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Travel for work, and you have the same desires as on holiday, surely? We want to spend time somewhere with personality and personal service, with uplifting interiors and a charismatic ambience. Back in the 90s, hotelier Ian Schrager made “lobby socialising” a thing in his New York hotels, and corporate creative types started to crave business hotels that matched their taste as much as their needs. Andre Balazs’ bunk-ups, from LA’s Chateau Marmont to The Mercer and the Standards in NY and Chiltern Firehouse in Marylebone are still the places to see and be seen.
But we don’t always want somewhere showy. Edgy is good, but so is equipped. When the Ace opened in Portland, it kick-started a style of stay which was as suited to start-up CEOs wanting a good night’s sleep as rock stars in the mood to socialise. “The hotel industry has often been about delineating a clear distinction between the business hotel and the hotels that foster a sense of escapism,” says David Brody, a professor at Parsons The New School for Design in New York. “Properties like Ace asked us to rethink that model,” Mr Brody said. “Ace has created well-designed spaces that permit guests to combine business and pleasure.” Now the Ace has grown into chain itself, here we navigate you to some indie neighbourhood hotels which are hip and hi-tech in a low-key way. Those sexy stays that are perfect for… don’t make us use that word… BLEISURE. Okay, there, we said it.
Cheap chic in the 8th arrondissement, a block from Le Bristol, comes from this relaxed residence which has the simple feel of an apartment building. Amastan is comfortable and uncomplicated and deliberately understated. With all the big hotel groups creating smaller more accessible boutique brands, it’s refreshing that this affordable-luxury hotel set on a sleepy street between rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and the Champs-Elysées isn’t interested in swaggering onto the scene. Amastan is the kind of laid-back luxe-for-less lodging that is keen to work with brands who haven’t been seen in hotels before – such as their excellent coffee suppliers. As for that boutique space at the front, it’s used to help up-and-coming brands have some time in the limelight. Typically, Parisians don’t step foot into hotels, but this switched-on owner wants his neighbours to come and work on their laptops from its courtyard or Carrara-marble bar counter by day, before this eating-and-drinking space transforms to Anouk by night. Doubles from £170
The first clue this terrace of smart, white Victorian houses halfway between Heathrow and central London does more than provide your usual corporate accommodation is the fact the name us inspired by a founder of Notting Hill Carnival, Rhaune Laslett. The cocktail-serving Henderson Bar and Café is named after another forefather of west London’s epic street party, Russ Henderson. Reggae beats gently mixed into the smooth soundtrack reminding you this hotel likes to share stories about its ’hood. Simple, stylish bedrooms a stroll from Notting Hill Gate tube, this chic stay is beloved by directors, models, stylists and ad-agency types for its low-key vibe. Antiques guru Jerome Dodd of Les Couilles du Chien curated the curios and is hosting a pop-up gift shop in the lobby. Don’t be surprised to see the likes of Stella McCartney or Solange Knowles sipping a cup of Joe’s Tea or Workshop coffee in the library for relaxed work appointments. When it comes to plugging in, there are bedside USB charging points and handy phones to borrow (which include free international calls). Doubles from £225.
The rusty-red and custard-yellow buildings on a tiny cobbled old town square are a storied 15th-century inn enjoying a new lease of life. Switzerland is better known for its formal five-star luxury, especially when it comes to business travel, so the simple Scandi interiors here are refreshing. Skip the kind of spots favoured by the suited and booted brigade, the bistro and sexy cocktail bar Baltho is refined yet relaxed. A pared-pack aesthetic reflects this city’s Protestant heritage, preserving celebrating the original stucco and sloped floors, but drafting in Vitra furniture to add some flair. A deli-style café Delish on the corner provides healthy snacks here and in the second-floor social spaces perfect for private presentations. The shelves of collectors-item Dadaism books remind you that this address is steps away from Cabaret Voltaire, where the abstract art movement was born. Doubles from £170.
Casement windows, concrete exterior – this designer den still wears its 1930s rag-trade warehouse beginnings well. Bang on fashionable Flinders Lane, the modern art is the right side of kitsch and monochrome and geometric stylings feel as modish as ever. If you don’t get your sugar fix at Om Nomis, the cult dessert-dedicated restaurant, there jars of candy in the boardroom should keep you sweet. iHome docking stations and HDMI connections are among the techy touches, and an app acts as your virtual check-out clerk and concierge. Meanwhile, free wifi means that the dinky lobby lures in locals with their laptops. Escape to the private rooftop club and a suspended glass-bottomed lap pool awaits. Doubles from £150.
Poltrona Frau, B&B Italia, Tom Dixon and Porta Romana chandelier provide the eye candy at this 73-room urban abode in Singapore’s polished CBD while techy enhancements include built-in USB chargers and Apple TVs which mirror Apple devices on screen. Escape time in any of the three meeting rooms with a modern Indian meal at Table by Rang Mahal or better still, a dip in the pool at the top the city-state’s skyline from Cloud9’s 10th-floor deck. Free fully stocked minibars and an on-the-house aperitivo hour 4.30–6.30PM insist you toast some time off. Doubles from £195.
In a part of the world where chains tend to dominate, this hip 12-room hotel in the Meguro district is a boon for design enthusiasts. Created by Japanese architect Shuwa Tei, enhanced with Steve Baker of Tomato’s graphic design, nine rooms have traditional Asian interiors styled by Intentionallies, three east-meets-west Tatami rooms are by Kaname Okajima and for longer stays, enjoy the Weekly Residence rooms by Torafu Architects. There are artists’ studios within, as well as a design shop and roof terrace and even Tokyo Bikes to borrow. Doubles room from £158.
Various locations, including Amsterdam, London and Paris
citizenM was a trailblazer for the new generation of budget boutique business hotels to offer workcationers cut-price cool when they launched at Schiphol Airport. Digital nomads now happily tap away in Glasgow, Paris, New York, the South Bank and Tower Hill’s buzzing communal areas amid citizenM’s quirky curios. Yotel was Europe’s first capsule accommodation from the founder of Yo! Sushi and it blended a Japanese-like economy of space with first-class airline cabin chic for its Heathrow and Gatwick outposts. But when citizenM opened in Amsterdam in 2008 its funked-up pre-fab no-frills approach to compact design had a punchier personality. They’ve since exported their self-service schtick, and bold graphic design globally and their canteen-style eating and drinking hubs are popular rendezvous for local workers. Rates are kept competitive by dynamic pricing, and there are no hidden costs so you can keep expenses sensible without scrimping on fun. Doubles from £130
Bleisure travel tips
Pack light: Less is more. Even when going long-haul. If checking bags, be sure to pack essentials in hand baggage so you can survive if separated from your suitcase. Douse tissues in your fragrance and layer into packing so everything smells fresh; this also helps if you need to give anything an extra wear. Low-cost airline limitations? Digital luggage scales are great to keep tabs on how heavy bags are to save you getting stung.
Fully charged: Make sure devices amped to the max before you leave the house, obviously, but take a Meem’s Sync & Charge cable and back up data while you boost your battery.
Jetlag: Since no magic pills exist, wellbeing strategies include drinking lots of water in transit and stretching when you can. Far-flung foray? Keep eyes open to sunlight on arrival to programme your body to the new time zone (no sunglasses); stay up until bedtime – napping knocks you out of synch.
In-flight accessories: A tennis ball is a great massager for back and feet. Wear layers of quality fabrics such as an oversized Lily and Lionel silk scarf so you can adapt to unexpected temperature changes at the other end and on board.
Upgrade: When flying, ask if they have any upgrade offers – last-minute surcharges are often a snip compared to the full fare for the next class up. Dressing smartly and being sweet always helps your chances. If it doesn’t seem busy at the hotel, smile at the receptionist and ask nicely – preferably when no one else is around – if they can bump you up a room category; worth a punt.
Be appy: Expensify (free) helps you keep track of receipts, mileage and billable time in reports that can be converted to PDFs. Citymapper (free) is a godsend when you want to figure out the quickest and easiest and most efficient way to get from A to B – especially in a new destination where you haven’t got a clue about the bus or train network – includes London, New York, San Francisco, Singapore and more.
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