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Design - Hotel Room or Art Exhibit?

At these trendsetting hotels, art is all over the place—not all of it in frames. Writer Kate Sekules checks out the best artist- and architect-designed rooms.

Amsterdam

Lloyd Hotel
This 1921 building was a German prison during WWII, then a jail for young offenders in the 1960s—but the bad juju has been eradicated by a team of top Dutch design innovators, including Hella Jongerius, Claudy Jongstra, Marcel Wanders and Ineke Hans. Now a hotel in the trendy Eastern Docklands area, the Lloyd has 116 madly varied rooms that rate from one to five stars, and a chic restaurant that uses ingredients from local producers. The smallest rooms wittily reference the building's penal past, with tongue-and-groove walls and iron-frame beds. From here the rooms get bigger and fancier, with cool features like a fiberglass bath or a grand piano. The Lloyd's motto: "Luxury is our standard, economy is an option."
DETAILS Doubles from $97; Oostelijke Handelskade 34; 011-31-20-561-3636 or lloydhotel.com.

Copenhagen

Hotel Fox
What happens when 21 graffiti artists, graphic designers and illustrators get carte blanche to give a blah three-star hotel a radical makeover? Volkswagen staged this experiment to publicize its new VW Fox—and the result is Hotel Fox, Europe's grooviest new hotel, with 61 psychedelic roomscapes. California-based German illustrator Birgit Amadori placed life-size fairy tale�inspired figures in her King's Forest room, while Venezuelan mixed-media artist MASA created a tribute to the trees that surround his Caracas apartment building. Even check-in at the Fox is unorthodox: Guests are given a cooler bag filled with Champagne and chocolates (the "lovers" bag), beer and popcorn (the "movie" bag) or Bloody Mary makings and aspirin (the "hangover" bag). Still, it's not all gimmickry: The bathrooms are normal.
DETAILS Doubles from $150; Jarmers Plads 3; 011-45-3395-7755 or hotelfox.dk.

Madrid

Hotel Puerta América
It would not be overstating the case to call Puerta América the most ambitiously designed hotel ever. No fewer than 19 of the world's hottest talents collaborated to create the interior of this 342-room, sunset-colored, wedge-shaped building—itself the work of French superstar architect Jean Nouvel. Rather than choose a deluxe or an executive suite, you choose your favorite designer. Is it Iraqi-British avant-gardist Zaha Hadid? Then stay in her curvaceous white room, with walls made of LG Hi-Macs (a malleable, Corianlike material). Maybe it's British minimalist supreme David Chipperfield? Then choose his room with the black terra-cotta tile floor and wall of white sheers. After check-in, have a cocktail in the Marc Newson�designed bar. DETAILS Doubles from $365; Av. América 41; 011-34-91-744-5400 or hotelpuertamerica.com.

San Francisco

Hotel des Arts
This modest 51-room hotel has been quietly distinguishing itself from its middle-of-the-road rivals by gradually covering its walls with art by emerging talent. Nothing is framed, though. The artists range from techno-punk mavericks to stars on the verge. Brian Ermanski's room, a riot of black, white, fuchsia and turquoise, is so dense with text you'll be up all night reading; Anthony Skirvin's is an unsettling conceptual installation, a hideout full of personal effects that look like they could have been left behind by the Unibomber; David DeRosa's has a color-saturated portrait that hovers over the bed. DETAILS "Painted rooms" from $119 for a double (to reserve one, call the hotel instead of booking online); 447 Bush St.; 800-956-4322 or sfhoteldesarts.com.

More Hotels

Boquitas Pintadas, Buenos Aires Six bedrooms in this "Art Supermarket/Hotel" contain installations, graffiti and video art, all for sale. Once the pieces are sold, new artists redo the rooms. DETAILS Doubles from $135; Estados Unidos 1393; 011-54-11-4381-6064 or boquitas-pintadas.com.ar.

Hôtel du Petit Moulin, Paris Christian Lacroix's batty, hyper-ornate fashions have been translated into interiors at this new Le Marais hotel. DETAILS Doubles from $220; 29/31 rue du Poitou; 011-33-1-4274-1010 or paris-hotel-petitmoulin.com.

Lute Suites, Amsterdam Seven 18th-century houses along the Amstel River, just outside the city in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, were fitted out by star local designer Marcel Wanders. DETAILS Doubles from $360; Amsteldijk Zuid 54-58; 011- 31-20-4722-462 or lutesuites.com.

Published December 2005
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