The Art Deco movement of the 1920s, which favoured a clean aesthetic and bold geometric shapes, swept hotel design in the form of grand marble pillars, gold plating and spiral staircases. This is where the rich and famous partied, swing dancing and listening to jazz, martini glass in hand, until sunrise – full of intriguing histories and tales of hedonism, these are the world’s most amazing Art Deco hotels.
A low-rise white block with a neon-lit sign, the breezy-named Gale South Beach in the heart of South Beach’s nightlife area is quintessential Florida. It was built in 1941 by Lawrence Murray Dixon who also built more than half of the Art Deco-style buildings in the area at the time. After falling out of fashion, the hotel was renovated in 2012 and black-and-white photos in common areas celebrate its past. Rooms are contemporary-leaning and come in hues of cream and navy blue though guests spend considerable time sunning themselves on the beach-facing rooftop pool.
The stately 1930 whitewashed hotel, only a short walk from the town centre, was once the governor’s mansion. It remains one of the marvels of French Art Deco design outside of Europe and guestrooms, housed in two annexes, harp back to its glory days with dark teakwood floors and period piece furniture with curved contours. Only the suites are in the original mansion and are spacious with ceramic tiles. Frangipani trees and fan palms frame the sprawling outdoor swimming pool, which is ideally situated to face the Perfume River.
A boxy red-brick building guarded with a black wrought-iron fence conceals a glamorous, refurbished Art Deco interior of gold-rimmed pillars and clean-cut lines. Stanford White of Washington Square Arch fame built the Chatwal in 1905. The architect, who was murdered by his mistress’ husband the following year, initially built it for the Lambs, the first Thespian club in the US, which is fitting given its location in the Theatre District. The hotel was renovated in 2010, and in guestrooms, suede walls and leather surfaces abound.
This 10-storey Art Deco hotel on the Bund saw its heyday as the Cathay, where, in the 1930s, local and foreign celebrities came for live jazz and swing dancing – notably, Charlie Chaplin caused a stir when he checked in with an unmarried female companion. Businessman Victor Sassoon opened the hotel in 1929 and its suites, named after nations, capture the 1930s imagination of Japan, India and other nations. The other rooms are just as snazzy, with floral-patterned carpets and silk upholstery. A wonderful cherry blossom centrepiece and a grand piano sits in the lobby, and above, a stain glass ceiling.
Another 1929 gem, this white façade resort stretches along the promenade of La Croisette, a sought-after zip code on the French Riviera that also hosts the Cannes Film Festival and movie stars and royalty vacationing in the summer. The lobby boasts sparkling white marble floors and walls, which is offset by the hints of gold in mirror frames and vases. Guestrooms come in calm tones of baby blue and light silver, and on the walls, framed sketches of flapper girls. There’s an outdoor pool framed by palm trees, but why not relax on the private beach?
Hotel Britania was a little late to the Art Deco game, opening in 1943, but it holds the title of the only hotel in Lisbon to remain intact until today. The hotel seems a bit of an anachronism, given its location on Avenida Liberdade, lined with designer shops, yet the inside is marvellous. The lobby design is inspired by Portuguese explorations – noticed the gold globe with ships – and floors are covered with cork, once Portugal’s most famous export. Rooms are decked with dark wood furniture and carpets with geometric patterns.
7. Hotel Nacional de Cuba, Havana
The cream façade hotel by the harbour might cut an image of a faded jewel but like many other buildings in Havana, that’s part of its charm. The National opened in 1930, decades before the Cuban revolution, and Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire are amongst its famous guests. It also housed mafia meetings in the ’40s and the garden tunnels were used during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Rooms have cream-coloured drapes, blue carpets, rocking chairs and there are an on-site cigar shop and a lush outdoor pool to relax at.
The Art Deco Imperial looks as regal as it did when it was built in 1914 – the lobby, in particular, makes quite the impression with its gold drapes, pillars with intricate carvings and a statue of a woman leaping in the air. Rooms are just as grand, with leopard print carpets, palm tree-patterned curtains and gold block desk lamps. Though the hotel is most known for its restaurant, the lavishly-outfitted and century-old Café Imperial which serves coffee and Czech food. Here, ample sunlight pours into the large windows, lighting up the tan booths and the original mosaic-tile ceiling.
The majestic 1910 yellow hotel is somewhat of a landmark, perched atop a mountain that overlooks Lake Lucerne. The funicular ride to Montana is part of the experience, but there is nothing ski lodge about this swank establishment. It’s Old World-style Art Deco in the lobby, complete with a teal carpeted staircase and mosaic-tiled floors. The 66 individually designed rooms are more contemporary with Art Deco touches such as zigzag-patterned furniture. Have a drink at the Hemingway Lounge, which has more than 60 types of rum, or listen to jazz at the Louis Bar.
Another iconic New York hotel, the Waldorf Astoria is set to re-open in 2020 after a major renovation to revive its 1930s Art Deco grandeur. Guestrooms are lavish, with period piece dressers and armchairs and gilt-lined bathrooms, though it remains to be seen what the new rooms will look like. The original hotel was built in 1893 before moving into its current site between Park and Lexington Avenues in 1931 and has been a backdrop for movies such as The Godfather III and Catch Me If You Can.