THE BLOG

A Hip New Breed of Inns (PHOTOS)

02/18/2015 05:51 pm ET | Updated Apr 20, 2015

Some innkeepers are drawing on their cultural credentials and connections to create spaces that blur the line between B&B and neighborhood clubhouse.

Scoring an invitation to stay at a fashion designer's digs, meet her friends, and get insider tips sounds like an experience for only the most in-the-know travelers. But increasingly, all you need is the right hotel reservation.

In Amsterdam, it's Maison Rika, run by designer Ulrika Lundgren (Julianne Moore and Helena Christensen are fans). Her two-room inn is part of a new guard of millennial-centric micro-hotels that mix the intimacy of an Airbnb stay with the insider cred of a social club. Many of these spots serve as local hangouts, plugging guests into a destination in a more organic way than traditional boutique hotels.

Take Urban Cowboy, Brooklyn's hip answer to a bed-and-breakfast, where you might arrive to find a local designer leading a shibori fabric-dyeing class or a cult-favorite chef cooking up a backyard barbecue.

DIY moteliers Chris Sewell and Kenny Osehan have long cultivated a network of creative types for their boho brand Shelter Social Club, starting with the art shows and rock concerts they produced while saving up to renovate a leased flophouse in Santa Barbara, CA. Their latest project, the Alamo Motel, will offer outdoor concerts in partnership with music promoters FolkYeah!, pop-up farm dinners, and wine tastings with hip kid vintners Municipal Winemakers. In other words, check in and you're an instant insider.

From a guesthouse full of murals from local artists in Brighton, England, to a community-minded design hotel in Mumbai, these are the inns that are redefining the way we stay and play.

--By Colleen Clark

  • The Alamo Motel, Los Alamos, CA
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    In the early aughts, moteliers Chris Sewell and Kenny Osehan spent two years cultivating a scene in Santa Barbara, throwing art shows and rock concerts while saving up to transform a leased flophouse into a design hotel. Their newest project, The Alamo Motel, wraps around a vintage-style tasting room in the small town of Los Alamos, about an hour’s drive north. It’s partnering with music promoters FolkYeah! to develop a series of outdoor summertime concerts and with local restaurants Full of Life Flatbread and Bell Street Farm for pop-up dinners. Expect guests of the bearded and bespectacled variety to follow. If you ask nicely, staff will recommend nearby antiques dealers to help you re-create their throwback Western aesthetic back home.

    Photo: Audrey Ma
  • Made INN Vermont, Burlington, VT
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    Made INN Vermont ditches fussy traditional B&B décor in favor of chalkboard walls, reclaimed wood furniture, and restored Deco chandeliers. You’re greeted with a local microbrew or a glass of owner Linda Wolf’s famous sangria and encouraged to hang with other guests. You can jam on the inn’s guitars and drums, play vintage board games, relax in the hot tub, or stargaze from the Victorian cupola. The inn puts a fresh, locavore spin on breakfast, serving a newfangled fruitcake—sweet bread with seasonal local fruits—alongside Vermont Coffee Company’s organic brews, Cabot creamery cheeses, farm-fresh fruits, and a cooked dish that typically stars Vermont maple syrup.

    Photo courtesy of Made INN Vermont
  • Maison Rika, Amsterdam
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    When you check in to the two-room Maison Rika, in the 9 Streets district, you’re welcomed with a chic skull-and-star print canvas bag and a personalized guide to the city. “That’s the way I treat someone who comes to my home,” says owner Ulrika Lundgren, designer of the cult fashion label Rika (Julianne Moore and Helena Christensen are fans). The line’s girly rocker aesthetic finds expression at her guesthouse in a bold black-and-white palette softened by fuzzy throws and embroidered pillows. Downstairs, a gallery-cum–lifestyle store hosts trunk shows and street art installations and sells accessories inspired by Lundgren’s travels (Norwegian Tom Wood jewelry, Ortigia Sicilia room spray). Though the designer has big plans for the brand—Tokyo and Scandinavia outposts are in the works—she’s determined to stay small. “No more than five or six rooms, so they will always feel intimate.”

    Photo: Marijke Aerden/ Courtesy of Maison Rika
  • Artist Residence, London
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    In 2008, Justin Salisbury invited local artists to redecorate his family’s run-down guesthouse in Brighton in exchange for a stay. The result—all whimsical murals and kitschy throw pillows—was such a hit with guests that it led to two further hotels, one in Cornwall, and the latest in the posh London neighborhood of Pimlico. The look of the latter has grown more sophisticated (sofas upholstered in Turkish kilims; copper lighting by London design firm Nud Collection), but Salisbury and fiancée Charlotte Newey still trade on that communal mission. A below-ground lounge draws a mixed crowd of foreign guests, magazine editors, and diplomats; a series of cocktail master classes is planned. “What makes a great hotel are the people—the guests and the staff that create that free-spirited, homey ambience.”

    Photo: Charlotte Newey
  • Drake Devonshire, Wellington, Canada
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    Toronto’s Drake transformed the city’s Queen Street West neighborhood when it opened in the early aughts with its curated art shows, music venues, and dance nights. Now owner Jeff Stober has set his stylish sights on the countryside with what he’s calling Drake on the Lake. In an 1880s foundry on the shores of Lake Ontario, the 13-room inn draws on Prince Edward County’s wineries, farms, craft cheese makers, and food purveyors to create a culinary hub of lake-to-table cuisine. Locals and guests alike get in on figure drawing classes, bake-offs, artist talks, and concert series. Rooms filter the rustic setting (woolly throws, millwork headboards) through a modern lens, with artwork by Team Macho and Rick Leong and funky Canadiana—armchairs reminiscent of snowshoes or repurposed vintage landscape paintings. You can purchase similar pieces from the hotel’s General Store.

    Photo: Nikolas Koenig
  • Abode Mumbai
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    Mumbai’s Abode is a leading example of how hotels can cleverly tap into local culture. The design mixes hand-lettered signs inspired by Indian truck painters, pillows made from vintage saris, chaat stands transformed into side tables, and color palettes reminiscent of chai pots and pistachio desserts. The lobby functions more as a living room with its library of vintage Hindi and English books, masala chai and South Indian coffee served out of colorful enamel pots, and a menu drawing on popular street snacks. But the owners’ commitment to their location runs deeper: a hotel car service employs and empowers local women; massage therapists are trained by a school for the blind; and a boutique stocks products that support local NGOs.

    Photo courtesy of Abode Mumbai
  • Table on Ten, Catskills, NY
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    Will travel for food. That’s the motto of many a road-tripper who has pulled over at this charming little café in the crossroads town of Bloomville, NY. Built in an 1860s house by carpenter/cabinetmaker Justus Kempthorne and model-turned-chef Inez Valk-Kempthorne, the restaurant became a destination for its wood-fired pizzas, cooking classes, and pop-up dinners with guest chefs. The two decided to take it one step further and furnish three rooms upstairs as a mini-inn with Kempthorne’s roughly hewn handmade beds, plus nubby linen drapes and letterpress prints. So you can stop in for a dinner of lemon-marinated fennel, feta, and parsley pizza and stay for a breakfast of savory corn pudding baked with Last Harvest Farm eggs and Cowbella butter. A souvenir for the road: a picnic lunch of house-made chicken liver mousse, garlic aioli, pickled ramps, and spicy greens on a fresh baguette.

    Photo: Torkil Stavdal