Tips from Hotel Design Stars
Published: April 2009
By David A. Keeps
When they're not checking in on their latest projects, these five hotel makers are circling the globe for inspiration. David A. Keeps discovers their favorite haunts, insider agendas, and must-book rooms.
Principal, Tonychi and Associates, New York
Adept at setting a scene with backlighting and textured fabrics, Tony Chi (MObar and Asiate
at the Mandarin Oriental, New York; Skylofts at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas) is currently spearheading
a total renovation of the Park Hyatt in Washington, D.C. CARRY-ON CONFIDENTIAL "Earplugs are paramount; even cheap ones work. And I always bring my leather baseball jacket
to use as a blanket." ROOM REVERIE "The rooms at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo
are still classic. When you walk out of the foyer, the bed is right there, calling, 'Come
to me.' The Bulgari in Milan has such a carefully thought-out aesthetic; I find the mix of
rich, dark tones and neutrals emotionally soothing." TABLE SETTINGS "There's
a hotel in Beirut, Albergo, where the butler serves breakfast in your room. The toast has
a thermal blanket over it; the jam is homemade; the espresso is perfectly smooth—it's
amazing." IBERIAN INSPIRATION "I enjoy the Spanish lifestyle. You have a
little siesta in the afternoon, then you eat late, and dinner lasts forever." TRAVEL
MANTRA "I don't go to places where I don't have friends. The people represent the
city." SUMMER GETAWAY "Berlin. The weather's mild and you can drive to Prague
or Warsaw. I also like Vietnam because it's the rainy season there, which in the tropics is
very romantic—you smell and hear everything."
Principal, Kwid, Los Angeles
The visionary behind the Viceroy hotels in Santa Monica and Palm Springs, Kelly Wearstler
is currently at work on a renovation of the Tides in South Beach and a new Viceroy property
on Anguilla. "I have a folder for every city that I visit often," she says. "I add to them
constantly, because even the best concierge isn't as interested in design as I am." SUITCASE
STRATEGY "I grab everything on hangers, fold it in half to pack, and then hang everything
when I get there. There's less fashion drama when it's all in front of me quickly." LOFTY
LUXURY "At the Katikies Hotel in Santorini, the sleeping area is upstairs in a little
loft space, which is so charming." TALL ORDER "Amanpuri, in Phuket, has a
seafood salad that I love simply because it's composed so beautifully." SHOP TALK "For shoes and bags, it's the district around the Four Seasons in Milan. For furniture, I
like Biscayne Boulevard in North Miami—specifically Gustavo Olivieri, Michel Contessa,
and Art & Antiques." FAMILY MATTERS "We just spent two weeks in Kona
at the Four Seasons. My sons are learning their letters, and the hotel put these little letter-shaped
sponges in the bathtub for them." TRAVEL MANTRA "Always pack a tape measure
and an extra suitcase." SUMMER GETAWAY "We're going to rent a house in Sardinia
and just chill."
Principal, David Collins Studio, London
The Dublin-born architect and author of New Hotel (Conran Octopus) has given classic
British haunts of-the-moment hauteur. David Collins's eye for mixing sumptuous textures and
saturated colors has turned drinking and dining at Nobu Berkeley, the Blue Bar at the Berkeley,
and Claridge's into dramatic design seminars. This year, he brings his signature style to
the United States with London Hotels in New York and Los Angeles. SWEET DREAMS "The best night's sleep I've had in all the world was at the Windsor Arms in Toronto. It's
a crucial thing, a comfortable bed." THE BOY IN BRAZIL "I've been to Trancoso—the
Ibiza of Brazil—and also to Txai, a resort in Itacaré with bungalows built on
stilts. I love the Fasano in São Paulo because it's very calm and sophisticated in
one of the busiest and most dramatic cities in the world." TABLE SETTINGS "I'm a café person. I really enjoy the social aspect, so I always go to places like
Café de Flore in Paris and Café Cova in Milan. As restaurants go, I like Da
Giacomo in Milan and the Wolseley in London—which is a bit cheeky to say, since I was
involved in the design!" PHOTO FINISH "Wherever I am I tend to look at and
take pictures of the local leatherwork and metalwork. I'm compulsive about photographing things
that may not be exactly what I am looking for, but end up influencing me." INSPIRATIONAL
ITINERARY "I am quite taken with the colors and the crafts of India. I'd like to
stay in one of those houseboats I've seen in Rajasthan, as well as some of those amazing palace
hotels, of course." TRAVEL MANTRA "Be flexible. I always try to buy an open-ended
ticket that can be changed, so if the weather is terrible, I don't have to stick around."
SUMMER GETAWAY "I find that Rome is always an excellent option. It's a good
city to think in."
Owner and Principal Designer, Super Potato, Ltd., Tokyo
A well-respected academic and lecturer in fine art and design, Takashi Sugimoto creates commercial
interiors that are anything but by the book. Over the past few years, Super Potato's mash-up
of earthy traditionalism and international modernism has turned Hyatt and W hotels in Seoul
and Tokyo into serene hot spots. His latest, the Hyatt Regency Kyoto, opened in March. CHECK-IN
SPECS "A good hotel has an airy reception area that expresses the charms of nature,
and comfortable rooms with rich, sensitively thought-out baths. And, ideally, some things
that work up one's curiosity about the city." JAPANESE LESSONS "When you're
looking for food in Tokyo, try Kappo restaurants, where they prepare and serve foods individually
and with great care, right in front of you. There's Waketokuyama in Minato-ku and Morikawa
in Akasaka—the chef there is the one in the whole world I would love to have as my own."
SHOP TALK "If I had a single day to shop for clothing, I would go to the
area surrounding Montenapoleone in Milan. For furniture and antiques, I go to Insa-dong in
Seoul." ON THE ROAD "I've been from Turpan to Kaxgar, and I want to travel
the entire Silk Road, slowly and carefully. I like the countryside and old villages of Sulawesi
island, Indonesia; the northern part of Thailand; and Hanoi, Vietnam. Right now I want to
go to some of the remote country districts in China." TRAVEL MANTRA "Pack
lightly, encounter slowly. When you take a journey with compatible friends, no guide is needed."
SUMMER GETAWAY "Bali—a house in a tiny village called Kerobokan. In
the mornings there's a wonderful open market with people bartering and drinking tea—it's
unlike anything in modern-day Japan."
Principal, Alexandra Champalimaud & Associates, New York
Lisbon-born, London-educated interior designer Alexandra Champalimaud's patrician designs
for the Carlyle and the Algonquin in New York reflect the easy luxury of her 21st-century
traditionalism—as will her upcoming renovation of the venerable Pierre, on Fifth Avenue.
GLOBAL ESSENTIALS "I always pack my Canon digital camera, a white zippered
Yamamoto shirt to throw over jeans, and seaweed facial mist." WRAP UP "In
the bathroom, there should be an amazing amount of space to put one's things on, and enormously
big bath sheets, as at the Dorchester, the Berkeley, and Claridge's." TABLE SETTINGS "Atmosphere is as important as food, so my favorite restaurant in the world is Harry's Bar
in London. I order anything that has fresh truffles." SHOP TALK "For clothes,
I love Montreal's Les Créateurs." INTO AFRICA "Being in the right
spot in Africa and just looking at the sky for an hour provokes the freedom to be creative.
Il Ngwesi is a beautiful tented camp in Kenya, where you shower outside and hear the lions
roar. And Lamu has incredible Swahili history and architecture, and an eight-mile beach where
turtles lay their eggs. The Peponi Hotel is a great gathering spot there." QUICK FIX "Unless you have a lot of time, you need places that are accessible yet remote in spirit.
Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos is a nonstop flight from New York and has amazing yoga classes
and massages. My BlackBerry doesn't work when I'm on Harbour Island in the Bahamas, which
puts me in a very good mood." UP AND AWAY "I want to go to Bhutan. I love
the fact that it's not all Westernized and has retained its beautiful heritage." SUMMER
GETAWAY "Formentera, for solitude and the Mediterranean, grilled fresh fish and Spanish
oranges, bare feet and earthiness."