Mood lighting and minimalist design are no longer the surest ways for a hotel to top a list of America’s sexiest. Multi-million-dollar overhauls of some of the nation’s most luxurious resorts have heralded a return to sumptuous fabrics, rich color palettes and personalized service. This year, sexy meets sophisticated, especially where high-end travelers in search of privacy are concerned.
What defines “sexy” to a hotel designer? Chris Keller, design director of Gettys (Conrad Miami, Hotel Plaza Athenee), says, “First, the property has to withstand the concept of ‘trendy.’ Timelessness translates into integrity, which is extremely sexy. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the hotel has to focus attention on the guest. Nothing is sexier than a true, defined and integral sense of self.”
In other words, the simple act of being in an aesthetically pleasing environment tends to enhance your self-image. Just flipping through a newspaper in the lobby of The Setai, for example, or strolling the historic gardens of the Hotel Bel-Air makes you feel part of a mysterious, thrilling world. You belong in this exotic world and this world belongs to you—you feel sexy.
Interior designer Kelly Wearstler’s latest commissions start with traditional design elements. But she mixes in the best of contemporary furniture and design to create hip, inviting interior spaces. The hotels she’s designed, such as the Tides South Beach, cater to guests who consider wealth and power to be the sexiest of traits. Her hotels reflect these preferences; every aspect of her layouts and interiors ooze style and sophistication.
“For me, the interplay between the décor, service and cuisine is what makes a hotel sexy,” says Wearstler. “The Tides South Beach offers a personal assistant program, which provides guests with assistants to attend to every detail at any hour of the day. There’s nothing sexier than this level of service and personal attention.”
Wearstler designed the beds in bold orange linen in order to offset the palette of earthier colors. “We selected a sumptuous pillow-top bed and used 300-count Mascioni linens to enhance the sense of luxury,” she says.
Whether the property is a century-old icon or occupies a newly renovated industrial space, its unique brand of high style qualifies it for this year’s selection of sexiest American hotels.
Some selections may surprise you. Who would expect, for example, to find a sexy hotel in sultry old Savannah? Well, the Mansion on Forsyth Park in Savannah is seriously sexy. First off, the lobby doubles as an art gallery with about 400 works of art, while the pool area suggests a luxe tropical resort. Mostly orange, the restaurant is a welcome breath of trendy fresh air in this atmospheric town.
The Liberty Hotel in Boston was actually a prison for some 120 years. But today there's a 90-foot-high atrium in the center of a decidedly deluxe property, and its former exercise yard is now a beautifully landscaped private garden. From the posh roof deck there is a—can we say this?—sexy view of the Charles River and Back Bay skyline.
And Las Vegas? Forget it—outrageous and over-the-top may be fabulous, but rarely is it sexy. For real desert chic, less is more, and groovy Palm Springs, Calif., is where you’ll find it, at Hollywood hideaways such as Korakia and Le Parker Palm Springs. The former resembles a Moroccan villa and is the kind of place where you’ll find agents mulling over scripts by either of two very inviting swimming pools. The latter property is larger and the kind of hotel where celebrities such as Nicole Kidman and "La Vie en Rose" star (and recent Oscar winner) Marion Cotillard stay when the Palm Springs International Film Festival rolls into town each January.
If we, however, had to pick a front-runner, it would very likely be The Setai in Miami, which was independently nominated by several of our experts. After a $200 million renovation, the former Dempsey Vanderbilt Hotel in South Beach inspires uniformly rave reviews from the hospitality design profession. And if you’re thinking of staying there during Art Basel Miami Beach, consider reserving a year in advance—rooms at seriously sexy hotels tend to go fast.