The greatest hotel hits from designer Philippe Starck


The greatest hotel hits from designer Philippe Starck

From tropical ceilings to unicorn heads and fairytale palaces, we look at the French master's wildest designs

Kate Weir

BY Kate Weir8 June 2019

So, who is Philippe Starck? A man who respects aesthetics so acutely he weeps on completion of a new design? A school dropout who went on to create an inflatable house? An oyster farmer who lives off the grid in rural France? Well, he’s all this and more. In fact, you may own his update of the humble juicer, which resembles an aerodynamic spider robot, as the avant-garde designer is also an advocate for affordable, beautiful homewares. He creates theatrical stays too, of course, which display the sensual whimsy of a Japanese love hotel and the cutting-edge style of a Vogue shoot, alongside a large serving of je ne sais quoi. In homage to this Gallic icon, we’ve picked our favourite Starck stays and rated them on their innate Starck-ness.

Rooftop Bar at Yoo2 Hotel, Mr & Mrs Smith


Rio de Janerio

Yoo2 is the first hotel from Starck’s Yoo2 design studio, and – while it’s a tamer take on his signature whimsy – it’s still a playful pad, with tropical vistas painted onto rooms’ ceilings, walls of plant pots and a mural running the length of the lift shaft, commissioned from graffiti artist Marcelo Ment. It rocks a retro look (parquet panelling, throwback prints, mid-century modern pieces) that nods to the Girl from Ipanema era (although Botafago is the nearest beach to lounge on), while reflecting the vibrancy of modern Brazil, with its DJ-soundtracked rooftop fiestas, Cariocally Restaurant’s low-impact dining and potent locally distilled gin cocktails. It’s not a classic Starck head-turner but his design nous hasn’t dimmed – although the panorama of Sugarloaf mountain does distract from his styling somehow.

Palazzina Grassi, Venice, Mr & Mrs Smith



Starck has given the interior of this 16th-century palazzo the theatrical drama of a masqued ball (even going so far as to emblazon harlequin masks on lampshades). Chairs are printed with faces, silvered tree-stumps serve as stools and mirrors everywhere create an infinite regression of glamour. It may be one of the plainer antiques along the Grand Canal, but this is Starck’s ‘white telephone’ stay: cream and taupe furnishings, full-wall mirrors and sprawling day-beds in the more lavish suites, require guests to lounge around in marabou-feather-trimmed robes, carrying out soft-focused trysts – probably after an evening under the artfully dishevelled chandeliers in the members-only Krug champagne lounge. Overall, it’s a Starck-ling diamond of a stay.

Faena Hotel, Mr & Mrs Smith


Buenos Aires

This heart-of-Starckness hotel has more candelabra than you can shake a sceptre at, wingbacks with eagle armrests and silver taps shaped like swans. And that’s just the amuse-bouche, because in the restaurant, unicorn heads are mounted on the walls, lit by dripping chandeliers and the centrepiece of the pool is a crown-shaped fountain that’s illuminated after dark. This hotel’s opulence would border on ridiculous if it wasn’t oh-so very stylish. Everything goes up to 11: the candy cane white-and-scarlet colour scheme, accentuated with gold and silver trimmings; the red-velvet curtains, faux-fur throws and white columns in rooms; a tango lounge with a dream-like Lynchian ambience – it’s like a set piece from Satyricon, with Belle Epoque-aping beauty that lures in hip young porteñas.

For more eye-catching design feats, explore our award-winning boutique hotels