Color Your World: Our Top Five Art Hotels

There’s something to be said about surrounding yourself with great works of art. Take advantage of the fact that more and more hotels understand this, and are eschewing the generic sunset watercolor that’s long been a hotel staple, for more refined pieces. Here are the top five hotels who take art seriously. 

If you dream about Renaissance elegance: The Rome Cavalieri, owned by Waldof Astoria, sits perched over the hills of Rome, and while it plays up the palatial atmostphere, it’s the $700 million dollar art collection that will truly have you feeling royal. Works from the old masters abound, from the lobby to the spa. But things get more modern with Andy Warhol originals adorning some of  the rooms.

If you wish you could dive into a David Hockney: Popular with both Los Angeles natives and those looking for a quick SoCal weekend escape, Shutters on the Beach has a lot to recommend: the prime Santa Monica real estate has easy access to the beach and the pier, as well as an award-winning restaurant serving fresh California cuisine. But it’s the all-American art collection, including luminaries like Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, and Frank Gehry, that really gives the property a sense of style, as well as a sense of place.

If you’re sad you missed out on the Chelsea Hotel’s glory days: The New York art scene has always been transient in nature, with talent coming to feed off the city’s creativity. So it makes sense to capture that spirit in hotel form. Ian Schrager’s Gramercy Park Hotel was designed by artist Julian Schnabel (himself a fixture on the downtown art scene) and is adorned with pieces from provocateurs like Damien Hirst, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Richard Prince, as well as serving as a clubhouse for the new class of creative types and those who love them.

If you wish you could do contemporary art like a Chinese mogul: Design in Hong Kong is an integral part of the city’s fabric, from the attention paid to feng shui in the business district, to the museums and public art that have grown along with the city’s presence on the international art circuit. Hotels have followed suit, creating art and design-focused hotels from the small (like the boutique Upper House, centered around Hiroshiwata Sawada’s atrium piece, “Rise”) to the Langham Palace Mongkok, a massive 42-floor tower housing more than 1,500 pieces of contemporary art—there’s a free iPod tour to help you work your way through the collection as you move about the hotel.

If you’d rather step inside the artist’s studio: The James Chicago has fostered local artistic talent since it opened about a year ago, with works like the wall installation by Demarcus Purham in the lobby, and the installation “Room 28” by Joel Ross in the permanent collection. They’ve also been collaborating with the Monique Meloche Gallery to find work to rotate through the hotel’s other public spaces. Most recently, that was done through an artist-in-residence program, where five young artists competed against each other to come up with a work for the hotel’s collection. Winner Kristina Estell took the mandate to find inspiration in the hotel literally, sealing leaves from the hotel’s shrubbery in tape, and incorporating them into a work between two panes of glass.

Steal This Bathrobe: The Best Hotel Products to Swipe (& Buy)

You’re wrapped in a plush terry robe, reposing on thousand-thread-count sheets, listening to a custom-programmed iPod on the dock next to your bed, and feeling as though this is nothing more than the lifestyle you deserve. So who could blame you for wanting to take some of the accoutrements of your newfound bliss home from your luxury hotel? These are top three souvenirs we recommend you swipe.

Toiletries: These are always a safe bet, since they’re there for you to use anyway. We love the Remede toiletry kits given out by the St. Regis, the Malin + Goetz soaps used by the Morgans Hotel Group properties (including the Delano in Miami and the Mondrian in Los Angeles) and the exclusive Hermès bath products at all Sofitel locations.

Slippers: Hotels actually get a certain amount of free advertising from branded products escaping the confines of their hotel, and even the non-branded versions still provide travelers with fond memories of their trip. Our favorites come from the amenity-packed Asian hotels, including fuzzy slippers at the Mandarin Oriental’s multiple locations, and the Havianas at the InterContinental Hong Kong.

Personalized Stationery: Once a standard part of luxury hotel service, personalized stationery is a pleasant enough surprise that these days, you might be inspired enough to actually write a letter. While hotel stationery and pens are always fair game, no one can complain about something personalized going home with you, and you can find it at a surprising number of places, including the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles, the Trump SoHo in New York , the Stafford London, Chicago’s Talbott, and the New World Shanghai.

That said, not all of us want to steal from our favorite hotels (who wants that on their guest profile?) and hotels have of course developed procedures to address this—many sticky-fingered guests will now find their more outrageous grift charged to their room bill. So why not shop their style the legal way? Many hip hotels have added online shops full of items that either appear on property or embody their style, like these three:

The W Store: W Hotels is happy to sell you everything from the bed you slept in to the music in the air, as well as apparel from brands like John Varvatos and Mara Hoffman. We particularly love their collection of statement jewelry and their eclectic blend of home accessories.

Shutters Beach Style: This Santa Monica hotel is one of a handful that are right on the beach, but the interiors are as striking as the views. Known for its impressive contemporary art collection which belongs to the hotel’s owners, their online store has drawings by Frank Gehry and Ellsworth Kelly, as well as stunning homewares like their signature rug and pewter table accessories.

Shop The Standard: They’re on the cutting edge of urban hotel style, so it’s no wonder that they’d have a quality online presence. The covetable goods include everything from RK Ripper fixed-gear bicycles to limited-edition art prints to the kissing puppy salt-and-pepper shakers on the table at the Standard Grill—so stealable that they’re listed for purchase right on the menu.

City Sights from the Front Seat, Courtesy of Hotel Concierge

There’s a lot to see anytime you land in a new city, and your travel time is always precious. In an effort to accommodate their customers’ need for speed and comfort, luxury hotels are offering more options than ever for getting around.

The Peninsula hotel group has long been ahead of the curve in making courtesy cars fun — they offer chauffered hunter green BMW Mini Cooper S Clubman’s service at their properties in New York, Chicago, Hong Kong, or Tokyo that are custom-designed with a mini-fridge stocked with goodies and cold towels and an iPhone/iPod connection in the front and rear. But it’s the Peninsula Hong Kong that really goes over the top with signature vehicles, which include a helicopter, 14 Rolls-Royce Phantoms, and one 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II in Peninsula Green, as well as the aforementioned fleet of Minis.

The posh grounds of the Intercontinental London Park Lane have recently seen some unusual company, as Alvaro Rey, the general manager, has instituted regular rides around the property with members of the hotel staff, during which they share with him their insights into how the hotel is running, and he shares with them facts along the way that transform them all into tour guides, so that guests who choose to use the hotel bicycles have plenty of assistance in enjoying their route.

In true Parisian style, the Four Seasons Georges V has the world’s only Hermès-designed Rolls-Royce Phantom, available to hotel guests through the concierge. The sleek gray exterior is complemented by a rose-gray Hermès leather interior, with the steering wheel and passenger console done in gold calfskin accents. Also in Paris, guests staying in the suites at the Plaza Athenee are provided with keys to either the elegant Aston Martin Rapide or the small, sporty Cygnet.

While the European bike-sharing programs are terrific for European travelers, American travelers without chip-and-pin cards may find their city bicycling somewhat curtailed. That’s why Park Hyatts in Chicago, Washington DC, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Toyko, Beijing, Moscow, Goa, and Milan are all providing bikes for their guests, with more hotels expected to roll out the program soon.

Up in the mountains, sportscars can be more of a liability than an amenity, so the Four Seasons Vail has opted for a fleet of Mercedes SUVs to take you on scenic drives through the valley, on a downtown shopping excursion, or up the mountain to begin and end your day. And if you have multiple destinations on your itinerary, they’re even open to a drive to Aspen or other mountain towns.

One of the world’s most luxurious hotels requires a suitably top-of-the-line vehicle, so it’s no wonder that the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi opted for a chauffeur-driven Maybach, available to guests of the hotel’s most expensive package suites. Other guests will have to content themselves with the Rolls-Royce option also on hand.

The broad avenue outside the Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg, Russia is lined with BMW 7 Series limousines, as well as BMW X1 or X5 if you have heavy shopping to do. They’re available for airport transfers, nights out of the town (which come in handy if you’re out across the river late at night) or tours of the historic city.

Shutters on the Beach is one of Santa Monica’s most popular beachfront hotels, but when you’re ready to come off the beach, out of town guests who may not have a car at their disposal have access to a Jaguar XJ within the city limits. Of course, for a sportier option, the hotel also has adorable Kate Spade bicycles that are free for guests to use anytime.

Guests of the Beach House Maldives, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, have as much exploring to do by sea as by land, so the resort’s bright white DeHavilland Twin Otter seaplane is a welcome amenity for getting to and from the airport and around the island — and it doesn’t hurt that the plane is stocked with iPads full of entertainment, Bose headphones, and more.

As bike programs spread throughout multiple cities in the USA (Minneapolis and Portland may be the veterans, but DC, New York, and more are coming up behind them), hotel bike programs are more desirable than ever. All Fairmont Hotels in the United States have a set of BMW Cruise bikes that come complete with helmets and locks for cruising around town.

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British Invasion: The Pimm’s Cup Takes Over L.A.

The Pimm’s Cup has a long and proud history in Britain, one of tennis and big hats and dressing in summer whites. A polo match practically doesn’t count if there isn’t any Pimm’s on hand to sip whilst stomping divots. Pimm’s No. 1, the liquor the drink is built around, was first assembled in the 1860s, a heady mixture of gin, a liqueur, fruit, and various spices. To make a Pimm’s Cup, one adds something sparkly (like ginger ale or carbonated lemonade) plus citrus and cucumber. Unsurprisingly, this concoction is popular in the grand hotels lining the beach in Santa Monica (aka California’s Little England). But over the past couple of months, it’s become the cocktail to order amongst L.A.’s coolest imbibers.

Perhaps it was this year’s World Cup that spurred the lust for Pimm’s on the West Coast. Such was the demand for the stuff that there was a rush for Pimm’s No. 1 at the Whole Foods in Venice Beach, where they actually sold out of the previously dusty, neglected bottles.

The traditional preparation of a Pimm’s Cup makes it an excellent day drink, perfect for quaffing on a balcony at Shutters or the Shangri-La, two hotels with tried-and-true versions. Coming into L.A.’s real summer (August to October, where nights can reach 80 degrees), it’s a perfectly acceptable evening cocktail, too. And with all the fruit and liquid additions that go into a Cup, the drink is a good match for L.A.’s current mixology obsession.

The most interesting bars in the city are experimenting with their own, updated renditions. At Varnish, the drink is called the Fruit Cup. The bar mixes its own base (gin, Grand Marnier, cherry Heering, and CarpanoAntica Formula) and adds muddled fruit, cucumbers, and Sprite to finish it. The not-quite-native When in London is Drago Centro’s contribution — their version adds straight gin to the Pimm’s-and-fruit base. Now we’re moving quickly away from sparkly drink territory and into the land of serious boozing.The Brits would appreciate the gesture.

Drago’s Pimm’s Cup, in addition to increasing the alcohol content, makes use of strained berries for a deeper flavor. At First & Hope, the barkeeps stick to citrus but make their own Pimm’s, and add ginger beer for a darker, spicier flavor.

With lingering World Cup fever, a hot Indian summer, and a city-wide passion for complicated cocktails, L.A. has made itself a Pimm’s Cup town.

DineLA Starts Today

Los Angeles Restaurant Week starts again today, running through Friday and then again from October 11-16. Meaning you can get the special menus every day but Saturday. Over 250 restaurants have signed up, so there are plenty of deals to be had at some of the hottest restaurants around. Participating restaurants offer three course meals for lunch and dinner at a fixed price ranging from $16 to $44. Drinks, taxes and gratuity are not included. Go ahead and browse the hot list of who’s in and what’s for dinner here. Highlights include Asian spiced pork ribs and Mexican donuts at Asia de Cuba, chile rubbed mahi mahi and goat milk cajeta flan at Ciudad, and sirloin steak with honey poached Seckel pears at Nick & Stef’s.

This is the second helping of Restaurant Week this year for Los Angeles, and it’s a great opportunity to check out some places you’ve never been before. The more popular restaurants fill up fast, so it’s best to make a reservation, which you can do on the DineLA site, or by contacting the restaurants directly.

GOOP Scribe Gywneth Paltrow Recommends Los Angeles

imageGwyneth’s latest newsletter over at Goop is all about Los Angeles. Born, bred, and made famous in the city of silicone, GP has a special fondness for the place — as she says “Los Angeles, with its bougainvillea, sea breezes, avocados and eccentric inhabitants, is like no other place and will always be in my soul.” Then she goes ahead and gets busy with recommendations. Let’s recap her top picks.

Hotels Shutters on the Beach Beverly Hills Hotel Hotel Bel-Air London West Hollywood

Restaurants Michael’s La Scala Presto Via Veneto Sushi Katsu-Ya Pizzeria Mozza Hamasaku Melrose Bar and Grill Chinois on Main Nate’n Al Mulberry Street Pizza Santa Monica Co-Op Caffe Luxxe Loteria Grill in the Farmers Market

It’s not a bad list. I agree with her about Shutters, Mulberry Street Pizza, and Mozza, but what about AK Restaurant? Or the Chateau? To see the whole list, with Gwynnie’s commentary, click here.

Los Angeles: Top 5 Hotels Where You Can Revive Old Spirits

imageRedrum’s not on the cocktail menu; Tom Collinses and Sidecars might be.

1. Sunset Tower Hotel (West Hollywood) – A rehabbed building that’s just the peak of Art Deco beauty, plus a bar with a view. 2. Chateau Marmont (West Hollywood) – Stars have lived hard and died early here; we suggest just grabbing a drink and gazing at celebs. 3. Culver Hotel (Culver City) – John Wayne’s old home, Mike Myers’ location of choice, official Munchkins waterhole (yep, Wizard of Oz), and a fabulous lobby bar.

4. Sunset Marquis (West Hollywood) – The bar is on the right track: Paris Hilton isn’t allowed in. Plus it’s haunted! 5. Shutters on the Beach (Santa Monica) – Sitting on the porch, toasting the sunset: nothing could be more luxe, more Santa Monica.

One-Day Tour: Intro to Venice, CA

imageIf you watch The Hills or read any gossip rag, LA comes off like a celebutante-super-chic-hipster on a weekend coke bender, stopping only to pose (pantyless) for the paps. While this may be true if you hang in Weho or Hollywood, there’s plenty to scope out on the more mellow west side of town. Things like, say, the beach. Here’s our guide to having fun in Venice, CA.

Stay: You might as well get as close to the ocean as possible and stay at Shutters on the Beach. Your backdoor (or your front, depending on the suite) is sand, and beyond, water. The hotel maintains a private stretch of beach for guests, and service is quick and reliable. The brunches are legendary.

10 a.m.: You’re in LA — you might as well indulge in the City of Angels’ time-honored tradition: yoga before breakfast. Get yourself over to YAS on the corner of Abbot Kinney and Westminster in Venice and get ready to sweat your way through the hour-long session called Yoga For Athletes. The 10 a.m. weekend sessions are taught by Kimberly Fowler, the anti-guru herself, and are just the right mix between zen calm and ready-to-dominate-your-day energy.

11:30 a.m.:Stroll down the street to Axe and fill up on tuna sashimi and soba noodles. Don’t worry if you’re still carting your yoga mat — you won’t be the only one. Be sure to sit in the outdoor garden.

1 p.m.: Keep heading west to the beach and check out the famous Venice boardwalk, with the requisite stop at Muscle Beach, or do an about-face and hit up the Venice shops: Madley for knits, gawk at pricey (yet beautiful) mirrors at Bountiful, pick up floor-skimming casual dresses at Parker Pettit, and shop for cute, affordable trends over at Skylark.

4 p.m.: In case you needed another reminder of which hippie dippie state you’re in, this is it: Pick up your medical marijuana at the Farmacy. Out of towners don’t fret; there’s on on-site licensed herbalist ready to cure what ails you. There’s THC filled cookies, brownies, and soda pop for those who prefer their high coated in sugar.

5 p.m.: With all the shopping, beaching, and THCing, you might be hungry? Grab a slice at Abbot’s Pizza Company, famous for their bagel crusts.

6 p.m.: Walk it off and see the sunset over the Venice Canals (yes, like the real Venetian Canals), a charming surprise to most and one of the hidden spots in Los Angeles that most Angelenos don’t even know about.

7:30 p.m.: Have dinner at Hal’s Bar & Grill. Enjoy the ever-changing, seasonal menu — but be sure to order the pear and cranberry bread pudding, a delicious menu mainstay.

9:30 p.m.: Get a mani/pedi (or a wax, or your make-up done) inside the adorable Nite Spa cottage before you hit the bar scene (appointments from noon to midnight).

11 p.m.: For something lively and a little bit sceney, get a glass of Pinot at The Otheroom.

Late Night: Meander over to The Brig for late-night cocktails and flirty hipsters.