Something to Declare: There's an art to creating an inspiring place to stay

 

Dew-kissed rose petals: every time I see a close-up photo of them in a hotel, a part of me dies.

 

It's not that I expect a Titian or an Emin in my boutique bunk-ups, but is it too much to hope for eye candy born from a little imagination? The vast Cy Twombly that occupies the lobby of Manhattan's Gramercy Park Hotel might not be up your street, but you can't deny the arresting red strokes have more vim than a run-of-the-mill Hilton reception. Tattooed pigs and an excrement-generator might be too much (among the former exhibits of Tasmania's Mona Pavilions – part of the Museum of Old and New Art) but at least you'll have grist to your postcard/Twitter mill.

With the Frieze Art Fair straying into New York next week, let's salute those savvy style dens that have a curator on their roll call. Nick Jones of the Soho House group wants his spaces to reflect the creativity of their members. Each of his properties, from LA to Berlin (and soon to incorporate Mumbai and Istanbul), has its own aesthetic, laced with locally resonant artworks chosen by Francesca Gavin, who asserts that the most effective way to create an identity is through art.

Louisa St Pierre, artists' agent and editor of Spread ArtCulture, ascribes winning formulas to having a curator who is erudite not only in art but also in popular culture, branding, and the experiential. "There needs to be an eclectic array of pieces that chimes with different guests, and works as a whole." For this, see the Standard and the Ace hotels in the US.

Nailing both style and substance, for me, is New York's Crosby Street Hotel. Kit Kemp is the creative half of the husband-and-wife team behind the pretty and witty Firmdale group, for which Crosby Street was its first foray out of London. Their colourful collection injected new life even into one of the world's most sophisticated and saturated scenes, thanks to a specially commissioned 10ft head by Jaume Plensa, Justine Smith's cartoon-mâché dogs, and Peter Clark's collage pooches.

Other hotels boost their credentials by flaunting them in their title: Australia's Art Series hotels are three Melbournian stays themed on Adam Cullen, John Olsen and Charles Blackman. A cute stunt was their Banksy competition: they planted a "graffito" by the artist, valued at $15,000, in one of their hotels and invited guests to find it, steal it and, if uncaught, keep it. (Maura Tuohy was the winning tea-leaf.)

Still, is a hotel's art collection enough alone to lure you to check in? Debbie Lawson's carpeted "Persian Moose" – at the tad-institutional Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green – endeared it to me. And the Damien Hirsts at 45 Park Lane give these glossy Dorchester digs cred.

Yet, when it comes to the visuals, less can be more. Ilse Crawford's simple but inspired reworking of The Olde Bell in Hurley, Berkshire, dispenses with framed frippery in favour of artisanal touches at the 16th-century inn. Here, art is not particularly relevant other than sketches by a local historian and photographs of the life if the local community. "The key is to do it well," says Crawford. And I'm fairly sure that means no Audrey Hepburn canvases from Ikea.

Juliet Kinsman is the editor-in-chief of Mr & Mrs Smith hotel guides ( mrandmrssmith.com)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project