Image: Amangiri design hotel
Ball & Albanese
In southern Utah, Amangiri sits on 600 acres of sand and otherworldly rock formations, near the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
updated 7/18/2011 8:14:46 AM ET 2011-07-18T12:14:46

From urban oases to mountain hideaways, these design hotels represent the best in elegance and class.

Slideshow: World's best design hotels

The first design hotels sprang to life in the 1980s, when Ian Schrager opened the landmark Morgans Hotel and the Royalton Hotel, both in New York. The properties offered chic and intimate lodging for guests more interested in a buzzing, social lobby and hotel bar scene than the austere Four Seasons and Fairmonts of the day. Now, more than two decades later, the term “design hotel” has been so overused and abused that it’s difficult to know exactly what it means.

Fortunately we have our own definition today: A great design hotel is small, thoughtfully planned, meticulously executed and creates an environment unlike any other. Each is a place where tactile materials, craftsmanship and distinctive, cutting-edge design all come to the fore. From the otherworldly desert canyons of Amangiri in Utah, to the bright and airy rooms at the 12th-century watchtower of Italy’s Torre di Moravola, to the vast collection of contemporary art at Louisville, Kentucky’s 21c Museum Hotel, these 10 properties define what a design hotel should be.

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