I’ve designed more than seven hotels. But the Proper hotels are different in that they’re a nod to the grand hotels of the 19th century. We aren’t talking grand lobbies and bellboy hats. It’s about how these hotels were the cultural centers of their communities, like a town square or museum. Our first hotel in San Francisco will be fully wired, a hub for local personalities, and not too precious—it will be filled with vintage furniture you can actually sit on.
How does the community fit in?
Each hotel will be a showcase for what’s happening in its neighborhood. We’re partnering with individuals, brands, and institutions in each of the cities, including San Francisco and Austin, who can use the hotel space to create, collaborate, and share art, music, and technology.
How will that make hotels feel different?
In the early 2000s, the boutique hotel world was primarily focused on design. Creating a beautiful space with an amazing vibe is still crucial, but we’re now more concerned with how we use those spaces—each space has to play multiple roles. For example, the rooftop on the upcoming San Francisco Proper Hotel will transition from a place for morning coffee to a lively rooftop bar. And in between all of that, there will be yoga classes, film screenings, intimate concerts, and culinary events. Food has also become much more significant within hotels. The Avalon Hotels, which I worked on in the early 2000s, only have one restaurant in each. But the new San Francisco Proper will have four. That heavily impacts how we approach the design of the hotel as a whole.
What’s a good way to bring that creative vibe home?
Shop at flea markets! Great style has no price point. And traveling is the best way to score interesting, one-of-a-kind treasures. Many of my favorite pieces in my own home come from boutiques I’ve stumbled upon while travelling. Paris has some of the best flea markets in the world, of course. I always allow plenty of extra space in my luggage when I travel there, to fit all my finds.
Bell photograph by The Voorhes.