Sara

Small, heavily designed, and service-focused hotels existed long before Ian Schrager came along, but it took this American impresario to popularize the “boutique” hotel as a phenomenon — one associated with exclusivity, superstar designers and chefs, destination lobby-cum-lounges, and, above all, celebrity.

Little wonder that Schrager famously started out in the nightclub business. He and his pal Steve Rubell founded Studio 54, the notorious New York City nightclub of the late 70s and early 80s that drew everyone from Michael Jackson to Mick Jagger – and a whole lotta white powdery drugs. Then came a tax scandal and the club closed. The duo started another club, but their main focus soon became the Morgans Hotel, which they founded in 1984, along with a company of the same name.

Morgans Hotel, New York

Andree Putman, who designed the Morgans Hotel in 1984, also led the hotel's renovations in 2008. For the most part, she stuck to her minimalist guns, using lots of grays and beiges and mood lighting, plus a signature black-and-white checkerboard motif -- her nod to New York City taxicabs.

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Gramercy Park Hotel lobby

Gramercy Park Hotel lobby

Until its economy collapsed, Iceland was being hailed as one of the world’s great financial miracles. And Icelandic power couple Jon Asgeir Johannesson and Ingibjorg Palmadottir were at the forefront of the juggernaut. Johannesson is the CEO of Baugur, an investment group that at one point was the richest company in Iceland. He and his wife own cars, yachts, and homes across the world, including a full-floor apartment in New York City’s Gramercy Park Hotel that was reportedly purchased in 2007 for $10 million.

Then came the financial meltdown, which hit Iceland especially hard. Baugur filed for bankruptcy in February 2009. And now Johannesson, who has been renting out the NYC apartment to the tune of $312,000 per year (according to NBC New York), is being sued by his current tenants, a real estate company called Paramount Realty Group of America, essentially for being cheap. The accusation: That the couple installed an “ugly” IKEA kitchen in the apartment.
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Maison 140 Lobby

Unless you’re a design nerd, a Hollywood mogul, or a long-time reader of Playboy, chances are you’ve never heard of Kelly Wearstler, the centerfold model-cum-interior-designer behind hotels and homes from L.A. to Anguilla.

If she’s not quite a household name, however, Wearstler has been getting a ton of mainstream exposure lately (sorry). Last year, the New Yorker ran a 4,000-word profile about Wearstler, dubbing her the “presiding grand dame of West Coast interior design.” And just two months into 2010 she’s already earned mentions in Oprah’s magazine and People. Not bad for a decorator.

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the london

Behold the garland at The London.

balcony-london-suite-bel-age-v493451-1600

Too bad it doesn't really exist.

We’ve already brought you countless examples of sly cropping, elaborate camerawork, and conspicuously missing robes. For today’s Photo Fakeout: the case of the mysteriously disappearing plants. Often, hotel websites show off guest rooms that include everything from purple orchids and flourishing ficus plants to bouquets and arrangements you might expect to see on Valentine’s Day, but not inside your hotel room. As we’ve discovered, however, hotels don’t always deliver on the flora; take the above photos of a balcony at The London West Hollywood, for example. Check out more of our findings after the jump.

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oceana pool_white

This pool looks pretty big on the website...

pool-hotel-oceana-v555193-1152

...but not from our angle.

Dear Hotel Oceana,

We really like you. Your little boutique in Santa Monica has a quiet vibe and bright, enormous rooms, and you’re only 15 minutes from the beach on foot. And that heart-shaped pool in the courtyard is cute.

So it just seems so unnecessary to employ the old cropping trick, which we’ve documented at the Equus on Oahu and – hilariously – at Miami’s Aqua Hotel, where a hot male model is apparently trying to surf in a hot tub.

Take a look at the photo on your website. The pool is so big it can’t fit in a single frame! Where’s Michael Phelps?! Now look at what our reporter found: a pool that’s charming but not so big. And to make matters worse, it appears that someone photoshopped out the metal ladder in the deep end.

So we want you to know there’s no need to exaggerate your virtues. We like you just the way you are.

Love,

Oyster

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The Sofitel New York has one Les Clefs d'Or concierge.

The Sofitel New York has one Les Clefs d'Or concierge.

In an episode of NBC’s The Office, Steve Carell’s Michael goes on a business trip to Winnipeg along with his colleagues Andy and Oscar. The crew checks into a hotel and soon Michael starts crushing hard on Marie, the attractive concierge, a.k.a. “Concierge Marie.”

Later that night, over drinks, Michael attempts to stump Marie with a service question. “It’s midnight on Christmas Eve and you need to get dry-cleaning done. What do you do?” He later makes out with her.

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Bed and bathtub at The Standard separated by a quarter-inch of glass.

The bathtub in the Standard New York's superior room is at the head of the bed.

Who was it who decided that hotel bathrooms — which most of us have long regarded as places where can you do your business alone – no longer need to offer privacy? If you’ve stayed at a design-oriented hotel lately, you may know what I’m talking about: Bathrooms with windows or glass walls that allow the occupant to see out into the rest of the room — and anyone else in the room to see in. The trend seems to have started a couple years ago and continues apace — at least four hotels that opened in the past six months, including the brand new Andaz Wall Street, have eschewed opaque bathroom walls for transparent ones. 

Many people presumably find it sexy to watch their lovers lather up.  But glass bathrooms are also a clever design trick for making a small room feel bigger. It certainly works at the Standard New York, where some rooms measure in at a cramped 230 square feet. Less so the W Washington D.C., where the translucent shower stall right next to the bed seems to emphasize the room’s diminutive size. In any case, we think they’re kind of fun – if less than ideal for traveling with friends (without benefits), colleagues, or, as the woman interviewed in this New York Times article noted, family members.

Take a look at some of the examples we’ve come across over the past year, after the jump.

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TK TK

Interactive touch-screen at The Eliot Suite Hotel in Boston

MSNBC just ran a nice round-up of 10 tech-savvy hotels that go far beyond — yawn — flat-screen TVs and iPod docks. How about those nail polish dryers in the rooms at the Peninsula Tokyo? Cool. And New York’s Pod Hotel made the cut thanks to its free Wi-Fi and “Pod Blog,” a guests-only message board. Fair enough.

But we’ve come across a few cool hotel gadgets that didn’t make the list. Check ‘em out after the jump.

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Fitness center at Canyon Ranch Miami

Fitness center at Canyon Ranch Miami Beach

Cue today, January 4. It’s our first day back in the office after a long New Year’s weekend, a four-day bender of a) too much eating, b) too much drinking, and c) too much of both. Oh, and that’s not counting Christmas and Hanukkah – all that eggnog, those cute little sugar cookies, four bags of Hanukkah gelt. In one sitting. We’re feeling a little flabby and soft, and those jeans? Yeah, that’s not the dryer’s fault. We’ve done some research and tallied the votes – here are five top-notch hotel gyms around the country that’ll inspire you to get your sweat on in the New Year.

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Pool at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa

Main pool at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort And Spa, one of Hawaii's kid-friendliest resorts

If you’ve got school-age children, right now you’re likely bracing for a week of no school, no scheduled activities, and the kind of cold, wet weather that keeps kids indoors and bouncing off the walls. You’ll get through it, of course, but odds are the experience will leave you dreaming about a better — and warmer – way to spend the next school holiday. (That’s right — Spring Break is just about 90 days away.) To help with the planning, we pulled together this list of some of our favorite family- and kid-friendly resorts.

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