Cool Hunting 2009
Top hoteliers reveal the best new design discoveries in London, Texas, New York City, Buenos Aires & Mexico City.
Eclecticism and energy have always set this city apart. And now more than ever, the capital is abuzz, with a resurgent art scene fed by a worldly, diverse population that pays respect to the past while vibrantly moving forward. This year, for instance, the Serpentine Gallery's annual pavilion in Kensington Gardens is by noted Japanese firm SANAA (architects of the New Museum in New York). Stir in two major exhibitions—"Telling Tales" at the Victoria and Albert and "Super Contemporary" at the Design Museum—and you've got a compelling cultural itinerary.
Rabih Hage, architect and art dealer
Lebanese-born Hage studied architecture in Paris in the early '90s before moving to London, where he opened his own studio and a gallery that showcases emerging artists. Hage's projects tell stories—he mixes eras, materials, and styles and isn't afraid of chipping, flaking, or unfinished surfaces. Top project Near King's Cross station, the nine-room Rough Luxe Hotel inhabits a Georgian town house in which auction finds like chrome light fixtures from the art deco Savoy hotel are paired with modern photography. History is written on the walls: Blotches of plaster show through patches of uncovered 19th-century wallpaper, while elsewhere the bare plaster bears the ghostly pattern of wallpaper that once covered it. Added throughout are rich touches like Italian mosaic tiles and Louis XIV-style headboards. On the horizon A growing network of Rough Luxe-branded hotels, restaurants, and shops that demonstrate Hage's old-meets-new philosophy. He's already expanded with such properties as the artful Cape Heritage Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa.
His London favorites
Hage loves the structure housing the Bibendum, the century-old Michelin House, originally built by the tire company as its London headquarters. Current co-owner Terence Conran kept details like stained-glass windows decorated with the Michelin Man, while adding curvy armchairs and a bright color palette to the light-flooded space. The adjoining oyster bar and café has salads, sandwiches, and 12 house wines by the glass.
Formerly a haven for immigrant Jews, this thriving street in East London now hosts a Bangladeshi community. Brick Lane is known for its curry shops and, more recently, an influx of artists. On Sundays, it erupts into a flea market where you can pick up anything from handmade jewelry to a mango lassi. "You won't be disappointed," promises Hage.
John Sandoe Books Ltd.
Every surface in this Regency-era building is covered with books—almost 25,000 of them, including an impressive selection on design. Hage likes the old-fashioned service; the staff gives recommendations and can point you in the direction of out-of-print classics like Allure by Diana Vreeland. Fans include Manolo Blahnik and decorator Rita Konig.
Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2009
Kensington Gardens, serpentinegallery.org, free
"Telling Tales" at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Cromwell Rd., 011-44/207-942-2000, vam.ac.uk, free
"Super Contemporary" at the Design Museum
28 Shad Thames, 011-44/870-833-9955, designmuseum.org, tickets $12.50
Rabih Hage Ltd.
69-71 Sloane Ave., 011-44/207-823-8288, rabih-hage.com
Rough Luxe Hotel
1 Birkenhead St., 011-44/207-837-5338, roughluxe.co.uk, from $230
81 Fulham Rd., 011-44/207-589-1480, bibendum.co.uk, sandwiches from $5.25, entrées from $22
Between Swanfield St. and Whitechapel High St., East End, sundayupmarket.co.uk for market info
John Sandoe Books Ltd.
10 Blacklands Terrace, 011-44/207-589-9473, johnsandoe.com
Rethink your assumptions of Lone Star style: For a region that prides itself on an over-the-top approach—from toast to shoulder pads—Texas is a haven for idiosyncratic design. Worthy attractions dot the state. Outside Amarillo, an American icon is turned on its head at Cadillac Ranch, where 10 Caddies are buried backseat-deep in the sand. The small desert town of Marfa draws thousands of pilgrims each year, who flock to the center of art that the famous minimalist Donald Judd began forming in the late '70s. Whether it's the cluster of culture presented by Houston's Museum District or the all-star architecture on display in downtown Dallas (I. M. Pei's Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Renzo Piano's Nasher Sculpture Center), Texas's take on design is as expansive as its borders.