A Brief History of Urban Boutique Hotels in America

Studio 54
  • 1981 — Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants was founded by Bill Kimpton: Kimpton hotels is said to be inspired by various local hotels in Europe Bill had stayed in while he was in Europe in late 70s. All Kimpton hotels are different and unusual in design, guest services, and marketing concept in which they are famously known as promoting “eat & travel like locals” long before it was cool and trendy. Many, if not all, Kimpton hotels are pet friendly
  • 1984 — Morgans Hotel Group was founded by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell: After a dramatic ownership issues with Studio 54, the two switched their attention to hospitality industry by forming Morgans Hotel Group. Morgans brought an even edgier concept compared to Kimpton hotels –their lobby works as a gathering space (albeit similar to W hotels’ “living room” lobby), the bar hosts various local events instead of just selling F&B, and the rooms are designed by modern artists and architects. Morgans is also notable for starting the trend for hotels producing their own CD compilations
  • 1985 — Palladium was founded by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell (again): Ian and Steve invited popular artists, designers, and architects Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Philippe Starck, and Julian Schnabel to create a dramatic vibe within the club. Similar to Studio 54, Palladium was once an opera house when it’s opened in the 20s before its owners converted it to cinema, concert hall, and any other functions
  • 1987 — Joie de Vivre was founded by Chip Conley: Chip met travel agents around the US and offered rock bands tour managers free massages to induce them to book their bands’ stay at the hotels. The hotels attracted famous entertainers such as David Bowie and Johnny Depp
  • 1989 — Prescott and Postrio: Bill Kimpton opened Prescott Hotel -a Kimpton hotel (now Hotel Zeppelin), with restaurant launched in partnership with celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. It was the first time a hotel has a celebrity-chef run its restaurant -something that would be a norm in the next decades. Kimpton hotels is believed to be developed with food & beverages in mind first before putting rooms on top of it
  • 1993 — Design Hotels: It is a consortium of boutique hotels which require a membership fee in order to promote its members through various marketing activities
  • 1994 — Delano South Beach hotel opened its doors in Miami: In similar fashion with other Ian and Steve projects, the Delano hotel is also a converted building –originally a military housing built in the 40s. The revamping project was designed by Philippe Starck who has since designed many other luxury hotels, restaurants, and fashion stores around the worlds
  • 1998 — W Hotels: Hotelier Barry Sternlicht and his wife envisioned a new boutique hotel brand under the Starwood Hotels & Resorts umbrella called W –Barry is the founder of Starwood and was the CEO back then. W hotels combined and popularized many elements previously established by Kimpton, Morgans, and other boutique hotels with chain hotel sensibility in terms of distribution and franchising systems
  • 1999— Standard Hotels: Andre Balazs opened The Standard Hollywood, California. The hotel was converted from an old Thunderbird Motel originally built in 1962. This project attracted high profile investors such as Leonardi DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, and The Smashing Pumpkins’ bassist D’Arcy Wretzky and guitarist James Iha
  • 1999 — Ace Hotel: Self-described “cultural engineer” Alex Calderwood founded Ace Hotel with his friends Wade Weigel and Doug Herrick. Together they envisioned the kind of hotel where DJs, artists, graphic designers, musicians­ would want to stay. Their first hotel was Ace Hotel Seattle, breaking several accepted hospitality rules with its budget shared-bathroom rooms next to luxury suites, vintage furniture and artfully relaxed style the hotel aimed to capture both ends of the market
Ace Hotel’s First Hotel in Asia (Kyoto)
  • Mid 2000s — Ian Schrager sold Morgans Hotel Group: Ian went on to create a new company which owns, develops, and manages hotels and mixed use buildings in collaboration with his frequent collaborators including Julian Schnabel
  • 2008 — Edition: Bill Marriott announced a partnership between Marriott International and Ian Schrager on his blog which marked the introduction of a new brand called Edition. The brand will be under Marriott International’s umbrella with first hotel opened in 2010 designed by Ian Schrager himself
  • Late 2000’s — Boutique went mainstream: Following the success of W Hotels, many other international hotel chains went on to create their own version boutique hotel brands; Hyatt created Andaz, IHG created Indigo (and even acquired Kimpton), Marriott International created Edition (with help from Ian Schrager), Hilton created Canopy, and Accorhotels created Sofitel So. Furthermore, they also create “independent hotel” brands like Starwood’s Luxury Collection, Hyatt’s Unbound Collection, Hilton’s Curio, Marriott’s Autograph Collection, and so forth
  • 2010 — Geolo Capital took over Joie de Vivre: John sold his ownership interest in Hyatt to his family and took over Joie de Vivre hotels under his Geolo Capital while maintaining Chip’s position as the CEO of Joie de Vivre
  • 2011 — Commune Hotels & Resorts: Joie de Vivre merged with Thompson hotels, an international luxury hotel chain based in New York. The two formed a parent company, Commune Hotels & Resorts led by former Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants President, Niki Leondakis, while Chip Conley remained involved as a strategic advisor
  • 2013 — Chip Conley became the Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy for Airbnb: Who doesn’t know Airbnb?
  • 2014 — IHG bought Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants: Kimpton hotels lost 7 of its 9 San Francisco hotels following the USD 430 million acquisition. After the acquisition, Kimpton hotels continue working as a separate entity with its own loyalty program and reservation system
  • 2015 — Starwood Hotels & Resorts named Design Hotels as its 11th brand: Starwood, which has long owned a majority stake in Design Hotels, is folding the collection into its portfolio
  • 2015–1 Hotels: Former CEO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Barry Sternlicht, launched 1 Hotels with the opening of 1 Hotel South Beach, Miami. In similar fashion with his identity-oriented brands he built with Starwood, Barry developed 1 Hotels as a distinctive brand in its eco-conscious facilities, activities, and design
  • 2015 — Marriott International acquired Starwood Hotels for USD 13 billion: Making Marriott International the biggest hotel chain in the world with more than 5700 hotels and 1.2 million rooms under 30 different brands including boutique oriented brands; W, Edition, and Design Hotels
  • 2016 — Two Roads Hospitality: Commune Hotels & Resorts merged with Destination Hotels creating Two Roads Hospitality. The newly formed company manage various boutique hotel brands including Joie de Vivre, Thompson Hotels, Tommie, Alila Hotels & Resorts, and Destination Hotels
  • 2017 — Public Hotels: The legendary Ian Schrager launched the first Public hotel in downtown New York. Dubbed as “an Ian Schrager hotel”, Public hotels is envisioned as the affordable version of luxury boutique hotel

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