have underwater speakers). Also, the team of people working there feel as though hand picked from a cooler 90’s Gap commercial.
North block hotel, napa (california)
My other taco basecamp.
Deco housing, roma (mexico city)
This is part of the new crop of hotel models, where it feels more luxury apartment than hotel. No lobby or common area, but a front desk and hotel concierge amenities, each unit unique and spacious. It’s a fancy building on a lovely corner in Roma across the park, all designed with mid century modern furniture from Mexican designers. I felt like I was in mad men, Mexico City edition. Everything was thoughtfully styled from that time period, so needless to say my IG was put to work.