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Indian hotels with unique designs
Ravi Teja Sharma & Arati Menon Carroll | April 28, 2007
There are times when you don't want to step out of your hotel room. And in such situations you feel helpless if your room is boring. Our verdict: always step into a hotel room which boasts of a unique design.
No, we're not talking about rooms that resemble prison cells or coffin rooms which can be sampled if you are ever in Berlin's Propeller Island City Lodge. But take a look at Nilaya Hermitage in Goa.
Owned by tres-chic ex-Parisian design stylist Claudia Derain and her Indian hotelier husband Hari Ajwani, Nilaya, on an Arpora hillock, might be seen as a prime example of reverse snobbery; it may extort big money from its guests but tries not to seem pose-y at all. You can sprawl across a mattress on the floors of the common areas if you must.
What does make it hot property are stunning details, privacy and, of course, the staff:guest ratio. Designed by Derain along with Goan architect Dean D'Cruz, guests take their pick from 10 cosmic-themed suites (sun, moon, fire, to name just a few) featuring vibrant colors, terracotta flooring, and minimal embellishment. Doesn't sound extraordinary?
Well, it's not the value of the things in it, but the fantasy atmosphere created by giant mosquito nets, sweeping archways, brick domes, vibrantly-tiled open-plan bathrooms and tropical foliage at every doorstep.
For travellers who make frequent trips, unusual hotel rooms are a catch. John Zeckendorf, principal, Mandala Asset Solutions, visits India twice every month, and believes that hotel room designs here are boring as compared to hotels around the world.
"Aesthetically, some hotels (like the Taj Mahal, Mumbai) do stand out for their cultural features. But the hotels that are best in that class globally are Raffles in Singapore (with its colonial English design), Plaza Athenee in Paris, Ritz in Hong Kong and London, Conrad Bangkok (which has Thai influences in design)."
He adds, "I don't like funky minimalist rooms (new Hilton executive floors or Intercon Marine Drive rooms, for instance) because they aren't too homely. I don't like Schrager hotels (Sanderson in London etc) for this reason."
Zeckendorf looks for design ingenuity in his rooms -- "Most rooms follow the same shape -- rectangle with bathroom near the door forming a L-shape. Hyatt Regency gives a nicer variation to room shape. It is modern and still comfortable. Larger desks for working are essential and few get this right. Bathrooms near windows are nice (Marriott in Shanghai does this magnificently) and hard to execute -- especially when other buildings are close -- but so worth it."
The rooms at the Galaxy Hotel in Gurgaon might suit his taste. Some of the rooms have bathrooms right at the end, with views of the highway passing by. And their spa rooms have no windows but only a skylight that you could dine or get a massage under.
Zeckendorf says he prefers offset beds, clever design, dome ceilings, good lighting, indigenous decorations and a sense of space. He could try Intercontinental, Mumbai, where the smallest rooms is 450 sq ft, larger than the average room in the city. Also, the rooms are designed to maximise incorporation of windows so as to offer views of the bay.
In Mumbai, you might soon find unique rooms in the new Sahara Star near the airport. The Lagoon room here uses only natural materials, both in furnishings and other interiors. You would barely find any steel.
Furniture made of water hyacinth, a contemporary design, hardwood flooring et al. The Viceroy rooms are even more interesting with a private deck, a four- feature bathroom and a dining lounge. Lying on the bed is fun here -- you can see the night sky through the glass ceiling.
Just press a button on the remote and move the motorised curtains aside.
The use of natural materials has been taken to another level in the Andamans at Barefoot at Havelock. Its 18 cottages scattered among the tropical hillside and beach that are all constructed from natural, regenerable materials like bamboo matting (walls), local hardwood (for floors) and palm leaves (for ceiling), and are raised on stilts with a foldable ladder (to keep out wildlife from walking in). Apparently even the wood they choose has to closely match with the endemic species.
For those searching for a meditative spot, SwaSwara at Gokarna in Karnataka, according to Jose Dominic, managing director of CGH Earth, offers 1,000-1,200 sq ft rooms which are divided into three: a bedroom which opens out to a garden, that further opens out to a verandah. The bathroom here half opens to the sky.
The best feature though is the large private meditation and yoga space which is above the bedroom.
So the next time you want to book a hotel room, opt for one that will promise you a unique design element. Enjoy!