As travellers today are more frequently in search of the unique and insta-worthy, ever more ravishing interiors are fast replacing the cookie-cutter ‘hotel look’ around the world. There is nothing more exciting than staying in a hotel that far exceeds expectations, capturing the ‘wow factor’ from the very first sight, and the industry is brimming with such properties. Like a constellation of stars around the world, here we have chosen 12 of the most beautiful interiors from the hotels we love. Ranging from tropical to castle, the thread is sheer design heaven. From Cape Town to the Cotswold’s and Colombo, hop on the magic carpet and take your pick!
1. Amanoi, Vinh Hy Bay, Vietnam
When it comes to design Aman is usually the first name on our lips for their sheer ability to dazzle in any setting. ‘Less is more’ is the clever direction taken by designer Jean-Michel Gathy at the Amanoi in Vietnam. This 31-pavilion contemporary resort, with its polished slate pagodas and cathedral-like foyer is a temple to style overlooking splendid Vinh Hy Bay, northeast of Ho Chi Minh. Crisp linens, sunken baths and colonial meets mid-century furniture mingle with oriental vases and glowing lanterns to create sleek, zen bliss.
2. Tintagel, Colombo, Sri Lanka
This romantically-named boutique hotel, located in what Vanity Fair calls the ‘Belgravia of Colombo’, has been home to three political leaders and has an air of cigar smoke after-dinner decadence. Stayed in by Prince Charles and Camilla during their tour of Sri Lanka, Tintagel’s interiors are classic, layered and old-world sexy. Gauze-draped ebony wood four-poster beds are dramatically high and combined with black lacquered furniture, oversized vases and a scent of orchids laced with something more moody in the air. Grown up and ready to be explored.
3. Aman Tokyo, Japan
High above the fizzing streets of Tokyo and taking up the top six floors of the Otemachi Tower, Aman has created an urban sanctuary with some of the most sophisticated interiors. This is contemporary design at its most spine-tingling; theatrically-scaled spaces contrast and showcase clean lines and pure textures. Framing vistas and playing cleverly with space perceptions is an old Japanese tradition in both gardens and homes – the Aman, 8 years in the making, pays homage to this with panoramic windows, 100-foot rice paper lanterns and subtly detailed rooms inspired by Japan’s heritage. Shadows play through screens, blonde wood contrasts with gleaming black basalt – a masterpiece.
4. Amangalla, Galle, Sri Lanka
The last of our Aman Trio, Amangalla is the reincarnation of the legendary Grand Oriental Hotel in the sea-facing town of Galle. Anglo-Indian caned furniture sets the tone for the lofty interiors, breezy and made for cocktail hour in the tropics. Traditional and highly polished rice chests, once given as dowry, are topped with a quiver of fresh coconuts in a typically witty touch. Dutch colonial antiques and creamy balustrades complete the fantasy. Set on the ramparts of Galle Fort and built in 1864, Amangalla has been restored to former glory with love and attention – welcoming with elegant open arms.
5. Tarkuni, Tswalu Kalahari, South Africa
Kalahari light is unforgettable. This secluded five-suite safari lodge basks in an ever-changing palette from dawn to dusk. Formerly the home of the Oppenheimer family, founders of De Beers, and set in the Tswalu Kalaha, Africa’s largest game reserve. The villa interiors, done by the renowned Boyd Ferguson, use natural materials like wood, stone and clay to capture the spirit of the place. Touches of chic comfort come in the deeply comfortable seating, net-draped beds (an affectation – there is no malaria or such here) and spa therapy suite replete with scattered throws and candles. Every room comes with its own individual ranger, guide and Land Rover – this is quiet luxury at its best.
6. Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa
An urban retreat with a poised balance of heritage and modern comfort, Ellerman House is an Edwardian mansion with a rich history reflected in its classic interiors. Shaded verandas and terraced gardens spill out from the pale pink manor and overlook the ocean. There are 13 alluring rooms and suites along with two contemporary villas. Each are each unique – jauntily patterned headboards, chandeliers, splashes of painted furniture and velvet armchairs weave together in a fresh and confident harmony. Curl up in a bay window framed by those lavish Atlantic views with the crackling fire and order room service.
7. Chitwa Chitwa, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa
Italian artist owner Maria Brink has created a striking and eclectic interior at this intimate 10 suite (all vast) game lodge at the beautiful Sabi Sand Reserve. Perched next to the largest watering hole in the area, Chitwa Chitwa offers a private house party experience surrounded by stunning sightings of the Big 5. Bespoke velvet-covered furniture blend seamlessly with the architecture, murals of exotic birds and oversized terracotta and wood lamps. Bring your loved ones and celebrate in exclusive privacy with an in-house butler and flawless, discreet service. The roaring fires are reflected in polished silver ice buckets and ornate mirrors. Swim under the stars in private plunge pools on the timber decks – unforgettable.
8. Rosewood, London, England
Walking in from bustling High Holborn to the Faubourg-like courtyard of Rosewood London, the astonishing lobby never fails to surprise even the most regular guest. Floor to ceiling glass cabinets display curious and surreal pieces – including the A Clockwork Orange mannequin head. The graphic polished floors and rose-gold mirrored ceilings create a seductive air and each corner brings a new delight, such as elaborate cages of faux birds. With 262 bedrooms and 44 suites, Rosewood may be large in size but still somehow retains an intimate, playful feel. It also does Grand with a capital G; The Manor House Wing sports its own entrance and private lift – the only hotel suite in the globe to have its own postcode. Scarfes Bar and Holborn Dining Room were created by interior designer, Martin Brudnizki. The bar combines old school club with library having over 1,000 hand-picked antique books. The Holborn Dining Room is Left Bank Paris with red leather banquettes, smoky mirrors and a pleasing patina.
9. The Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath, England
Step in the world of the 18th century Duchess of Devonshire, made famous by Amanda Foreman’s biography, at period gem The Royal Crescent Hotel in the spa city of Bath, fashionable since the ancient Romans. A prime location at the heart of the golden stone crescent gives the hotel an authentic feel. The original plasterwork, with its swags and cornices, is intact and allowed to shine as the star of each elegantly proportioned room. Interior designer Jane Clayton has stayed true to the townhouse’s original features and filled the spaces with portraits, muted fabrics in silks and velvets, gleaming mahogany furniture and contemporary accents that whisper a fresh update. The tall windows are draped in pelmets of heavy silk but allowed to breathe and sing with views of the surrounding townscape and walled garden. A perfect setting for a romantic city break in England’s most beautiful city.
10. Aldourie Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland
Capture the castle – and possibly Nessie – at the 5-star Aldourie Castle, the only inhabited castle on Loch Ness. Available as an exclusive let and nestled on a 500-acre estate, Aldourie is our favourite Highland escape. The blue-grey entrance hall, dominated by an original engraved fireplace and vast gilded portraits, leads out onto the rear lawn with its topiary and dream-like Loch view. A hearty Scottish breakfast is served in the tapestried Laird’s room while the library glories in original 19th century wallpaper, gothic cabinets and powder-blue silk furnishings – evenings are spent here with a dram of whisky and lungs filled with the cleanest air in the world. Along with the scarlet brocade drawing room and the bedrooms, complete with canopied four-poster beds and turret bathrooms, Aldourie is perfection in the glen.
11. SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace, Jaipur, India
Delicious is the only word to describe this slice of Alice-in-wonderland in the heart of the pink city Jaipur. Owned by the Jaipur royal family and run by luxury hotel group SUJÁN Rajmahal Palace has gone through several incarnations. Formerly home to Gayatri Devi, the late Maharani and often called one of the most beautiful women in the world. The palace also hosted Jackie Kennedy for three months in 1962. Interior designer Adil Ahmad, known for a rich, whimsical style, created unique wallcoverings and textiles. The 51 Shades of Pink restaurant pays homage to Jaipur while the Maharani suite is done in art deco flourishes. Other suites raise the bar with monogrammed linen, framed artwork and a breathtaking array of pattern. The library is one of the most beautiful rooms in India with a richly-painted ceiling and arches, vast oil paintings and objects scattered like jewels. A delight for the senses and a true rebirth.
12. Soneva Fushi, Kunfunadhoo Island Baa Atoll, Maldives
We know the Maldives are all about the white sand and azure waters, but this fabulous resort has design wow on a grand scale. The private island located within the Baa Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has 55 villas offering double height eco-architecture with private seawater lagoons, libraries, gyms and all round beach chic calico gorgeousness. We also love the well-designed children’s rooms – Soneva style at its most sublime.
James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel. Ampersand Travel create bespoke and luxurious travel experiences to Asia, the British Isles and Southern Africa.