Sometimes, less is more: that’s the lesson from the current trend in Asia’s luxury boutique hotels. Often dedicated to shades of grey, the best of these experiments in subtractive hotel living don’t feel anything like monks’ quarters.
Sumptuous textures, organic building materials and top-quality craftsmanship throughout ensure indulgence. While some travellers might miss the familiar frills, others will delight in the myriad photo opportunities throughout these decidedly camera-friendly settings.
This hotel was inspired by photos of Sweden’s misty Lake Tuve in wintertime by Scandinavian photographer Kim Høltermand. It’s in the very cool Tin Hau neighbourhood, and features raw concrete, veined marble, unpolished wood and oxidised metal. The 66 rooms are sparsely decorated, with seating often limited to a block of marble to be used as a stool and the metal desk chair, but beds are invitingly plump with pristine white sheets. Aesthetics here are especially favourable to anyone seeking social-media attention, especially at the Silver Room, an Italian-Japanese fusion restaurant where black-iron beams crisscross translucent plastic walls to futuristic effect. But plan to eat breakfast elsewhere, as this eatery pares down even its mealtimes, to lunch and dinner only.
This 15-room hotel brings high design to Shibuya district by stripping back. Within its sleek exterior of recycled wood, raw stone and greenery, guests find minimum adornment: polished concrete floors, exposed wood-panelled walls, industrial lighting and muted Japanese washi paper art works. The in-house convenience store is a white-on-white world filled with locavore products like Tokyo-based Ishikawa Brewery pale ale and sweets from Chocolabo, a chocolate workshop staffed by people with disabilities. A rooftop wedding chapel feels solemn yet celebratory with warm woods, soaring glass panes and natural light. Guest rooms use neutral hues, wooden furniture custom-made by innovative Osaka design firm Truck and monochrome bathrooms generously stocked with white towels and under-the-radar brands of Japanese bath products.
In a country of gilded and shimmering temples, Thai architect Duangrit Bunnag’s ascetic tendencies stand out. Inside its neo-brutalist concrete structure, this hotel located three hours’ drive from Bangkok houses six beautifully bare, highly polished concrete suites. Amid white to charcoal grey interiors, guests are inclined to focus on the stunning views of the Gulf of Thailand out the floor-to-ceiling windows. Sliding glass doors open onto private balconies, which are empty except for a horseshoe-shaped, polished wood chair angled towards the blue horizon. Beds, seating and bathtubs are all sculptural and Italian-made. Lest this feel monastic, guests can head downstairs to Seenspace Hua Hin shopping mall to find art galleries, restaurants and shops offering plenty of material pleasures.
It’s a black-and-white world at this very social media-friendly 46-room hotel taking up a row of six historic shophouses in Singapore’s Chinatown. Painted in solid blocks of black and white on the outside, this heritage building retains original charms like Rococo-era windows. No two rooms are the same, yet all are united by the clean lines of black furniture against white walls, and black metal industrial bars overhead that serve as clothes hangers and light sources. Bathrooms get tiled top to bottom in either black or white, too. The hotel doesn’t have amenities like espresso machines or a restaurant, but staff are happy to recommend favourites among the plethora of eateries nearby.