The Coolest Design Hotels That Are Part of Major Chains

W Design Hotels, like the one in Santiago Chile

In a sea of boring hotel rooms from the major chains, how do you find the design hotels that actually give you some visual stimulation during your stay?

We know, it’s really hard to keep up with all these hotel brands. In this world of hotel chain consolidation and brand offshoots, some of the multinational hospitality companies have more names in their portfolio than a Five Guys Burgers has menu items.

Here are some of the best ones to put on your list when you are searching hotels if you’re looking for art hotels, trendy hotels, or just unique resorts that have a high cool factor.

W Hotels

The original cool chain hotel brand to really go widespread is still one of the best. Originally part of Starwood and now Marriott, the W Hotels brand is consistently modern, artistic, and—if there have been recent renovations—still surprising. You get the benefits of good corporate hotel training, but with a hipper dress code and attitude more suited to 30-somethings than the Ritz-Carlton crowd. Take a look at this one in Mexico City to get an idea.

W Hotel Mexico City

Kimpton Hotels

This was, for a long time, the coolest independent hotel chain in the USA that

Kimpton trendy chain hotel Florida

stretched from one coast to the other. Most are more boutique hotel than large chain, small enough where you can get some personal attention.

Now Kimpton is part of the IHG group that previously only had the mid-range Hotel Indigo brand for the cool kids. You can count on decor that is always interesting, a daily complimentary wine hour for mingling, and attractive rooms. They’re pet-friendly and Kimpton guests also can rely on professional service that isn’t too aloof.

Andaz Hotels and Resorts

The Hyatt brand was best-known for huge convention hotels before they went through an acquisition binge the past decade and also developed a few new brands. The Andaz one has allowed them to appeal to upscale travelers who weren’t the type who went for the traditional look and feel of a Park Hyatt.

Andaz resorts usually employ a cutting-edge architect and designer in the building process and there’s a much stronger attention to unique details and nods to local culture than you usually find in a multinational chain hotel brand. Their tag line is, “You’ll know it when you sense it.” They currently have 22 properties, with 8 of them in the USA. The shot below is their resort in the Guanacaste area of Costa Rica.

Andaz Papagayo in Costa Rica

Thompson Hotels

As with Kimpton, Thompson Hotels operated as an independent brand for many years, getting lots of write-ups and awards. Then Hyatt swallowed them up to liven up their portfolio. Thompson Hotels are artsy in a different way in each location with a few consistent elements. “Spacious bathrooms include state of the art rain showers, signature robes and D.S. & Durga products.”

The chain has six design hotels in different U.S. cities and four in Mexico and the Caribbean. Have a good time in such cool locations as Nashville, Seattle, and Zihuatanejo.

Dazzler by Wyndham

These are only in Latin America right now, but they’re worth a mention because they put their policies where their mouth is when they say they’re appealing to millennial travelers. There’s a complimentary minibar, breakfast keeps serving until noon, and you get an extra two hours to check out if needed. There’s a communal area for mingling and the prices are low enough that people in their 20s and 30s won’t get chastised for putting this place on their expense report.

Business Hotels, but Aimed Younger

If you don’t gravitate to innovative design and just want a hotel room that doesn’t make you feel like you’re at an airport in Cleveland, there are some in-between options as well. Where the major chains have been trying the hardest with new brands is business hotels that aren’t crazy expensive and are aimed at millennials who don’t draw a dark line between work and play. These properties usually have fewer frills and a less traditional look in their furniture picks. They usually have a bar though which is the centerpiece of a multi-functional work and social area. They’re often in urban locations where you can walk out the door instead of having to get in your car.

Radisson Red design hotels
(c) Radisson Red

Brands to look for that fit this “kind of cool, but still clearly a chain” look include the following:

Radisson Red
AC Hotels by Marriott
Aloft Hotels by Marriott
Hotel RL by Red Lion
Hyatt Centric
Tryp by Wyndham
Tru by Hilton

There are also some oddball brands that are sort of pitched as design hotels but are hard to define collectively. Curio by Hilton, for example, seems to be the umbrella for any independent property they take over management for but they don’t want to tag with the boring Hilton brand. These include The Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida, Hotel Phillips in Kansas City, and Hotel Andaluz in Albuquerque. It’s the same deal with their Tapestry Collection properties. Are they design hotels or traditional ones? Well, there’s not enough consistency to say either way.

When you go to book your art hotel or urban cool space to stay, you’ll find the best rates and a great points payback by booking at Bonwi.com.

Review and photos (except where indicated) by Tim Leffel, lodging expert and editor of Hotel Scoop.