Bed fel­lows

Meet the ex­pert trav­ellers we’ve asked to se­lect this year’s Best Ur­ban Ho­tels, and see our 39 short­listed sleep­overs

Wallpaper - - Contents - Por­trait: kim Høl­ter­mand Writer: daven WU

Our Best Ur­ban Ho­tels judges and short­list

By any yard­stick, these are the best and worst times to be a city hote­lier. Worst, be­cause the com­pe­ti­tion is bru­tal. From Paris to Syd­ney, and from Sin­ga­pore to New York, you can’t flick a credit card with­out it land­ing on the boho-chic desk of a new­bie ho­tel, or the hoard­ing of one that’s about to open.

Re­al­is­ing that the glob­al­i­sa­tion of ho­tel brands has meant, per­haps, a stan­dard­i­s­a­tion of com­fort, style and fun, each new ho­tel prom­ises an out-of-the-box, paradigmshift­ing ex­pe­ri­ence or ser­vice.

One year, it is in-room check-in and yoga mats. Once it was fridges stocked with gourmet snacks and ar­ti­sanal booze. Now, it’s DIY elec­tronic kiosks and ‘ex­pe­ri­en­tial jour­neys’. To­day, some ho­tels have com­pletely elim­i­nated the fridge, along with room ser­vice and the Les Clefs d’or concierge; while oth­ers have hy­bridised co-work­ing spa­ces and group rooms.

All this sup­pos­edly in re­sponse to the fickle whims of the mil­len­nial guest, whose tastes and de­mands – for­ever changed post-airbnb – seem to morph faster than the turn-down ser­vice.

But since we’re glass half-full types here at Wall­pa­per*, we pre­fer to take the view that these fluid times are pro­vid­ing hote­liers with the op­por­tu­nity to rede­fine their busi­ness model in a mean­ing­ful way. As Dean Win­ter, group di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions at Swire Ho­tels (the group in­cludes The Op­po­site House, The Up­per House and, new this year, The Mid­dle House in Shang­hai), puts it: ‘Trav­ellers to­day look for ease, au­then­tic­ity, com­fort, space and sin­cere, mea­sured ser­vice de­liv­ery.’

Which is not to say we’re af­ter oddly con­ceived gim­micks like bed­side pod­casts of a gur­gling ra­di­a­tor pipe to help guests sleep (true story). Rather, as Juliet Kins­man, the ho­tel con­sul­tant and founder of Bouteco, ex­plains: ‘We still want ho­tel en­vi­ron­ments to un­plug us from our or­di­nary lives, but just as we’re blur­ring the lines be­tween work and play, we want “home-tels” that of­fer all the perks of be­ing in a lux­ury ho­tel.’ In other words, we value a ho­tel that cul­ti­vates a sense of be­long­ing and com­mu­nity. One with an open kitchen and an open bar; an in-house laun­dro­mat and mini mart stocked with juices and in­stant noo­dles; and a front desk manned by what Win­ter calls ‘un­scripted staff ’ who can speed-dial the best tai­lor and the best tat­tooist in town.

It’s all about the vibe with­out the starchy for­mal­ity and fussy five-star frills, with Kins­man adding that the cur­rent brief is for ho­tels to ‘drop any at­ti­tude, loosen their col­lars, and in­vite the most charis­matic peo­ple from the lo­cal neigh­bour­hood to hang out in their lounge’.

In fact, ‘at­ti­tude’ is a word that crops up again and again dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tions with hote­liers. ‘Times have changed, as has the mind­set of the mod­ern trav­eller,’ says Mitchell Hochberg, pres­i­dent of Light­stone, the de­vel­oper of New York’s Moxy Chelsea, which is due to open in Novem­ber. ‘We’re see­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of fun-hunt­ing trav­ellers with a self-ser­vice men­tal­ity, who value ex­pe­ri­ences and com­mu­nity over ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions, at­ti­tude over op­u­lence.’

These were the pa­ram­e­ters that in­formed us when we scoured the globe for this year’s sur­vey of the Best Ur­ban Ho­tels (see the short­list on page 207). What these fi­nal­ists all share, we hope, is a com­mon strand of DNA. Every ho­tel on our short­list has real soul, tells a story with a dis­tinc­tive opin­ion, and de­liv­ers fresh ex­pe­ri­ences. And to se­lect a wor­thy win­ner from this de­serv­ing bunch, we’ve en­listed the help of an ex­pert panel of de­sign-ob­sessed judges hail­ing from all cor­ners of the world. Here, we in­tro­duce you to these six ac­com­plished glo­be­trot­ters, while the win­ners will be an­nounced in our Jan­uary is­sue (on sale 13 De­cem­ber).

above, jasmi Bon­nén, founder of skin­care Brand nuori, shot at the HQ of dan­ish Biotech start-up aqua­porin, de­signed By norm ar­chi­tects

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