Next year is an important one for hoteliers. Yes, the calendar is already filled with the customary slew of openings – New York City, for example is predicted to have a record 100,000 rooms by the end of 2014 while London hotels are cautiously optimistic about the new year – but October will mark the 30th anniversary of the world's first "boutique hotel". Ian Schrager's Morgans Hotel in Midtown Manhattan is widely credited with kick-starting the revolution that now sees anything from resorts to hostels labelling themselves with the B-word.
Back then, it was all about small being beautiful, with an emphasis on details, exclusivity and personality. Now we take for granted the fact that we can choose our favourite type of pillow, slip between the finest Egyptian-cotton sheets, gaze at a carefully curated art collection on the walls, flick through a thoughtful selection of coffee-table tomes and actually get a sense of our locale before setting foot outside the front door – whether in a 15-room hideaway or 300-room resort. Not only that, but we can engage with our hosts via review sites and social media, letting them know exactly what we think of the breakfast buffet, concierge service, lighting or bathroom toiletries.
The concept has come a long way since 1984, so much so that it's probably time to discard the "boutique" labelling and give the Hotel the appellation it deserves. Here are some of 2014's most interesting openings.
On home soil, the capital is set to see some big names unveil their latest projects. André Balazs (andrebalazsproperties.com) of Chateau Marmont and Standard Hotels fame is busy converting an old fire station in Marylebone into his first British venture, while chef Nobu Matsuhisa has chosen Hoxton as the location for his first European hotel (nobuhotels.com). The now-Schrager-less Morgans Hotel group will enter its fourth decade with its transformation of Sea Containers House on the South Bank of the Thames into the Mondrian in the spring, complete with the "sexy Sunset Strip vibe of the original Hollywood Mondrian" courtesy of designer Tom Dixon (morganshotelgroup.com).
Meanwhile, London favourite Firmdale (firmdalehotels.com) is opening its eighth address in the capital in May. Expect Kit Kemp's bold prints throughout the Ham Yard Hotel, plus a rooftop garden, bowling alley, cinema and spa all behind Picadilly Circus. Serial restaurateurs Chris Corbin and Jeremy King are opening their first hotel, The Beaumont (thebeaumont.com) in an Art Deco Mayfair address in the summer with an inhabitable sculpture "room" by Antony Gormley, a spa and American-style restaurant.
Another gourmet hotspot is likely to be Heckfield Place (heckfieldplace.com) in Hampshire, a much-delayed contemporary country-house estate where dining will be overseen by Skye Gyngell. Knives, forks and suitcases are poised for an autumn opening.
Waterbabies should look to Cornwall, Cowes, Bath and Bedfordshire where Una St Ives (unastives.co.uk), The Old Haberdashery (oldhaberdashery.co.uk), The Gainsborough Hotel and thermal spa (thegainsboroughbath spa.co.uk) and Center Parcs Woburn Village (centerparcs.co.uk) respectively spring to life just as the leaves start to unfurl on the trees.
Finally, this year's Sports Personality of the Year is opening a hotel close to his hometown, Dunblane. Andy Murray's latest trophy will be Cromlix House (cromlix.com), a Victorian mansion with 15 bedrooms and a Chez Roux restaurant opening in April. Activities include fishing, golf, falconry and, of course, tennis.
There's plenty of action in the Americas, too. The year starts in Florida where Como (como hotels.com) is pushing ahead with ambitious expansion plans (a new hotel will follow in the Maldives by spring and lots more around the globe in 2015) starting on Miami Beach with a Metropolitan hotel in January. Also this month, but in California, another blossoming brand, Ace (acehotel.com), comes to Downtown LA.
The 1927 United Artists building provides a fittingly charismatic home for the 180-room hotel, complete with pool and "seasonal American" restaurant from the same team as Brooklyn's Five Leaves. Speaking of which, the New York borough will see the 1912 Bossert building – once inhabited by Jehovah's Witnesses – converted into a luxury hotel by summer. Across the East River, the controversial redevelopment of the iconic Hotel Chelsea by King and Grove (kingandgrove.com) continues apace.
Chicago's luxury hotel scene is bolstered by the spring opening of Soho House (sohohouse.com) in the former Chicago Belting Factory, complete with a branch of Pizza East and a Cowshed Spa; and the debut Virgin Hotel (virginhotels.com) in the historic Dearborn Bank Building in The Loop. An opening date has yet to be announced. In north-east Nevada, the Mustang Monument comes to fruition (mustangmonument.com) in early summer. The 900sq m reserve protects endangered wild mustangs while welcoming guests in luxury tepees and safari tents.
The dizzying proliferation of W Hotels (star woodhotels.com) may have calmed down; but a new outpost comes in June to the Colombian capital, Bogota, with interiors inspired by the legend of El Dorado, spun with signature W razzmatazz. A more authentic flavour of Latin America can be found flung out in the Galápagos, where the Pikaia Lodge (pikaialodgegalapagos.com) opens on top of an extinct volcano crater on Santa Cruz island in September. The sleek, modern lodge will have its own giant tortoise sanctuary. But if the lure of the beach is too much, then look instead to Uruguay where the chi-chi resort of José Ignacio will welcome the fittingly fancy Bahia Vik hotel (bahiavik.com) with bungalows planted in the sand dunes, in January.
You can play among the stars at the Cal Neva (calnevaresort.com), which reopens in time for next Christmas after a multi-million dollar makeover on the shores of Lake Tahoe. The casino-resort was where an 11-year-old Judy Garland first performed, where the Kennedys would often visit and where Frank Sinatra installed a heli-pad on the roof and performed with the Rat Pack when he took up ownership between 1960 and 1963.
Here's an offer you can't refuse: a tropical retreat once home to the "Godfather" is opening as a luxury hideaway. The Brando (thebrando.com) is on the French polynesian atoll of Tetiaroa. The private island was owned by Marlon Brando, who fell in love with it while filming Mutiny on the Bounty in 1962 and lived here for several years with his family. His intention to turn it into a luxurious, environmentally friendly hotel will be realised posthumously when it opens later next year.
From actors to artists ... in Australia, the vibrant city of Melbourne – where innovative hotels haven't quite kept pace with the creative restaurants, shops and bars – will have a new Art Series hotel by next December. Like its counterparts The Blackman, The Olsen and The Cullen, The Larwill will focus on its namesake's artistic legacy. The late David Larwill, an Expressionist painter, will be honoured in the hotel's interiors, with his work Remember Me as the centrepiece (artserieshotels.com.au).
Luxury is the common denominator in Europe, where high-end brands are expanding. La Reserve (lareserve-paris.com) adds to its stable with a hotel near the Champs-Elysées in the spring that will complement the group's existing Parisian apartments. It'll flaunt interiors by Jacques Garcia and a swanky spa. Equally refined will be Portrait Firenze (portraitfirenze.com), the fabled Ferragamo family's newest opening in Florence, again slated for spring. The materials used in the 34 suites will showcase the ultimate in "made in Italy" heritage, while views will be Ponte Vecchio-standard. An edgier experience will be offered in the Netherlands, where Rem Koolhaas's De Rotterdam complex – the nation's largest building – will be embellished with the Nhow Hotel (nhow-hotels.com) next month. The "lifestyle" hotel features industrial interiors, a collection of Dutch art and dazzling city views.
The party crowd will have a new playground in Ibiza when the Hard Rock Hotel (hardrock hotels.com) comes to Playa d'en Bossa in May. Suites will have swim-out pools, while the main pools come kitted out with two bars and private cabanas. If you're more lava than lager, then the Stracta Hotel (stractahotels.is) in Hella, southern Iceland, will strike more of a chord. Slated to open in May, it is positioning itself as a place to relax, but also to explore the famed volcanic landscape.
Starting north in Africa, Marrakech is bestowed with two more palatial pads in the form of the Grace (gracehotels.com/marrakech), which will open in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in spring; and Mandarin Oriental (mandarinoriental.com). The latter was scheduled to open last year, but after a reported fall-out, the hotel now performs under the Taj banner. The group has now secured a new site in the Palmeraie, but an opening date hasn't been announced.
Kenya will hope to attract more tourists after a difficult year. Gamewatchers Safaris should do just that with the new Porini Bush Camp (porini.com) in the Ol Kenyei Conservancy in July. Its eight luxury tents will be within easy reach of the Maasai Mara. South-west in Namibia, Wilderness Safaris (wilderness-safaris.com) will unveil a new eight-tent camp this spring on the remote Hoanib Skeleton Coast – home to one of the greatest concentrations of desert elephant and lion.
The Indonesia-centric Alila group (alilahotels.com) has two intriguing openings, the first in Oman. Alila Jabal Akhdar is coming to the Al Hajar mountains in the first quarter of the year, hopefully opening in time to see the region's stunning blankets of roses. The clifftop resort can only be reached by 4x4. Similarly soaring will be the Alila Fort Bishangarh, opening in the late summer in a fortress, complete with turrets and two-metre-thick walls, near Jaipur, Rajasthan.
Back in Indonesia, the island of Bintan – playground for wealthy Singaporeans and expatriates – is the setting for The Sanchaya (thesanchaya.com), a beachfront resort estate that aims to "showcase the best of South-east Asia" with pan-Asian design influences, colonial accents and luxurious finishes. It's set to open in April. A short ferry ride away in Singapore, Sofitel's So diffusion brand (sofitel.com) opens in the city-state a month later with design flourishes by Karl Lagerfeld.
And the founder of the first "boutique hotel"? Schrager opens his third Edition hotel – in partnership with Marriott – in Miami Beach in the autumn.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies