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In search of a hotel's 'design soul'.

Giant hotel brands will be around for a long time, but the new entry points for the hospitality industry in this century will have to work with localization and design.

Design has always been a crucial and definitive feature of a hotel, but not all may have what designers refer to as 'design soul,' and it's the more successful boutique hotels that always have their own. A design-driven stay in a unique and trendsetting neighborhood is what it's all about.

These smaller boutique hotels are characterized by atmosphere and a distinct style in both their brand of service and accommodations. The architecture and interior design of a boutique hotel is as unique as its operations, but always it has its own distinct character, often combining a personal story and cultural aspects with a certain elegance.

The beauty of smaller hotels lies in atmosphere and idiosyncratic style. There is more room to do their own creative thing and stay true to their beliefs.

Heritage district

Like a small charming villa, the 50-room Herald Suites Polaris stands out in a neighborhood that's right in the heart of Makati's newly classified heritage district, Poblacion.

Defined by the Pasig River to the north, Barangay Bel-Air to the south, Guadalupe Viejo to the east and Barangay Valenzuela to the west, Poblacion was the old civic and commercial center of Makati that has now become a destination of exciting and vibrant conversions and a transformed urban center.

A mix of old and new businesses, entertainment, fashion, food, retail and design are all in close proximity to the country's older central business district.

Tucked away in side streets in old residential plots are small specialty cafes, bars, bed and breakfasts, galleries and a profusion of restaurants featuring global cuisines, ranging from Mediterranean to Latin American, European and Asian.

The area also includes the colorful and racy Burgos Street with its storied girlie bars. Being an old district, many more adaptive reuse projects are sprouting up, transforming the neighborhood.

Herald Suites Polaris plays up the unique qualities of this location, giving guests a local experience while making them a part of the transformation for the duration of their stay.

The hotel has become part of a gentrification reset, bringing new energy into an old neighborhood.

The hotel's design motif takes off from Art Deco. You will find the elegant simplicity and refined luxury characteristic of Art Deco design in the grillwork of its scenic elevator landing. You will feel the essence of boutique hostelry from a gentler period in the custom-designed machuca floor tiles.

Floor finish design, lighting and wall treatment are all used to lead the guests through the hotel. Bespoke touches are in small details: wall sconces, side tables and decorative accents balanced with modern and contemporary touches in the rooms, common areas and its facade.

All-day dining place

The hotel's street-level Aurora Lobby Cafe is a casual, all-day dining place with European and Mediterranean entrees in its menu. It also has its own specialties based on locally grown, seasonally available ingredients that stay true to its primacy of simplicity and freshness.

Artisanal ice cream in creative flavors that vary, depending on what fruits are available, can also be found handwritten on a menu board.

Aurora Lobby Cafe wins you over because it offers familiar dishes for the modern palate. It services not only the hotel guests, but also a host of regular folk from neighboring offices and business establishments who drop by for the French press coffee and the atmosphere.

Today, people want to connect with their hotel in a different way. More than a place that's inspiring and nurturing, they seek simple comforts of home in new settings. They also want to get into a unique neighborhood and explore it firsthand.

They're types who are as individual as the hotels themselves. They respect craft and expect a certain integrity to the things they touch and feel. They want these to be part of their lives and the hotels they choose to stay in.

This is not your typical big hotel, but it's in a perfect location. Having fewer rooms, it is able to focus its resources on making each guest's stay memorable through exceptional service.

Many things can be had, but when and where one decides to lay his hat down, service, aesthetics, comfort and warmth become key considerations.

The whole physical environment, a hotel's design and its surroundings, and a bed with the best mattress, of course, are what make your stay so attuned to these times.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Aug 29, 2018
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