It is no longer enough just to visit a destination, you need to find ways to dig into local life, whether that means staying in a less hyped-up neighbourhood or simply having access to insider secrets or home-grown delicacies. Thanks to the likes of Airbnb and One Fine Stay, it’s very easy to bunk up in a homestay, but if apartment life isn’t for you, there are now plenty of gorgeous hotels geared towards creating the home-away-from-home experience. In Paris you’ll find the Henriette, an out-of-the-way haven for designistas, SP34 brings some much-needed personality to the Copenhagen hotel scene, while the new Ace in LA and Boro in New York are both single-handedly making their up-and-coming neighbourhoods theplace to be…
The lowdownA fashion editor overhauls a tired hotel, filling it with iconic classics and one-off flea-market finds
Best forAnti-corporate design magpies looking for excellent value
Located down an unassuming street in the equally unassuming Mouffetard district is charming Henriette. The vibe here is so boho it verges on DIY, thanks to the owner’s low-budget, high-impact approach to renovation.
Each of the 32 rooms is different, and the collection shows just how much can be achieved with a lick of paint and an eagle eye for one-off design gems – our favourite space was the spacious junior suite.
The hotel doesn’t have a bona-fide restaurant, although we did tuck into an excellent breakfast in the pretty internal courtyard. Henriette's style is the perfect match for the down-to-earth attitude of its environs; this hood is more focused on chilling than couture and a bustling, hyper-local food market is at the heart.
But although it feels a world away from the fashion or glamour set, the glitzy shops of St Germain are within 10 minutes. Pas mal,we thought…
NEW YORK, NEW YORK
The lowdownAn arty vibe and Manhattan views in the soon-to-be hippest NYC district
Best for…Instagrammers keen for a top shot of the Big Apple
For years, New Yorkers in the know have been lured across the East River to Long Island City in Queens for its Manhattan views and the convenient commute to the city.
This neighbourhood’s now generating the kind of hype found in Brooklyn 10 years ago, but the recently opened Boro is the first design-led hotel to jump on the bandwagon.
In terms of interiors, exposed concrete and cinderblocks take centre stage (in keeping with the area’s industrial heritage); here we have a hotel that works warehouse style, but in an undogmatic way thanks to tailored touches and pops of colour and pattern.
The 108 rooms and suites sport startling views over either Midtown or pretty (who knew!) residential Queens, and nearly all have bijou terraces.
And although in a matter of blocks you can be over a bridge and in Central Park, this arty part of town has more than enough restaurants and galleries to keep you busy. The room keycards have a local map attached, a nice touch that ensures you always feel well within your comfort zone.
The lowdownAn iconic Downtown landmark is given a dose of Ace Group cool
Best forHipsters looking to escape the cliché of Venice Beach
From the mini bar stocked with LA-made artisan snacks (don’t leave without trying the Little Flower Caramels) to the free rental of custom Tokyo bikes, personal is the buzzword at the new LA outpost of the Ace Hotel group.
In the heart of up-and-coming Downtown in the historic United Artist’s Building, there might be 182 rooms, but what is lacking in bijou-ness is made up for in originality and local touches.
Music is a running theme, every room has a Martin guitar, record player and curated stack of vinyl, and the concrete-clad rooms are warm and personal with wool blankets and prints from artist Mike Mills.
This place doesn’t stop at design porn; sweet tooths will go weak at the knees with the salted black and white cookies on offer in the Stumptown café, while we could have guzzled almost everything at American restaurant LA Chapter.
The lowdownDivine Danish design in the buzzy Latin quarter
Best for Lovers of clean lines and cool vibes
Although you might expect Europe’s design capital to be a melting pot of style-conscious boutique hotels, in fact SP34 is the first with real clout.
Occupying three townhouses in the bohemian Latin Quarter, it offers understated luxury and a wonderfully laid-back vibe; we were fans from the moment we stepped under the neon sign at the front door. The front desk doubles as a bar, from which complimentary wine is served between 5 and 6pm, and there’s a Modernist-inspired television and library den for whiling away chilly afternoons.
The 118 rooms range from smallish standards to plush suites, and throughout the décor takes a less-is-more approach, with white or grey walls, wooden furniture and an emphasis on natural light.
Another Livingetc highlight was the buffet-style organic breakfast, with fresh bread and to-die-for smoothies. You won’t want to leave this home-from-home (it has two fabulous restaurants, so why would you), but should you venture out there’s a wealth of indie shops and cafés in spitting distance. Copenhagen’s tourist haunts are less than a 10 minute stroll away, but our tip would be to grab one of the bikes from the front desk and enjoy a truly local experience.