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Small and perfectly formed: Top 10 family-owned boutique hotels

By Alexandra Newlove

If you like your holidays, or business trips for that matter, to be characterised by warm hospitality, attention-to-detail, and personal touches, staying in a hotel owned by a family may be the solution. Alexandra Newlove takes a look at 10 of the best worldwide, from new-build blocks in the centre of Tokyo, to ancient villas clinging to the cliffs of Italy’s Amalfi Coast

Firmdale Hotel

Firmdale | New York and London

In-your-face style, vibrant colour schemes, and obsessive details characterise these boutique beauties by husband and wife team Tim and Kit Kemp—he the numbers, she the creative genius, with help from their two daughters. Firmdale has nine London locations with flagships including the Ham Yard and Charlotte Street hotels, and more recently opened two New York boutiques, which carry on the somehow seamless blend of British elegance, splashy colour, modern art, and avant-garde sculpture. Her obvious design flair aside, Kit Kemp says the hotel business is as much about housekeeping as style, and about 20% of stock is refurbished or replaced each year. Some of the more quirky features from across the portfolio include a bowling alley, mini-cinema, and poker dens.

• Firmdale  |  From $320 per night  |  Info: firmdalehotels.com

Goring Hotel

The Goring | London

It’s latest claim to fame is that the Duchess of Cambridge, née Kate Middleton, stayed there the night before her wedding. But as you would probably guess from the impeccably English heritage-style rooms, The Goring’s history stretches back much further. At the time it was founded in 1910 by Otto Goring (his grandson Jeremy runs it today), The Goring was believed to be the first hotel in the world with an en suite and central heating in every room. Today, guests can expect exceptional, albeit prim service, handwoven silk walls similar to those used on the Titanic, Michelin-starred dining and come summer, cocktails served in one of the largest private gardens in London. On a quiet side street, and a five-minute walk from Victoria Station, Buckingham Palace, and St James's Park.

• Goring  |  From $560 per night  |  Info: thegoring.com

Hotel Bar Au Lac

Hotel Baur Au Lac | Zurich

Located a stone’s throw from Paradeplatz, Zurich’s bustling financial district, Hotel Baur Au Lac is owned by sixth generation descendants of pastry chef Johannes Baur, who opened the hotel devoted to Swiss decadence in 1844. This grand villa features 120 flower-filled rooms, lush carpets, and Michelin-starred restaurants and more than $170 million has been invested in the past decade in new facilities. The spectacular views of the city on one side are outshone only by those of Lake Zurich and snow-capped Alps on the other. Sixth-gen chairman Andrea Kracht says that while the villa is a labour-of-love for the family, they have never expanded and would never recommend a friend invest in hotels, as running a top-of-the-line one is such a capital-intensive exercise. Past guests of Baur Au Lac include Indira Gandhi, Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, and Audrey Hepburn.

• Baur Au Lac  |  From $550 per night  |  Info: bauraulac.ch

La Sireneuse

Le Sirenuse | Positano

This 58-room gem off Italy’s Amalfi Coast first opened in 1951 when the four Sersale brothers decided to turn their family’s summer home into a hotel. The second generation took over in the early 1990s, and today continues to run the iconic oxblood-red villa which clings to the cliffs. Cool, white-walled guest rooms have breathtaking views of the Mediterranean and the picturesque Positano where pastel buildings stack on top of each other on the hillside. The experience is complete with an onsite Michelin-starred restaurant, swimming pool, and four-poster princess beds. A former fishing village deemed one of the most romantic spots in the world, Positano is about an hour south of Naples.

• Le Sirenuse  |  From $620 per night  |  Info: sirenuse.it

Poetry Inn

Poetry Inn | Napa

This elegantly understated five-room boutique is the pet project of Canadian construction tycoon turned California wine-maker Cliff Lede and his family. Perched atop a hill up a gated drive within one of the Ledes’ Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards, guests are received in a sumptuous living room rather than a reception. The five suites are named after poets—Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman—and range in size from an expansive 290 sq m to a palatial 440 sq m. West facing views of Napa Valley, both indoor and outdoor showers, private terraces with chaise lounges, and wood-burning fireplaces complete the bliss.

• Poetry Inn  |  From $1,065 per night  |  Info: poetryinn.com


Londolozi | South Africa

Under the stewardship of the second generation of the Varty family, Londolozi is a game reserve built on their values of exploring new frontiers, exceeding expectations, and welcoming all who cross the threshold. The reserve holds five camps with distinct character, from the family-friendly Founders Camp to the ultra-luxurious Private Granite Suites, the latter emphasising light, space, and privacy and each with their own heated swimming pool. All the camps are built in sympathy with their leafy surroundings, have breathtaking views, and access to the surrounding 14,000ha of Big Five safari land. Londolozi is derived from the Zulu “to protect”, and white rhino and lion concentrations in the area are among the highest recorded on the African continent.

• Londolozi  |  From $1,091 pp per night  |  Info: londolozi.com

Lloyd's Inn

Lloyd’s Inn | Singapore

A peaceful green oasis moments from Singapore’s glossy Orchard Road boulevard, Lloyd’s Inn underwent an extreme makeover in 2014 led by its owners since 1990, the Chang family, who have significant interests in real estate and property development. The carefully curated, minimalist concept by FARM Architects pays homage to humanity’s common values on nature, space, light, texture, convenience and comfort. The flagship feature of the simply furnished rooms are private but outdoor bathtubs, with views of the sky.

• Lloyd’s Inn  |  From $122 per night  |  Info: lloydsinn.com

Hoshinoya Hotel

Hoshinoya | Japan

The Hoshino family’s mission has been to reconcile their legacy of four generations of innkeeping with the hustle and bustle of modern urban life. This at a time when big resort brands are spreading Western-style models of hospitality across Japan. The result has been the Hoshinoya, of which there are five in Japan: Karuizawa, Kyoto, Taketomi Island, Fuji, and Tokyo. The hotels blend modern luxury with the feel of a traditional Japanese ryokan, or inn, complete with the requirement of removing one’s shoes. The flagship Tokyo ryokan offers Zen in the heart of Tokyo’s financial district and relaxed ambience is imbued with a sense playfulness and surprise. Unusually for Tokyo, the entire metal-clad building is given over to the hotel, though there are only 84 rooms, and guests barely encounter each other with only six rooms per floor.

• Hoshinoya  |  From $960 per night  |  Info: hoshinoresorts.com

The Upper House

The Upper House | Hong Kong

A stylishly warm and informal haven in the centre of Hong Kong, The Upper House sits atop the glossy Pacific Place shopping complex in Admiralty, the eastern end of the CBD. Owned by the UK’s Swire family through one of its holding companies, the 117-room hotel offers spectacular views of the Hong Kong skyline—even from spa-inspired bathrooms—and features natural materials and muted tones in its spacious suites. More sophisticated than the average city hotel, Upper House is the creation of cult millennial architect Andre Fu. In his design, Fu minimised public spaces like the lobby, instead giving the meterage to guests’ suites, meaning the limestone clad bathrooms are the largest of any hotel in the city, and mini bars become “maxi bars”.

• Upper House  |  From  $650 per night  |  Info: upperhouse.com

Jackalope Hotel

Jackalope Hotel | Mornington Peninsula

Dreamt up by 30-year-old next-generation property developer Louis Li, Jackalope was named Australia’s Hotel of the Year just a few weeks after its April 2017 opening. The son of KCC Real Estate Development Company head Jie Li moved from his native China to Melbourne to study filmmaking in 2006. He then settled on a new way of telling stories—commissioning some of Australia’s preeminent creatives to reimagine the role of art and design in the hotel space. The result is Jackalope’s 46 designer dens in a sweeping wing overlooking a working vineyard. As well as being set in its own 11ha winery with two boutique restaurants and a cocktail bar, this moody and mythical hotel an hour’s drive from Melbourne is surrounded by 50 other cellar doors and restaurants in the rolling hills, and 20 golf courses, of which three are rated in Australia’s top 10.

• Jackalope  |  From $510 per night  |  Info: jackalopehotels.com

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