Beautiful Destinations, Design-Savvy Accommodations

The Mira, Hong Kong (photo Design Hotels)

by Ron Bernthal

Canary Islands
Complemented by lavish mahogany floors and rich, olivewood furnishings, Hotel Bohemia’s Suites & Spa décor gives guests the sensation of being completely enveloped by nature. Stunning sea views provide the setting for aperitifs in the ground-floor bar, while soft flowing drapes and smooth grey stones help to soothe guests in the custom-built Siam Spa. Rising above the rippling sand dunes, the new landmark Hotel Bohemia is a quiet oasis surrounded by towering volcanic peaks. The original building that stood here was constructed in the 1970s, and at that time it consisted of 115 rooms. But by reducing this number of rooms to 67, the hotel has been able to create wide-open living spaces that stretch from inside to out.

Gran Canaria Bohemia Hotel & Spa (photo Design Hotels)

The angular vertical shutters, mirroring the rise and fall of the surrounding dunes, allow warm light into each room, casting impressions of the ocean and mountains across the walls and illuminating the fiery colors that decorate each room.
Bohemia Suites & Spa is a sophisticated lifestyle oasis for adults set amidst the volcanic beauty of Gran Canaria. The hotel’s rooftop 360 Restaurant offers panoramic views of the ocean, and the dunes of Maspalomas. The hotel’s 67 rooms and suites are fully integrated living spaces, where balconies and bedrooms merge seamlessly into one, and where guests can fully enjoy their visit on this sun-splashed volcanic island.

Gran Canaria Bohemia Hotel & Spa (photo Design Hotels)

Gstaad/Saanenland, Switzerland
Opened in 2017 in Switzerland’s Saanenland region, Huus Gstaad merges local design with house-crafted touches, as this Alpine retreat strikes the right balance of straightforward, comfort food with eclectic, contemporary dishes. In a glorious Swiss Alp setting the 136-room Huus Gstaad rises as a classic Alpine chalet. Located about 3,300-feet above sea level near Gstaad in the Bernese Oberland, the former Steigenberger Hotel has been reshaped by architect and designer Erik Nissen Johansen, a noted Norwegian designer and artist. Inside the hotel, rooms feature high quality traditional materials accented by modern touches.

View of valley and mountains, Gstaad, Switzerland. (photo Ron Bernthal)

The property offers fine restaurants, a lovely wellness and spa area, conference facilities, a lounge “living room” with unparalleled views and an accompanying fireplace, and a library of 500 books. Outside, guests can enjoy 150 miles of slopes and trails for skiers of all levels, and activities that include river rafting, family canyoning, rappelling, rope park adventures, and bike tours.

Huus Gstaad (photo Design Hotels)

Built in a classic Alpine-chalet style, while projecting a beautiful sense of modernity. The seven-story chalet overlooks the villages of Saanen and Gstaad in a picturesque setting with fantastic views of the surrounding mountains. Working with a building originally constructed in the 1980s, Erik Nissen Johansen removed walls and enlarged windows to expose the region’s extraordinary grandeur and natural beauty, giving guests a true taste of the Alps with a sophisticated twist.

Huus Gstaad (photo Design Hotels)

Hong Kong
The Mira Hong Kong’s dark monolithic structure, in a boutique-lined shopping district, hides a bold but unpretentious hotel. The design and architecture of The Mira makes for an immersive experience that is quite captivating, with stunning features and eclectic art choices that create a strong impression. The interior design changes on every floor, but the futuristic theme remains consistent throughout. Despite a vibrant city neighborhood outside the hotel, the quiet Mira is a world unto itself with some of the five of the city’s best food venues and bars, an award-winning spa with cutting-edge treatments, an indoor infinity pool with a starlight ceiling, and a spa lounge.

Overlooking orchid-scented Kowloon Park, The Mira Hong Kong is located in the heart of Tsim Sha Tsui. From its award-winning 21st-century spa to the mirrored walls of its contemporary bedrooms, the curving white fins of the lobby’s vaulted ceiling create a nice open space, with jade-green stalks of bamboo adding soothing textures to the private cabanas at Vibes bar. Each of the hotel’s 492 rooms and suites is equipped with a sleek, portable, and complimentary WiFi device for use on-the-go, allowing for 24/7 connectivity and sharing the signal with up to 10 devices.

Reykjavik, Iceland

View of Reykjavik (photo Ron Bernthal)

Located in the heart of Reykjavik, within easy walking distance to shops, cafés, bars, and restaurants, Ion City is situated in a historic, renovated building that retains its original architectural beauty, but its exterior walls feature a motif inspired by traditional Icelandic weaving. Inside, guests will find a luxurious interior of clean lines, Icelandic art, and a gray and white color scheme, contrasted by wooden floors. Sunlight comes in through large windows that offer panoramic views of Reykjavik.

ION City Hotel , Reykjavik (photo Design Hotels)

A stay at Ion City also includes farm-fresh cuisine, a go-to bar for guests and locals, a gym, and a private dining room. Sumac, the property’s in-house restaurant, offers delicious Middle Eastern dishes with ease. A hideaway in every sense, Embodying the spirit of adventurous travel and cool Nordic design that dwells in its sister property Ion Adventure Hotel, the 18-room Ion City Hotel is the citified version of Ion’s original award-winning countryside retreat.

Rovinj, Croatia

Rovinj, Croatia

Creativity is key at Hotel Lone in Croatia’s Rovinj, where two restaurants and a sushi bar merge traditional and modern Mediterranean specialties with international flavors shaped with fresh local ingredients and crafted by a passionate young team. Like a luxury cruise liner nestled on the hillside, the seductive, minimalist curves of Hotel Lone’s design are influenced by the area’s unique natural landscape. Situated in picturesque Rovinj, Hotel Lone is only a ten-minute walk from the central town square. With four large auditoriums, three meeting rooms, and a Mediterranean-inspired wellness spa, the hotel was created to offer guests the perfect symbiosis of work and play. The 236 rooms and 12 suites gracefully bend away from the coastline, with many offering views of the island-speckled coast. Delicate strains of locally grown rosemary, lavender, and olive oil tempt guests into the wellness spa, while the open-plan lobby – bedecked in mirrors and cool white stones – allows the outstanding natural beauty of the surrounding area to flood the interiors.

Hotel Lone, Croatia (photo Design Hotels)

With the collaborative architecture studio 3LHD behind its look and feel, Hotel Lone is an inspirational place for those seeking balance. Built to resemble a luxurious ocean liner floating on the hillside, Maistra Inc’s 248-bedroom hotel is a Y-shaped minimalist delight wrapped in an ancient forest on the Adriatic Sea. The facade is defined by dominant horizontal lines and terrace guards designed to evoke the image of slanted boat decks. Thanks to the unconventional shape of the hotel, each of the bedrooms affords an invigorating sea or park view. Self-assured contrasts are a major component, like in the alternate black-and-silver stripes of the curved exterior. Hotel Lone is also the first design conscious hotel in the Adriatic region that caters to business travelers, with a conference center that includes a 650-seater auditorium. Although it might not be apparent at first glance, the lush natural landscape has influenced the entire design concept at Hotel Lone. The tall and airy main lobby is dressed in white-beige stone – the color of the region’s beaches – and set off by soft, sandy-yellow furnishings. For the ultimate hideaway, guests in need of solace should head to the indulgent spa, where natural tones of wood, stone, water and gold create an atmosphere of timeless tranquility.

Hotel Lone, Rovinj (photo Design Hotels)

Saarlouis, Germany

La Maison, Saarlouis (photo Design Hotels)

A stately historic mansion replete with its own park, La Maison Hotel is defining a new market for upscale hotels in Saarland, a state in the west of Germany, about 10km to the border of France and 45km to Luxemburg. Saarlouis city was named after Louis XIV, and La Maison nobly reflects this namesake. Throughout the villa, the life of the King of France is chronicled in pictures and graphics, connecting the modern interior with the history of Saarlouis. The hotel provides plenty of opportunity to indulge. Its Louis restaurant, located in a former court house, showcases chef Martin Stopp’s signature style that stands for both tradition and innovation. The creative chef’s ever-changing menu is inspired by fresh ingredients, quality, and heritage. While a modern glassed winter garden, which is suspended over the park, accommodates the bistro Pastis and the delicatessen shop, which are cascaded in an inventive lighting design that includes copper saucepans.

La Maison Saarlouis (photo Design Hotels)

Combining original and modern details, La Maison is where history and the contemporary intersect. A gourmet’s mecca, La Maison Hotel is in Saarlouis, in western Germany on the River Saar, as the name implies. It was built as a fortress in 1680 and named after Louis XIV of France. Even today, the fortress dominates the city’s hexagonal street plan. Saarlouis was once famous for its nearby steel and iron ore production and its nearby mining facilities, but now is known for the Ford Motor Company plant, the city’s largest employer, producing the Ford Focus La Maison is one of the city’s fine dining venues, thanks to the creative and indulgent Louis restaurant, led by chef Martin Stopp, that draws diners to this Saarland property, which has become a destination in its own right for international visitors. . The stunning renovation of La Maison Hotel was carried out by CBAG.studio, run by architects Christine Beaumont and Achim Gergen, both natives of Saarlouis. Upon entering the lobby, guests behold a sculptural white staircase that leads to the suites on the first floor and also connects to the hotel’s cutting edge new building. The older building’s ground floor holds the lobby, restaurant LOUIS, the hotel bar, and a private dining facility connected to a big terrace in the historic park, as well as a glassed winter garden extension that accommodates the bistro Pastis and the delicatessen shop. The hotel’s cutting edge new extension, housing 38 rooms, wows with its bronzed, folded–aluminum exterior and oiled oak windows, sitting in sleek contrast to the historic facade of the villa. With interiors by Stuttgart-based designer Birgit Nicolay, the historic villa’s five spacious grand suites and the new building’s 38 guestrooms feature herringbone hardwood floors, bespoke leather furnishings, state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment, and even mood-pads, with which guests can alter lighting settings according to their individual preference.

La Maison Saarloujis (photo Design Hotels)

The Thief: Design hotel thrives in Oslo’s newest cultural district.

The swim-up window at the Spa allows you to float in a heated pool listening to Reiki Zen meditation music while peering outside at pedestrians walking along the snow-covered Norwegian landscape (photo The Thief)

The Thief Oslo

By Ron Bernthal

Although most visitors to The Thief , in the Oslo neighborhood of Tjuvholmen (tchuv-holmen), arrive by taxi, others can travel by bus, tram or ferry and walk ten minutes along the Aker Brygge waterfront, past the stunning, three-year old, Renzo Piano-designed Astrup Fearnley Museum to The Thief, an equally impressive structure designed by the Oslo firm Mellbye Architekter AS. The hotel’s name came about not because of the property’s high room rates (Norway is not an inexpensive country to visit), but because 18th century Tjuvholmen was called “thieves’ island,” a time when criminals caught stealing were executed in this once isolated area.

Large artwork by Richard Prince installed on a wall in the lobby of The Thief (photo The Thief)

Today, Tjuvholmen is one of Oslo’s glittering new arts districts and, as one might expect, The Thief has its own art curator, Sune Nordgren, a noted Swedish-born art and design aficionado and founding director of the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo. Mr. Nordgren oversees the 100+ museum quality art pieces that are displayed inside and outside the property, including Sir Peter Blake’s collages in the hotel suites, the Andy Warhol print in the Fru K restaurant, Jeff Koons balloon animal sculpture and Julian Opie’s animated artwork in the elevators. When I checked in at the hotel’s reception desk I kept staring up at the Richard Prince’s huge ink-jet on canvas work, “Cowboy – The Horse Thief” that covered an entire wall of the lobby. The hotel maintains a close working relationship with the Astrup Fearnley Museum next door, and all that priceless, borrowed art in the guest rooms and interior public spaces, and the stunning sculptures outside the hotel, like Antony Gormley’s intriguing cast-iron beggar outside the front entrance, is a great perk for guests. Free admission to the museum comes with your room booking, although few of The Thief’s upscale guests are looking to save the 100-120 krone ($11-$14) entrance cost.

Astrup Fearnley Museum (photo Nic Lehoux)

The 119-room property, opened in 2013, is a member of Design Hotels™ and the entire building, and almost every object inside, is a feast for the eyes, including the most common elements, like the perfect round holes that act as handles on the translucent bathroom doors, the adorable glass yogurt cups on the breakfast buffet, and the narrow, rectangular swim-up window at the Thief Spa, where you can float in a heated pool listening to Reiki Zen meditation music while peeking outside at pedestrians trudging along the snow-covered Norwegian landscape in parka’s and woolen ski hats. Every sensory experience, from the images of brightly colored artwork that flash before your eyes, to the pleasing curvature of the hotel’s glass façade at twilight when the golden glow of lighted room windows contrast with the moody dark waters of the fjord, is enjoyable.

The Thief sits between a small canal and the scenic Oslofjord in the revitalized Tjuvholmen district, steps from the Astrup Fearnley Museum and close to the Oslo Opera House. (photo The Thief)

The large windows in my room face the Astrup Fearnley and the Oslofjord, as well as the modern, rust-colored Handelsbanken, where, from my comfortable leather desk chair, I watch office workers stay busy at their desks until well after sunset. There are nine pillows on my King bed, with two flexible reading lights on each side of the headboard, and two stunning lamps on each end-table. A glass door allows access to petite triangular balcony, just big enough for a small chair. A wooden shelf holds large-size picture books about Norwegian art and architecture. The 42” Philips plasma HDTV offers dozens of channels from Norway, USA and Europe, and the complimentary Wi-Fi is fast and reliable.

Standard guestroom with view of Oslofjord and Astrup Fearnley Museum (photo The Thief)

A solid pocket door separates the white and brown marble bathroom from the guestroom, and sensors turn on the recessed mood lighting as soon as you enter the bathroom. A price guide to the bath amenities lists the thick, fluffy Maggie Wonka-designed bathrobe hanging on the door at 1,500 Norwegian krone, about $177, or one can purchase a tube of Marvis, the Italian-designed toothpaste, for $7. Even the little white boxes hanging on a bathroom wall where glasses are stored, is imaginatively designed.

The steel and painted polyester sculpture “Le Grand Rossignol” by French artist Niki de Sainte Phalle (photo courtesy The Thief)

The hotel’s fine dining Fru K restaurant serves three meals daily, and is filled with as much art as any other space in the hotel. I especially liked the original 1976 Andy Warhol silk screen and acrylic on canvas, a piece from a series called Ladies and Gentlemen. This work, valued at close to $2 million, hangs casually in the same room as the gorgeous buffet breakfast spread. Honestly, at 7:00 am it was not that difficult to decide which attraction needed my attention more, but Warhol was a very close second. Fru K has its own meeting room, a private bar area, an outdoor patio and a lunch and dinner menu that rivals any in Europe. Depending on the season, some of its Norwegian cuisine includes cod from Lofoten in the far north, quail eggs from Toten north of Oslo, Langoustine are caught by trawlers off Norway’s west coast and delivered live, and reindeer ribeye steaks arrive from the Nordas region near Bergen.

Small plates of Norwegian cuisine from Fru K restaurant (photo The Thief)

Although the Thief Spa is physically separated from the hotel by about 50 feet, with its own entrance for local visitors, hotel guests use a private elevator that descends along an outside wall to a below ground location, where an underground corridor leads to the reception area of the Spa. Constructed in 2014, about a year after the hotel opened, Thief Spa offers treatment and dressing rooms, post-treatment relaxation areas, a gym with the newest exercise machines, sauna and steam rooms, and a lovely heated swimming pool with mood lighting above and below the water. A small fee is charged to use the Spa, and includes complimentary fruit, nuts, and tea.

While former industrial areas of Oslo are still being transformed into modern arts and cultural districts, like nearby Bjørvika, where the modern Oslo Opera House opened in 2008, the construction work in Tjuvholmen is now complete. With the Astrup Fearnley Museum and The Thief pushing the envelope in terms of design and art, several of Oslo’s most well-known art galleries, including Galleri Brandstrup (www.brandstrup.no), Galleri Pushwagner (www.pushwagner.no) and Stalper+Friends (www.stolperandfriends.com) have now moved into the area, along with numerous restaurants, outdoor cafes, and a few brightly colored, design-driven residential buildings, all facing the sea, Oslo’s most precious asset.

A view of the Oslofjord from Tjuvholmen with ferry, sailboat and storm clouds (photo Ron Bernthal)