Culture / Travel

Historic Hotels and High Design — The Most Extraordinary Travel Destinations of 2023

Including One Wes Anderson-Designed Train Carriage

BY // 01.16.23

Luxury hotels have the power and seduction to change your life, at least for a while. What do you remember?

Scents — the smell of the room, the fragrance in the lobby, sharp limes in the beach bar, jasmine, and orange blossoms. History — cobbled streets, thick plaster walls, and ornate carvings. Color — Mediterranean blue, Aegean white, mustard, indigo, and fuchsia.

We’ve gathered six recently unveiled hotels and one train carriage (designed by Wes Anderson, no less) that lean heavily on design to tell their stories.


best luxury hotels
Hotel Per LA (photography by The Ingalls)


Located in the century-old Giannini Building in downtown Los Angeles is the newly opened Hotel Per La, which was built in 1922 for the Bank of Italy. In this redux, the original Neoclassical architectural and design elements have been preserved, including the gold-and-blue Italianate ceiling, marble floors, and Doric columns.

In 2018, the building became the site of the NoMad hotel, which shuttered due to the pandemic. Dallas developer Vipin Nambiar of HN Capital Partners teamed with existing ownership and Sage Hospitality to invest in rebranding and reopening the iconic hotel, whose 241 guest rooms and suites were designed at that time by French architect and designer Jacques Garcia. His moody designs for the rooms, which have been retained, enhance the building’s original architecture with antique Persian rugs, vintage and antique artwork from Paris and New York, marble desks, and embossed leather headboards by Moore & Giles.

Elizabeth Anthony

  • Elizabeth Anthony Card Deck April 2024 1
  • Elizabeth Anthony Card Deck April 2024 1
  • Elizabeth Anthony Card Deck April 2024 1
  • Elizabeth Anthony Card Deck April 2024 1
  • Elizabeth Anthony Card Deck April 2024 1
  • Elizabeth Anthony Card Deck April 2024 1
  • Elizabeth Anthony Card Deck April 2024 1
  • Elizabeth Anthony Card Deck April 2024 1
  • Elizabeth Anthony Card Deck April 2024 1

L.A. interior designer Jaqui Seerman redesigned the public spaces with contemporary furnishings and seating draped in airy white linen. The lobby — originally part of the main banking hall — has a custom curved plaster desk inspired by linen fabric.

Rooms from $325. Hotel Per La, 649 S. Olive St., Los Angeles,


The Dorchester


One of London’s most distinguished grande dame hotels, The Dorchester, has undergone its first complete transformation in 30 years, refreshed and restored by Paris design and architecture firm Pierre-Yves Rochon. The paint is barely dry, as the revamped interiors were unveiled mid-December and include lobby, guest rooms, and suites, The Promenade restaurant and new Artists’ Bar, along with a new Cake & Flowers boutique. London’s Martin Brudnizki Design Studio has reinterpreted The Bar, giving it a glamorous ’30s vibe and outdoor terrace with views of Hyde Park. Brudnizki is known for designing some of the world’s most celebrated interiors, including Annabel’s Nightclub, The Ivy, Soho Beach House Miami, Scott’s, and Cecconi’s West Hollywood.

Sir Robert McAlpine, an engineer and builder of note during the early half of the 20th century, created The Dorchester entirely of reinforced concrete, a cutting-edge material that allowed for the construction of vast open spaces. It was the first time a hotel had been constructed in such a manner. From the time it opened in 1931 in the heart of Mayfair, The Dorchester — which regulars affectionately call The Dorch — has attracted a fascinating mix of royals and celebrities including Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, and Sir Richard Burton. The Dorchester was a frequent haunt of British author Somerset Maugham who, in the spring of 1962, holed up there with a toothache while his collection of priceless artworks was auctioned at Sotheby’s. During the ’30s, artist and set designer Oliver Messel decorated his namesake suite with painted panels and doors, yellow silk walls, and bronze work pillars.

The new Artists’ bar, located at the end of the Promenade restaurant, has been enlivened with the glamour of the 1930s, with artworks of famous hotel guests by British artists, and even Liberace’s mirrored piano has been restored. The Promenade has a new modern British menu along with a palette of quintessentially eccentric British colors.

Superior King rooms from $1,212. The Dorchester, Park Lane, London,


best luxury hotels
The Colony Hotel, refreshed in custom Colony Pink by Farrow & Ball. (photo by Lesley Unruh)


The Colony Hotel — Palm Beach’s most fabled destination and winter resort home — has unveiled a major redesign in celebration of its 75th anniversary. Dubbed the

Pink Paradise for its legendary pink exterior, the landmark hotel’s guest roster has included several kings, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, President John F. Kennedy, and Frank Sinatra. This mainstay of well-heeled Palm Beach society is a slice of American cultural history, so who better to refresh the hotel than the mother-daughter team behind Kemble Interiors, Mimi McMakin and Celerie Kemble, who are intimately familiar with Palm Beach — their family has been here for 120 years.

Each newly designed floor has custom de Gournay murals depicting beloved Palm Beach scenes: Lake Trail, Coral Cut, Bradley Park, and the Beach. Kemble and McMakin have imbued the guest rooms with three distinct design schemes, and rooms are painted Farrow & Ball heritage colors and furnished in a capsule collection designed for The Colony Hotel by Society Social owner Roxy Owens, in collaboration with hotel co-owner Sarah Wetenhall. The collection was inspired by old-world Palm Beach glamour and includes artisan-made rattan and faux-bamboo pieces. Schumacher recreated heritage fabric designs, and there are Matouk linens, robes, and slippers.

De Gournay’s tropical-themed wallpaper covering the lobby walls with pink flamingos in pearl necklaces was a sensation when it debuted in 2020. A new de Gournay mural depicting naughty monkeys now leads to Swifty’s bar and restaurant. Monkeys are a reference to the hotel’s mascot, the pet spider monkey belonging to Addison Mizner, an eccentric Palm Beach architect who designed the area’s grandest estates in the 1920s. The Colony’s famed pink exterior has been repainted in a new custom-formulated color, Colony Pink, by Farrow & Ball.

Rooms from $599 off-season, from $899 in-season. The Colony Hotel, Palm Beach,


best luxury hotels
The Madrona Mansion in Healdsburg (photo by Matthew Millman)

The Madrona, Healdsburg

Interior designer Jay Jeffers‘ new hotel in the charming town of Healdsburg is a  debonair addition to Sonoma Valley — the California wine country’s more chill version of Napa and home to the best terroir on earth for Pinot Noir grapes. Built in 1881 as a private residence, The Madrona hotel offers 24 accommodations spread across six buildings, most original to the estate, including private bungalows. Guest rooms in the main mansion are above the restaurant helmed by Michelin-starred chef Jesse Mallgren and feature soaring ceilings, bay windows, original fireplaces, and balconies overlooking the hills. The hotel encompasses eight acres of grounds, including a citrus grove and a half-acre garden used by the culinary team, created in partnership with regenerative farmer Aris Curtis.

The Madrona is owned by a group of investors led by Jeffers and his brother Kyle Jeffers, in partnership with hospitality developer Cory Schisler; it’s the designer’s first foray into hotels. Jeffers has reimagined the historic estate’s interiors with elements from the mansion’s original Aesthetic Movement era that include fabrics and art with animal motifs and ebonized mahogany furniture heavily carved with fantastical designs. More than 750 pieces of furniture came with the property, some dating back to the original owner, John Alexander Paxton. Jeffers has edited the collection to about 200 antiques and other relics of world travel but has at least one of Paxton’s antiques in each room. Spaces are layered with moody gray-blues, sartorial-inspired fabrics, wallpapers, stenciled ceilings, patterned carpets, and contemporary furnishings including irreverent Louis XVI-style chairs sprouting rabbit ears. The kitchen and bar are being remodeled, along with recreating the original wraparound porch based on an old 1800s photo of the house.

Guest rooms from $750, bungalows from $1,050. The Madrona Hotel, 1001 Westside Road, Healdsburg, California,


Designer Jean-Michel Gathy’s serene palette in a suite.


The Crown Building, a 1921 jewel in midtown Manhattan — and the original home of the Museum of Modern Art — has been restored to its original splendor and transformed into a magnificent city hotel, the Aman New York. Located on Fifth Avenue just below Central Park, the elegantly tiered limestone building designed by Warren & Wetmore has one of the city’s most beautiful gilded rooftops.

For Aman New York, longtime Aman collaborator JeanMichel Gathy of Belgian design and architecture firm Denniston created a serene enclave with a double-height atrium with multilayers of textured ceiling and dreamy Asia-inspired wall panels. The hotel’s 83 suites are among the largest in New York City with warm, minimalist furnishings.

The expansive Aman Spa is set over three floors and includes a 20-meter pool, and fitness facilities, plus two private Spa Houses. The hotel is the first to house a members-only Aman Club with lounges and a private garden terrace. Aman Branded Residences, a collection of 22 private homes, are located on the upper floors. A striking wraparound Garden Terrace restaurant on the 14th floor offers year-round alfresco dining. There’s also Arva, an Italian restaurant, and Nama, a washoku Japanese restaurant.

Suites from $3,200. Aman New York, The Crown Building, 730 Fifth Ave., New York,


Sunrise yoga at the Fort wall, Six Senses Fort Barwara


It took 10 years to convert this 700-year-old Rajasthani stronghold into a sanctuary hotel, but global hotelier Six Senses is known for taking a measured approach to its developments. Originally owned by a Rajasthani royal family, this 14th-century fort, located 2.5 hours from Jaipur, underwent significant conservation efforts to restore and preserve palaces and temples that lie within its fortified walls.

These ancient walls also conceal lush gardens with palm trees and two swimming pools. Nimish Patel and Parul Zaveri led the architecture team at Panika, and Hayley Mitchell of interior architecture and design studio Mitchell & Eades designed the hotel’s guest rooms and public areas.

Forty-eight suits are furnished in contemporary Rajasthani style with chests bearing classic bone-inlay patterns and beds elegantly draped in traditional gauzy netting. Carved windows and doors evoke centuries of magnificent Indian architecture, and brass door handles, cast in the shape of hands, are reminiscent of ancient religious relics. Suites have views of the Rajasthan countryside or Chauth ka Barwara Mandir Temple. The 30,000-square-foot Six Senses Spa is located within the original women’s palace, and several restaurants on property combine regional Rajasthani and pan-Indian cuisine.

Rooms from $749. Six Senses Fort Barwara, Rajasthan, India, en/resorts/fort-barwara.


The Cygnus carriage of Belmond’s British Pullman designed by Wes Anderson.


Wes Anderson loves trains almost as much as he revels in the golden age of cinema. The Houston-born filmmaker, famous for creating eccentric cinematic worlds and vintage-tinged sets, has invented train compartments and carriages for several of his movies, including The Darjeeling Limited. Anderson’s real-life design for a private luxury train is the storied British Pullman, which debuted in 2021 and is owned by British travel company Belmond, proprietor of the Simplon-Orient-Express train and Hotel Cipriani in Venice, among other destinations.

Each carriage aboard British Pullman has a unique history and design with details such as Art Deco-inspired marquetry paneling. Anderson reimagined the 1950s Cygnus — or Swan — carriage with his signature symmetry, unusual retro color pallet, and Art Nouveau touches. Take Wes Anderson’s Cygnus carriage on any journey on the British Pullman, which runs rails all across England, including murder mystery lunches through the Kent countryside and dinners hosted by up-and-coming guest chefs.

Pullman Dining by Wes Anderson starts at $545. Two new private coupés in the Cygnus carriage offer seclusion and free-flowing champagne, starting at $2,455. Full carriage hire price upon request. British Pullman by Wes Anderson,


Ken Fulk at the upcoming Blantyre estate in the Berkshires. (photo by John Dolan)

Extraordinary Luxury Travel on the Horizon…

Ken Fulk‘s boundless creativity can’t be boxed in. For the past 25 years, he’s designed interiors for private homes, jets, restaurants, and hotels and produced over-the-top parties for high-profile clients around the world. The design force behind Major Food Group restaurants like Carbone in Miami and Dallas, he’s been nominated twice for a James Beard Design Award. And now, Fulk adds hotelier to his ever-expanding list of accomplishments.

His foray into hospitality evolved after working with Austin developer Clark Lyda on the restoration of the city’s historic Commodore Perry Estate, which reopened in 2020 as part of the Auberge Resorts Collection. Hotels have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic, so Fulk and Lyda have become a lifeline for many privately owned properties, spending the past two years buying historic hotels around the country and refurbishing them. To date, Fulk and Lyda have multiple historic hotels in varying stages of restoration, all slated to open within the next two or three years. They include Soniat House, a historic 19th-century inn in New Orleans’ French Quarter; Mankas, an epicurean retreat in the midst of Point Reyes National Seashore; The Berkshires’ famed Blantyre estate; and Harthan hotel set in a historic house in Austin.

Hop into Bering's this Easter for Egg-citing Finds!
Shop Berings

Featured Properties