Stylish stays … Sekeping Kong Heng, Malaysia
by Will Coldwell, The Guardian, April 18, 2016
Sekeping Kong Heng, Ipoh, Malaysia
With beds made from wire fencing (don’t worry, the mattresses on top are normal) and communal spaces that resemble a car park or a building site, this design hotel in the town of Ipoh is as stripped-back as it gets. The hotel occupies a three-storey neo-classical building that used to be a hostel for theatre performers (the theatre burned down in the 1950s), and the ground floor is a popular coffee shop and locals’ hangout. The rooms have many design flourishes: there are thick stage-like curtains separating the en suite bathrooms and outside courtyard, concrete ledges serve as shelves and an assortment of fittings hanging from the ceilings also evoke a sense of being backstage in a theatre. Sekeping has other similarly designed retreats around Malaysia, all with this signature aesthetic.
• Doubles from £40, +601 2227 2745, sekeping.com
A boutique hotel in Shanghai’s South Bund district, the Waterhouse used to be a decaying 1930s factory and a former military headquarters, and has been turned into the epitome of industrial-chic. The outer shell of the building remains stripped back, and the raw concrete walls are left to contrast with clean, gallery-style interior fittings. An inside/outside theme is maintained with windows in guestrooms that look into the lobby; the cold grey aesthetic in the public spaces contrasts with the warmer, wooden-floored bedrooms, which have a Scandi feel. There is a rooftop terrace bar from which to enjoy the city’s futuristic-looking skyline, and a restaurant, Table No 1, led by Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton.
• Doubles from £115 B&B, +86 21 6080 2988, waterhouseshanghai.com
25Hours Bikini Hotel, Berlin
The entrance area of 25Hours Bikini Hotel
Berlin feels, essentially, like one big, non-stop industrial-chic design festival, with everything from clubs to cafes tucked into former factories or run-down buildings. When it comes to places to stay, however, the 25Hours Bikini Hotel is probably top of the list. It is in City West – which, ironically, is probably the least post-industrial part of the city – and the hotel fills part of a 1950s office block which, two years ago, was converted into a designer shopping mall. The entrance to the hotel has a concrete space with a high ceiling, from which a lift runs up to the urban-jungle-themed lobby. Plants sprawl around the space, dotted among beautiful modernist furniture, like some kind of beautiful dystopia where vegetation is taking back the city.
• Doubles from €136, +49 30 1202 210, 25hours-hotels.com
Amsterdam has lots to offer those seeking high-concept, design-focused accommodation. The Volkshotel is one place to note: a new hotel similar in style to the Bikini Hotel Berlin, and in the east of the city. Another relatively new addition to ’Dam’s boutique (and industrially chic, of course) hotel scene is the Ecomama hostel; the second hostel in the city to be opened by the team behind Cocomama. It is in a former travel agency on the edge of the red light district, and the interior has a converted-warehouse feel: ventilation pipes are left exposed on the ceiling, while walls divide the communal areas into spaces to hang out in. The interior has upcycled details: magazine racks made from wire coat hangers and bookshelves made from, well, old books. As the name suggests, the design is also environmentally conscious: a green roof and water-saving system help minimise the hostel’s carbon footprint.
• Doubles from €100, dorms from €23, +31 20 770 9529, ecomamahotel.com
Fabriken Furillen, Gotland, Sweden
The surreal, unlikely setting for the Fabriken Furillen hotel is an isolated corner of Gotland, in the lunar-looking landscape of an old limestone quarry. The eco-hotel was designed by photographer Johan Hellström, who used to use the abandoned factory as a background for his work. It was converted into a hotel and restaurant in 2000, with the help of Scandinavian designers and architects who conceived the minimal space to merge seamlessly with its environment. The exterior is cold and raw, but in the rooms the industrial feel is softened with grey felts and fabrics. Metal chains hang from the ceiling in the restaurant, which used to be the miners’ canteen.
• Doubles from £170, +46 498 22 30 40, furillen.com
Nui Hostel, Tokyo
Locals and travellers mix in the beautifully designed bar and lounge area of this Tokyo hostel, in a converted warehouse overlooking the Sumida river. The concrete walls and exposed roof girders in the bar are turned into a playful social environment by mixed-level seating and a forest theme, with the trunk and boughs of a tree making the centrepiece and other, smaller plants adding colour to the neutral tones of the rest of the interior. The bedrooms are modestly designed, but with a similar aesthetic of concrete and wood. The name, Nui, means hand-sewing in Japanese: in this case it’s a nod to the carpenters and craftsmen who worked on transforming the space into the place it is today.
• Doubles from £45, dorms from £18 (cash only, no credit cards), +81 3 6240 9854, backpackersjapan.co.jp
La Purificadora, Puebla, Mexico
The roof terrace at La Purificadora. Photograph: Alamy
As the building used to be an ice factory, it’s no surprise that this hotel, in the Unesco-protected part of the city of Puebla, is so damn cool. Converted by architect Ricardo Legorreta, the design draws on its past, with water and glass used as features throughout. The pool is particularly stylish: you can sit beside it and watch people swimming underwater through an exposed glass wall. Other areas of the hotel – such as the restaurant, which has communal tables made from wood salvaged from the old factory – blend Mexican traditions with contemporary design, while allowing the architectural history of the building to peep through.
• Doubles from £75, +52 222 309 19 20, lapurificadora.com
Paper Factory Hotel, New York
It’s no surprise that NYC, with its big, red-brick industrial buildings and insatiable appetite for cool, has its fair share of industrial-chic luxury. These include the Refinery Hotel, with its rooftop bar, and the Wythe, with its floor-to-ceiling factory windows. Still, they both command reasonably high prices, whereas the Paper Factory Hotel (guess what kind of building this one was?), is at the budget-boutique end of the spectrum. In the borough of Queens, the hotel has its fair share of exposed brick walls but also has a sense of humour in its design, compared with most, straight-faced minimalist hotels: the interior incorporates British telephone boxes, leather suitcases, pianos, punch bags and all sorts of vintage props to make your stay a bit of an adventure.
• Doubles from £98 +1 718 392 7200, paperfactoryhotel.com
A hostel with a history that goes deeper than its industrial past, Curiocity occupies the old red-brick premises of Pacific Press, which printed material for the ANC and Black Sash Movement during the apartheid era. Now the hostel brings travellers to one of the city’s oldest suburbs, thanks to the work of young entrepreneur and creative Bheki Dube, who founded it. The design inside is simple but modern, using corrugated metal and scaffolding to create a communal, social space.
• Doubles from £22, dorms from £9, +27 0 11 614 0163 , curiocitybackpackers.com
Thrive The Hostel, Bangkok
With a design concept that takes bamboo beach huts, hammocks and banana pancakes and dashes them against a cold, hard, concrete wall, Thrive The Hostel in Bangkok is a welcome change from the usual cheesy traveller-hippy aesthetic of most hostels along the south-east Asian backpacker trail. Instead, visitors find themselves in a spacious, modernist construction, bold and geometric from the outside, clean and simple on the inside. The central design feature is a staircase that zigzags up inside of the building, giving views a bit like an MC Escher print. The dorms, with simple metal bunks and bare walls, may seem a bit spartan, but the private rooms, with smooth concrete desks, sinks and en suite bathrooms, will appeal to anyone on the hunt for a more creatively designed (and industrial) place to stay in the capital.
• Doubles from £16, dorms from £4, +66 2 266 9400, thrivethehostel.com
This article was written by Will Coldwell from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.