Where to find the ultimate designer hotel experience in Hong Kong
Being a "boutique hotel" used to mean something special. It would suggest a small and well-designed place, attached to a name like Azzedine Alaia or Anouska Hempel.
Back in the 1980s when the boutique hotel concept first appeared in the United States and United Kingdom, the understated glamor was an experience. The label is now flung around so often it has lost its original meaning, slapped onto descriptions by default.
Here in Hong Kong, we're lucky that a few recently opened hotels still do the term "boutique" justice, with their incredibly tasteful interiors.
Le Rivage is a boutique apartment hotel located in the residential area of Sheung Wan. Everything about this place creates a cosy, comfy feeling of being at home -- more specifically, the home of a stylish French lady, design giant Andree Putman herself, who did the interior space.
Many call Putman the Coco Chanel of the interior design world for the way she transformed the stiff, stuffy, proper style of old French design into the sleek modern look French homes are known for today.
The magic happens when you leave the impeccable rooms and step into the surrounding Sheung Wan neighborhood of old, chaotic Hong Kong. It's a surreal and highly enjoyable contrast.
You may also like Le Rivage: French in the best way.
Le Rivage, 138 Connaught Road West, Sheung Wan, tel +852 3607 3333, www.lerivage.hk
Known as "Philippe Starck's first Asia boutique hotel," the JIA was a landmark in the development of Hong Kong's hotel scene.
Located in the densely populated shopping district of Causeway Bay, the problem of maximizing the limited space in each of JIA's rooms is a typical conundrum for interior designers in Hong Kong.
Starck solved it elegantly, with a touch of his signature sense of fun. The studios are partitioned by sheer, discreet curtains, such that space is organised, not cramped. Little nooks for lounging and private moments are created where we least expect them.
Of course, Starck-style furniture is littered about the place, much to the delight of fans.
JIA, 1-5 Irving Street, Causeway Bay, tel +852 3196 9000 www.jiahongkong.com
Hong Kong history buffs will fall head over heels with Hullett House, a colonial era building within which restaurateur David Yeo has attempted to recreate the opulence of the city dating from a century ago.
Each of the hotel rooms have a theme inspired by Hong Kong itself: the D'Aguilar room is filled with chinoiserie, the Lido is an homage to black Chinese laquer furniture, the lavish art deco of the Pui O room alludes to Hong Kong tea houses.
Each has its own large balcony from which guests can see the green lawns below and the bustle of Tsim Sha Tsui beyond.
Naturally, a hotel by a restaurateur would have high octane eateries to offer -- there are exactly five, catering to just 10 hotel rooms.
You may also like Hullett House makes us question Hong Kong's heritage.
Hullett House, 2 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, tel +852 3988 0000 www.hulletthouse.com
The Upper House
The Upper House is the Swire Hotel group's latest foray into the Hong Kong boutique hotel market and its opening last year announced a scary new set of standards for competitors.
Asia's wunderkind designer Andre Fu transformed the rooms into spacious sanctuaries, exuding tranquility with the use of natural elements such as wood, shoji glass, limestone and lacquered paper panels. But the software is equally memorable.
The Upper House was one of the first in Hong Kong to offer seemless connectivity through complimentary high-speed Internet, paperless check-in, and other clever tekkie touches like an in-room iPod touch for room service.
You may also like The Upper House ups the boutique hotel game.
Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, tel +852 3968 1111, www.upperhouse.com
The Luxe Manor
Sometimes we want "maximal" and that's when we head to The Luxe Manor, a 101 on OTT.
It starts in the hotel lobby, a goulash of mosaic floors, lipstick red armchairs and crazy chandeliers. Sensory overload kicks in as you tour the rooms, each a continuation of The Luxe Manor's distinctive sense of more-is-more decor.
Special themed suites range from Safari to Nordic, and the climax is the Dada bar, inspired by Salvador Dali. Silver horses leap out of the bar counter, charging towards the stage where reputable jazz performances take place.
The whimsical parallel universe offered by The Luxe Manor makes a lasting impression.
The Luxe Manor, 39 Kimberly Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon, tel +852 3763 8888 www.theluxemanor.com