A hotel is a hotel is a hotel. That is exactly wrong. Some hotels are places for travelers to rest while others are places for them to travel to. Some hotels even take on a sense of place and a feeling of such cool that they become a must-see part of the cities where they are. Usually, these hotels are vibrant and thrilling like the places where they’re built. Other times they stand out from a non-descript surrounding on what, for you, may be an otherwise mundane business trip. Either way, they demand to be discovered and admired.
We’re going to explore a few of these ultra-cool hotels that have taken on the true essence of that timeless style, Mid-Century Modern; seven to be precise. For the uninitiated, Mid Century Modern encompasses mid-20th-century developments in modern design from roughly 1933 to 1965; it’s the Mad Men era and generally thought of as the birth of cool. What follows is a handful of the trendsetters, and as we go through them you may just want to start planning your next couple of holidays because they are all worth a visit.
The first destination hotel we’re going to look at is Palihouse West Hollywood. Palihouse is an ode to Mid-Century Modern style. Designed and owned by Avi Brosh, it’s a home away from home, only probably much cooler than your home. It’s a place that lives up to their suggestion that, “unique experiences and inspiring places are integral to a life well-traveled.”
No matter what room you end up in, Palihouse delivers comfortable accommodations that are just cool. The Chesterfield, coffee table, and even the red Helix chair, in this classic guest suite, create a space that holds your attention and begs you to relax in style.
More than a hotel, the Palihouse has embraced that certain something and become a place where people come together. With its well-renowned restaurant and reputation of being a place to see and be seen, it’s become a great spot for travellers, designers, and locals to find a comfortable seat to enjoy some great people watching.
The next stop on our tour of Mid Century Modern accommodations is the Trident Hotel in Portland, Jamaica. It’s about an hour and a half drive from the place where Ian Fleming wrote his James Bond novels. And when your standing in your room looking out on the ocean, surrounded by some true classics of Mid-Century Modern furniture design, you can almost feel a little James-Bond-cool pulsing through the place. Throughout the Trident, you will find an almost overwhelming collection of Saarinen Organic, Panton, and Shell chairs. And of course, when you're relaxing in your room there is no better spot to be than in an Eames Lounge Chair with an Arco Lamp overhead. The Trident Hotel has not only added the odd flourish of Mid Century Modern design, they’ve gone all in. It’s the sort of hotel where you could imagine bumping into Don Draper on one of his mysterious getaways to a seaside resort. If you do, just remember to play it cool, you don’t want to look out of place.
For our next destination hotel, we go across the Atlantic to the birthplace of Mid Century Modern master Arne Jacobsen. He’s the Dane who gave us the iconic Egg and Swan chairs and in Copenhagen, the Hotel Alexandra is continuing to provide Denmark with a destination for people who love Mid-Century Modern Design.
In fact, the Hotel Alexandra bills itself as the only hotel on earth with such a large and unique collection of Danish Mid Century furniture. Located in the heart of Copenhagen all 61 rooms of this hotel, plus the lobby is completely done in Mid-Century Modern. Not only that, the lobby doubles as a Mid-Century Modern design library featuring a vast array of books to get you right up to speed with everything the Danes have contributed to this timeless style. While you're studying, I would suggest sitting in one of their many Papa Bear chairs originally designed by that other seminal Danish designer Hans Wegner.
Since we’re in Europe, we should head over to the Boundary Hotel in London. The original building was a late Victorian warehouse that was only converted into its current form prior to the hotel’s opening in 2008. Not only is it completely done in Mid Century Modern design, they have an entire room dedicated to Charles and Ray Eames. In fact, they have twelve rooms exclusively dedicated to different Mid Century Modern masters. This allows you to take in the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe or Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Grisinto in a way that shows you how their designs fit together to create a realized space. Of course, it also means you are going to need to stay several nights and move rooms each night to get the complete feel of the place. I think it may just be worth it.
While you’re working your way through the masters, make sure you pop upstairs to the rooftop bar, a popular hangout for London creatives wanting to surround themselves with Mid-Century Modern design inspiration.
And of course, before we leave Europe, we have to quickly pop over to Verona, Italy and take in the Byblos Art Hotel Villa Amista. Believe me, it’s a hotel that needs to be taken in. Of all the hotels we’ve looked at so far, the Byblos is truly a wonder for the senses. Owned by the Byblos fashion house, the hotel is what happens when you take Mid Century Modern furniture design and place it in a building that has been evolving for hundreds of years.
Originally built by the Romans, it was redone in the 15th century as a Venetian style villa, and then into it’s current form in the 18th century. Since then it has been filled with artwork from every imaginable period and some truly interesting Mid Century Modern furnishings. Now you might think this would look terrible, but the truth is Sori Yanagi’s Ball chair looks oddly at home surrounded by frescoes and under elaborate dangling chandeliers. So while this is not a purist's Mid Century Modern experience, it definitely shows just how adaptable it is as a style and gives you some explanation of why it never seems to go out of fashion.
For our last two Mid Century Modern destinations, we are going to head back over to the USA to check out two hotels that are more like residences for hire.
First we head to Healdsburg Modern Cottages. These four cottages located just off Healdsburg Town Square are right in the middle of Sonoma wine country in northern California. And, like the Boundary Hotel, not satisfied to mix and match Mid-Century Modern designers haphazardly they have dedicated each of the four cottages to a different Mid Century master. The cottages: George, Eileen, Ray, and Charles are of course named for George Nelson, Eileen Gray, and Ray and Charles Eames. And in their own words they provide, “invigorating new views, and furniture that dances with the walls.” I’m inclined to agree.
If you think you’ll enjoy sampling some of California’s finest wine while relaxing in a Mid Century Modern paradise this may just be one hotel to check off your list sooner rather than later.
Our final destination is the Hotel Lautner in the Neighbourhood of Palm Springs California. Named for the man who designed so many of the homes that were ultimately furnished with Mid-Century Modern designs.
John Lautner focused on the relationship between human beings and their space, and how they both fit into nature. And if you’ve seen either the James Bond film Diamonds are Forever or the 1998 classic The Big Lebowski, you’ve seen Lautner’s work. He designed Mid-Century Modern buildings that were made for Mid-Century Modern furnishings. The trouble is that most of his buildings remain privately owned, so the opportunity to stay in one has been pretty limited.
The Hotel Lautner, which consists of four luxury cottages, is a Mid-Century Modern design enthusiasts paradise. And if you want to see a Bertoia Wire chair fit into its surroundings like nowhere else, this is the place to do it.
We’ve reached the end of our tour of Mid Century Modern accommodations, but that is not to say we ran out of destinations. Everywhere you find hotel owners looking to give their guests a truly cool experience you necessarily come across some elements of Mid-Century Modern Design. It’s tempting to say that there seems to be a Mid Century Design revival in progress, but the truth is it’s never gone away. The trick is to make your hotel selection just as important as choosing the destination. This way, whether you’re roaming or relaxing, it’s all part of the journey.