Not sure if I have ever told you guys, but I LOVE exploring hotels for design inspiration.
I love exploring them in my own city, foreign countries, and honestly just anywhere. Designers of hotels, particularly, boutique hotels, are allowed to push the boundaries of design a lot more than some of our clients will let us. That being said, I tend to gather at least a few great inspirational moments that become part of a new design project down the road.
Recently, my husband, Pete, and I were in Thailand. His mother is Thai, but his dad is from the US. We visit (with his mom) his Thai family every few years or so. This trip, we decided to dedicate a big portion of the trip to our own exploration to areas of Thailand where we had never been. We started in Koh Samui: A gorgeous island filled with a large range of activities…..from a super busy beach/shopping hub in Chaweng Beach to many secluded resorts nestled in the coastline.
We chose to start our trip at the almost-unbelievable-that-a-place-like-this-exists Belmond Napasai Resort. Talk about secluded! I thought we were driving to the middle of nowhere to be left for dead, when our driver started down the tiny road to the resort. But when we turned the curve, there was this sprawling resort tucked into the mountainside beach. We checked in at what was like a dream. Our arrival cocktail and homemade ice cream were presented to us, along with a chilled towel scented with lemongrass. Birds where chirping so gleefully that I swear they were also smiling as they, along with the staff, welcomed us to our temporary paradise.
We started down the path after the most relaxing hotel check-in I think I have ever experienced (which felt more like your old friend welcoming you to dinner), to our beach villa. Luckily, the resort was a little slow at this time of year, so we were upgraded from our seaside villa to our private beach villa. Yes, private beach villa. They turned off our “do not disturb sign” (a rope that is hung from one side of a post to another post), and we walked into our private yard. There was a cabana with a ceiling fan, lounge cushions and a candle burning. We were relaxed even before we went inside…….
Walking in was another treat. In Thailand, teak wood is used for a lot of the indoor flooring, walls, etc. on homes. This was no exception. The creaking of the teak flooring was almost as charming as the wood itself (except when you had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and you woke up anyone sleeping in a 2-mile radius). But seriously, it was gorgeous. We had a living area with small dining table, small fridge, and two-day beds elevated on a big platform. Huge vaulted ceilings made it feel so spacious. The first bathroom was small, but so cute! The shower windows were almost floor to ceiling and could be opened onto our private lanai if you wanted to replicate the feeling of showering outside.
The master bedroom was large and also had vaulted ceilings, and a super large master bathroom with the biggest bathtub I have ever seen in my life! A separate shower and toilet room along with a double vanity and makeup vanity.
BUT! The best part of this fabulous villa was the windows… or rather what was outside of the windows. An ocean view from almost every room. Not just your ocean view from the balcony of a hotel, but like you built a house ON a beach. Look at these pics and see what I mean…
Pete and I would take morning walks on the beach at 6 am (thanks to jet lag which turned out to be a blessing) and watch the sunrise from a tree limb that somehow twisted itself into a seat, or from a rock formation sitting on the edge of the sand where ocean waves lapped at your feet while you breathed in the most amazing and clean air I think my lungs have ever inhaled. Refreshing doesn’t do justice for the Belmond Napasai. I know I said this post would be about design of resorts and hotels, and I promise you it will be; but the FEELING that design brings is also important. More so, the design of nature and how we designers must respect and incorporate that into our clients’ homes.
This almost indescribable emotion that we felt at this resort transcended any feeling you get from just a pretty hotel room. It was this seamless bond of indoor and outdoor gently assuring the other one that they really are the same. That the design of God or Mother Nature, or whomever you wanted to give the credit to, would not only inspire but would elevate the interiors of this resort.
A huge infinity pool that was designed as if you could step off into the ocean from its edge. Breakfast each day was held in a masterfully designed pavilion surrounded by trees and the best pastries (and other food too) that I have had, including France! Well I have drooled now on my keyboard while typing this, but I also have a wonderful smile on my face as I remember this life changing 2-week vacation that started here in Koh Samui.
I’m not going to dwell as much on our other hotels in my writing (we also stayed in Chaing Mai and Bangkok, but those were gorgeous hotels too. Side note: a five star resort or hotel in Thailand is a fraction of the cost of what you pay here in the US, so we had some great deals too), but I will show them to you in photos.
I also like to pop in neighboring hotels when in a city; which is great for inspiration, but also to check out possible places to stay for the next trip.
Belmond Napasai, doesn’t need any replacements, so I didn’t look for alternatives in Koh Samui.
Grab any drink with an umbrella in it, sit back and enjoy these Thailand hotel inspirations that feel my heart with design joy. All photos taken with my iPhone XS Max.
Here is our first hotel, the Belmond Napasai:
Next, we flew to Chiang Mai to stay at the Rati Lanna
But, before leaving Chiang Mai, we stopped in the Shangri-La (which frankly needs a major update, but still has hints of style):
And then..we flew to Bangkok for a few days to stay at the Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel: (formerly a Four Seasons Hotel)
Then, as always, I ventured out to research other hotels. Here is a bit of the St. Regis Bangkok
Lastly, we decided to pop in a couple of nearby hotels in Bangkok. The Waldorf Astoria and the Grand Hyatt. Waldorf was gorg, but the GH could definitely use a huge refresh. I think you can tell which is which 😉 HOWEVER, the Grand Hyatt had the best macarons I have EVER eaten (including Paris)!
And there you have it! I hope this inspires you to get out and explore when you’re on your own vacations!