When Starwood launched the W Hotel group in 1998 in New York City, it tipped off a trend in business travel that fundamentally changed the industry. No longer would we be content with soulless beige rooms, bland breakfast buffets, and generic hotel art. If we’re going to spend weeks of our lives on the road, we want to stay somewhere that feels like home — or preferably, better than home. Now that W is the corporate behemoth, smaller groups and individual properties have emerged to take up the mantle of the best boutique hotels for business travelers. Here are a few exceptional examples around the world.
The Upper House opened just two years ago, and it quickly became the hottest ticket in Hong Kong, which is quite an accomplishment for such a crowded local hotel market. The design throughout the building (and in Chef Gray Kunz’ restaurant, Café Gray Deluxe) seamlessly integrates minimalist Asian architecture with modern touches like iPad check-in and iPod Touch in-room information, making this bright aerie perched on the top floors of the JW Marriott building a calming retreat from the city. The large studio-style rooms start at 730 square feet and go up to the 1,960 square feet penthouse, making the Upper House particularly comfortable for long-term stays.
Travelers doing business in New York may have to stay in midtown, but they no longer have to elbow past tourists crowding Times Square. Since the opening of the Chatwal, the Stanford White-designed building has been packed with guests, celebrities, and locals there to enjoy Geoffrey Zakarian’s Lambs Club restaurant and the Lambs Club bar, recalling the elegance of the 1930s-era theatre crowd who once made the bar famous. With just 83 rooms and two suites (the Barrymore and the Stanford White) the atmosphere is intimate and plush, and conveniently located to the heart of the city.
Even in cities not traditionally known for their cutting-edge style, the boutique hotel trend is making inroads. Las Alcobas in Mexico City is designed by Yabu Pushelberg, the New York-based design duo responsible for numerous boutiques, residences, and hotels like the W Times Square and the St. Regis in San Francisco, the intimate 35-room property is located in Polanco, one of the city’s major business districts, and offers business-friendly amenities like their “Second Home Service,” which provides repeat guests with a personal wardrobe to store their own belongings, and includes cleaning, pressing, laundering, garment repair, and restocking of favorite toiletries.
While the Chateau Marmont is arguably the original boutique hotel on the left coast, the SLS Beverly Hills is making a bid for dominance in the modern era, with its riot of Philippe Starck design touches, Jose Andres restaurant (The Bazaar, warmly welcomed to Los Angeles in its own right) and prime location near the Beverly Center, all kinds of recreation, and numerous corporate headquarters. The 24-hour business center is fully equipped with 24-hour support, office supplies and machinery, plus loaner Macbooks free of charge.
Seventy beautifully appointed rooms in the heart of the City are a surprisingly warm escape for those on business in London. Housed in a converted Victorian banking hall built in 1856, the beautiful period features of the Threadneedles Hotel are complemented by modern amenities like Frette sheets, iPod docking stations, and personalized business cards for use during your stay. Meeting rooms and private dining rooms are also available to guests — and what better way to follow up a full day’s work than a toast in the Champagne Lounge, under the building’s glass-domed ceiling.