What gives you a feeling of belonging? At a time when we need a strong sense of togetherness to get us through this unprecedented period, we decided to look to our hotels and the Originals behind them to get inspired by the ways in which they support and are a part of their local circles. More than just brick-and-mortar spaces, these hotels are an intrinsic part of their social environment and act as beacons for the way forward.
Trunk Hotel, Japan
A true mold-breaking hub of Tokyo’s iconic Shibuya district, Trunk Hotel is the city’s first independent boutique, a showcase of local fashion and Japanese design that harnesses the energy of the neighborhood into its dynamic round-the-clock lobby culture. “In my teenage years, I witnessed the heyday of Shibuya,” says Yoshitaka Nojiri, owner of Trunk Hotel and its sister micro-hotel, Trunk House. “I want to reignite the neighborhood’s creative embers.” And so, Japanese craftmanship abounds in the rooms with upcycled furnishings such as hair dryer bags made from used clothes by U.C.TILE and tissues boxes that utilize residual leather from an apparel factory in the neighborhood.
Other collaborations include bathrobes by Sitateru, a company that works with traditional craftsmen to continue Japan’s sewing heritage. The beating heart of the hotel, the lobby offers coworking spaces, cocktails, and a concept store where one can buy organic wares from local brands such as Finger Fox and Shirts, chocolate made by people with physical impairments for chocolabo, honey from Shibuya, and craft beer from Tokyo-based Ishikawa Brewery.
Boucan by Chocolat, Saint Lucia
Saint Lucia’s oldest cocoa estate—a 140-acre plantation surrounded by steamy rainforests—provides a fitting location for Boucan, the first hotel by the founders of luxury chocolate firm Hotel Chocolat. Chocolate peppers everything here, from cocoa-infused treatments and cocktails, to dishes where the bean reigns supreme. There’s even a tree-to-bar experience where guests are invited to the estate’s fair-trade cocoa groves, run by St. Lucians, to be a part of the chocolate-making process, starting with harvesting ripe pods from the tree, grinding, mixing, and making their own bar. Not only does Boucan source everything locally, including ingredients and made-to-measure hotel furniture, it also supports schools and charities on Saint Lucia.
Rockhouse Hotel, Jamaica
Paul Salmon left Wall Street in 1994 to open the socially and environmentally responsible Rockhouse Hotel and more recently the Skylark Negril Beach Resort in Jamaica. “Given our mission not just to build a hotel but a charity and a model for a responsible hotel,” says Salmon, it was inevitable that he founded the Rockhouse Foundation, which has raised over five million dollars and applied it toward transforming the places where Jamaica’s children learn, including supporting six schools and building a library. The foundation has also built a brand-new school, the Savanna-la-Mar Inclusive Infant Academy for special needs children in an inclusive environment. The result of all these activities has directly benefitted thousands of lives. Guests at the hotel are also offered a chance to visit the schools and other projects that they are benefitting by staying at the hotels.
11 Howard, USA
Social consciousness meets game-changing design at this hip hub for downtown New York’s creative community. 11 Howard’s conscious approach to hospitality means that each collaboration has been thoughtfully selected. The hotel teamed up with Groundswell—an organization that works with groups of marginalized and economically disadvantaged youth and professional artists—to create a site-specific mural on the hotel’s 150-foot-by-50-foot south-facing wall that celebrates the history and culture of SoHo. 11 Howard has also partnered with FEED by Laura Bush and Conscious Commerce, co-founded by Barbara Burchfield and Olivia Wilde, to ensure that many goods offered in the hotel are consciously conceived.
Memmo Hotels, Portugal
“I wanted the hotel to be a doorway to exploring the area,” says Rodrigo Machaz of his first space Memmo Baleeira on Portugal’s southern tip of Sagres. He went on to open two more hotels in Lisbon, namely Memmo Alfama and most recently Memmo Príncipe Real. Machaz has been serving his guests authentic slices of the places his hotels occupy for the last decade.
“The challenge is retaining authenticity while encouraging tourism,” he says. “How do you do that? You create a community of people who care about the area. Like Michaël Bijker from Netherlands who fell in love with Sagres and moved there. He teaches yoga and meditation at Memmo Baleeira. Or artists and surfers Charlotte and Gabriel who created a mandala for the hotel and teach guests to ride the waves of the Atlantic. At Príncipe Real, bowler hats crafted by local company Fábrica dos chapéus are placed in guestrooms daily, containing a different note, recommendation, or exclusive invitation from the hotel’s concierge. There’s also a complimentary hour-long walking tour every morning where guests get a local perspective of the neighborhood.
Hotel Freigeist Göttingen, Germany
Hotel Freigeist Göttingen in the university town of Göttingen is its neighborhood’s princely upstart. Embedded within a new town district at Groner Tor, the hotel is a new build that interplays architecturally with the historical sandstone building of the university. Here, green areas link the hotel to a cultural sector that includes a museum and the university just outside. Mirroring the academic spirit of its neighbor, the hotel’s Herbarium bar was inspired by the town’s famed botanical garden in its use of unusual herbs and ingredients while the restaurant Intuu also explores a scientific approach to food. Chef Alexander Zinke has, for example, worked with the curator of the Göttingen algae collection to delve into edible algae. Freigeist also participates in university events such as the Night of Knowledge and Weeds: Forgotten Beauties to help guests get a feel for the town’s scientific flair.
Casa de São Lourenço, Portugal
Sky-high mountain views of a stunning natural park complement heritage artisanal wools, local gastronomy, and both iconic and contemporary Portuguese design at Casa de São Lourenço. Perched 1,250 meters high in Portugal’s breathtaking Serra da Estrela mountain range—a UNESCO Global Geopark—with glorious panoramic views, the hotel is a reconverted historical landmark where every care has been taken to respect the structure’s and the area’s past. This intimate gem celebrates the timeless furniture of the great Portuguese artist and designer Maria Keil, who, in the 1940s, originally did the interiors here. The hotel has also restored a heritage wool mill from that time—one that provided many in the area with their livelihood. The factory has continued the tradition of producing Burel wool with the same machines while reinterpreting the designs to bring it into the now. Guests can visit the factory and buy what they have just seen being produced.
Le Pigalle, France
True to its Parisian neighborhood’s neon-lit, highly creative past, Le Pigalle has deep local roots with talented residents adding to its unique symphony. From the newspaper seller, photographer, baker, and mixologist to the vintage furniture expert, each local that the hotel works with adds a layer to this engaging hyperlocal hotel. Take the artist and all-round Montmartre hipster Jean André, whose deliciously provocative illustrations with pouting strippers and lollipop Lolitas are synonymous with Pigalle. Then there are the owners of “Les Arpenteurs” (“The Pacers”) bookstore on rue Choron—cultural pillars of the community—who propose a selection of books for each of the hotel rooms as well as the ground floor lounge. There’s a special beer crafted for the hotel by the microbrewery Goutte d’Or just a stone’s throw from the hotel.