Just your style: San Francisco hotels that reflect your favorite artistic movements

by Jane Reynolds on August 31, 2010

The lobby at The Fairmont San Francisco

There are numerous notable museums in San Francisco that you won’t want to miss — the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Fine Arts Museum, and the Asian Art Museum to name just a few. If you’re the type whose vacation itinerary can never be too jam-packed with museum visits, how about turning your hotel stay into a museum-like experience of its own? We’ve found the San Francisco hotels that best encapsulate different artistic eras. So whether you swoon over flying buttresses or  prefer ultramodern decor, there’s a San Francisco hotel where you’ll feel right at home (or at least like you’re in a museum gallery designed just for you).

Entrance to the Fairmont

Neoclassical: The Fairmont San Francisco

Built at the turn of the last century and opened in 1907, the Fairmont is one of the oldest hotels in the city. Along with a great location atop Nob Hill, the hotel boasts neoclassical architecture on the exterior, complete with Corinthian columns.

A bust in the hallways

The lobby and hallways also embrace the neoclassical period, which was a movement away from the pastels and frivolity of Rococo and a return to the simplicity and “purity” of Roman classical art, with marble columns and busts, warm, dark colors, vaulted ceilings, velvet chairs, and a wraparound staircase.

Deluxe King room

The guest rooms are simple yet elegant. One aspect that’s not in the ancient Roman style is the technology — iPod docks, 37-inch LG flat-screen TVs with 70 channels, and speedy wired Internet. It’s classy all the way, from the big stuff (like beds and bathrooms) to the little stuff (like artwork and bath products).

The Omni lobby at Christmastime

Baroque: Omni San Francisco Hotel

The lobby at the Omni embodies Baroque boldness with dark wood, marble floors, a grand staircase, and dwarfing columns. This 362-room hotel is a solid Financial District pick, near Chinatown, Nob Hill, and public transportation.

A Deluxe Room

In the large guest rooms, the look continues with baroque wallpaper, marble-tiled bathrooms, and beds with dramatic, dark-stained headboards.

Entrance to Clift

Art Deco: Clift

The Clift was built in 1924 when Art Deco architecture was all the rage. The style’s decorativeness and boldness is apparent on the facade of the hotel. The lobby and the 350 small but comfortable rooms are short on amenities but high on scene and style.

Lobby at Clift

The exterior, however, is all that’s left of Clift’s Art Deco heritage. In 2001, the hotel reopened after a Phillipe Starck makeover that called for ultramodern, somewhat surrealist decor.

Lobby at the InterContinental

Modern: InterContinental San Francisco

Built in 2008 in the business-oriented neighborhood of SoMa, the 550-room InterContinental has luxury-level service, a lap pool, a well-reviewed spa, and a Michelin-star restaurant, making it one of the best values in San Francisco. The hotel’s s young age is apparent in the modern design of the lobby — sleek lines, geometric patterns, and floor-to-ceiling windows. But the best part is it’s proximity to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Dining room in the Presidential Suite

Guest rooms have a modern feel as well. Aside from high-tech electronics like iHomes, 42-inch flat-panel LG TVs, and do-not-disturb switches, all rooms have modern decor and furniture; we especially like the chandelier in the Presidential Suite and the paintings in the standard Double Double Room.

Entrance to Kensington Park Hotel

Gothic: Kensington Park Hotel

The Kensington Park Hotel is housed an elaborately constructed Gothic building dating from 1925 — a space it shares with an historic Elks Club, home to a fraternal order dating back to 1868. That’s right: A stay at the hotel, a throwback to an era of huge marble lobbies, massive wood-paneled elevators featuring loveseats, crystal chandeliers, and enough gold about the place to please the wealthiest of 49ers, is a stay at an extraordinarily opulent Elks Lodge.

The lobby sitting area

The lobby is a mix of Gothic architecture  – wood-beamed ceilings, grand archways — and modern accents, like the collaged horse sculpture. Unfortunately, the hotel’s facilities that would be a serious draw (pool, fitness center, billiards room) are off-limits to guests who aren’t members of the Elks, who own the property.

Corner View King Room

The recently renovated rooms with new bedding and 36-inch flatscreens offer a nice mix of modern comforts and antique furniture, and the historic building is impressive and well located right near Union Square.

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