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Dispensing With the Hotel Chain: 6 Unique and Exquisite Hotel Conversions

Conformity. Conventionality. Conservatism. Words that describe the glut of hotels in a world where hospitality has been appropriated by the big hotel chain. Here, architecture and interior design are typically universal and dull, impervious to the tenets of good design. In a maddeningly repetitious fashion, design is often impacted negatively by uncreative money-grubbing developers and business school alumni.

Move Away From The Mundane

Branded hotel chains account for around 7.5 million rooms; approximately half of these are so-called ‘upscale’. (Source: The Economist) Fresh and creative companies such as Airbnb (founded in 2008) and Welcome Beyond (who hand-pick small hotels and holiday rentals), have challenged the tired and formulaic notion of the big hotel chains, offering travelers a different perspective.

Brody House bedroom

Brody House in Budapest. Image via Welcome Beyond.

Many hotel chains are housed in purpose-built dwellings, their insipid architecture a blight on the urban landscape. This writer has written previously about rural escapes for city dwellers, highlighting a number of hotels and habitats where architecture and place are an important feature of the experience on offer.

Volkshotel exterior

Volkshotel in Amsterdam. Photo by Mark Groeneveld via Volkshotel.

It is a perfectly sensible assertion that a hotel’s building style and location will have a bearing on its likability, adding to the overall ‘wow factor’. Creative new-builds offer the potential for modern convenience and style. At the same time, the conversion of exquisite older properties can provide a sense of heritage mixed with a contemporary aesthetic. The hotels highlighted in this piece are a mere fraction of the bountiful supply of exceptional hotel conversions one can find around the world.

Brody House, Budapest

Founded in 2009 by William Clothier and Peter Grundberg, Brody House is a small boutique-style hotel (and private members arts club) that bridges the gap between a bygone era and the modern-day. The residence, a neoclassical townhouse, was built in 1896 for Dr Vilmos Tauffer, a pioneering medical practitioner; at that time, it contained one of Hungary’s best medical libraries. The house endured all through World War II, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and a great number of years of disrepair. Today, Brody House is a spirited part of Budapest’s creative scene. This nonconformist and unconventional venue provides a distinctive space where people can gather to meet, create, innovate, party and snooze.

Brody House exterior

Brody House. Image © 2012 Daniel Kovacs via Wikimedia Commons.

Brody House staircase

Brody House staircase via Welcome Beyond.

Brody House courtyard

Brody House courtyard. Image © We Heart 2016.

Casa do Conto, Porto

Casa do Conto (meaning “House of Tales”) is the result of the bold restoration of a 19th century bourgeois home in Porto’s Cedofeita area. It is a place where past mingles with future, as evidenced by the home’s original granite stone facades and its newly integrated concrete staircases and ceilings. The ceilings in Casa do Conto’s six guest rooms each narrate the “tales” of changes experienced by the concept of “house” and of Casa do Conto in particular.

Casa do Conto

Casa do Conto room

Casa do Conto garden

Casa do Conto doorway

Images © Casa do Conto, LDA.

Ett Hem, Stockholm

An enchanting 1910 Arts & Crafts townhouse, located in a quiet residential Stockholm neighborhood, is home to Ett Hem. Converted into a glorious twelve-room guesthouse, the accommodation was remodeled throughout by Stockholm architect Anders LandstrÖm, with creative direction and design by British designer Ilse Crawford of Studioilse. At Ett Hem, guests are treated as “friends of the family”, staying in a “happy house” where a pleasing Scandinavian aesthetic meets considered functionality.

Ett Hem

Ett Hem house on Sköldungagatan. Photo by Felix Odell © Ett Hem 2016.

Ett Hem courtyard

Ett Hem Kitchen

Ett Hem lounge

Ett Hem courtyard, kitchen and lounge. Images via Studioilse.

The Merchant Hotel, Belfast

The sumptuous Merchant Hotel in Belfast is housed in an architectural gem. The majestic Grade A listed building, once the purpose-built headquarters of the Ulster Bank, was constructed in the mid-nineteenth century from Giffnock sandstone (found in the Glasgow area). The building’s exterior is Italianate in style, a once popular characteristic of High Victorian Architecture. (Source: The Merchant Hotel) The Merchant Hotel is a true city landmark and integral to Belfast’s burgeoning Cathedral Quarter.

Merchant Hotel front facade

Merchant Hotel exterior



Merchant Hotel Art Deco bedroom

A bedroom in art deco style.

Merchant Hotel Great Room restaurant

The Great Room restaurant.

Images © 2016 The Merchant Hotel.

Volkshotel, Amsterdam

The Volkshotel in Amsterdam seeks to welcome people from all walks of life, offering a concept that is both ‘cool’ and urban. The hotel is located in a 1960s concrete, glass and steel structure that once belonged to Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant. In Volkshotel, the new owner wished to create what would in essence encapsulate a 24-hour microcosm of society: alongside its rooms (ranging from cozy to cosmic), the hotel houses a club, restaurant, café, all-night basement cocktail bar, co-working spaces, meeting rooms, a rooftop sauna and hot tubs (with sweeping views over Amsterdam).

Volkshotel exterior by night

Volkshotel co-working space

Volkshotel Reception and Lobby signage

Photos by Mark Groeneveld via Volkshotel.

Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn

The Wythe Hotel, sited on the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn, was once the home of an industrial barrel and cask cooperage. Built in 1901, the old factory was converted into a 72-room destination hotel by Morris Adjmi Architects. Original features, including exposed brick, arched windows and cast iron columns, have been conserved. A three-story glass “Tetris block” was affixed to the roof of the building; housing the hotel’s bar, this striking addition affords extensive views across the Manhattan skyline.

Wythe Hotel and Manhattan skyline

Wythe Hotel interior

Wythe Hotel signage

Images © Jimi Billingsley / © Mark Mahaney via Morris Adjmi Architects.

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