Sleep tight in these Nordic design hotels
Blue WIngs visited four Finnish hotels that are attuned to the needs of the millennial traveler – thirsty not for the minibar, but for new experiences: “Always the explorer, never a tourist” is their new creed.
Gimme a big hygge
Dream Hotel is a boutique guesthouse run by Ville and Eveliina Virkki in the university town of Tampere. It is the fancier version of Dream Hostel in the same building, which offers dorm accommodation downstairs.
Dream Hotel exemplifies a rising trend in the hospitality industry: It caters to millennials who crave the road less travelled, yet without sacrificing style, comfort, and connectivity.
The hotel lies in a repurposed warehouse transformed into 20 compact suites by Studio Puisto architects. Neutral tones and natural materials are used throughout for a warm atmosphere. The use of space is bold and experimental: the rooms – though spotless, cosy, and inviting – offer only the bare essentials for a good night’s sleep.
“You don’t need a massive budget, just creativity,” says Eveliina, dusting flour from her hands after baking muffins with the guests. The hotel offers various fun perks such as communal gingerbread baking, free pea soup on Thursdays, and free popcorn when it rains (as it frequently does in Tampere).
The couple had no prior experience of the hospitality industry when they opened the hotel – just a clear vision based on their backpacking experience. “We can identify with the needs of the millennial traveler. The best feedback is when a hard-core traveller says: ‘You think of everything,” says Ville.
– Opened August 2014
– 20 single, twin, and double rooms
– Design by Studio Puisto
The new president
“Seriously cool” is a phrase rarely associated with the Original Sokos Hotel Presidentti – but that’s about to change. The iconic Helsinki party hub is in the midst of a top-to-bottom makeover by Paola Suhonen, the multitalented artist behind the edgy Ivana Helsinki lifestyle brand.
“Finland can’t compete with five-star bling, so we have to be brave. Travellers who’ve seen it all want something surprising,” says Suhonen.
“The Presidentti has a cool aura. I wanted to reawaken its colourful history with something more experimental than a fresh set of drapes. The new concept is story-driven,” she explains.
Collaborating with design agency KOKO3, Suhonen is redesigning nearly 500 rooms on five floors, each with its own Finland-inspired theme. Currently halfway, the project is scheduled for completion in 2018. “Each floor is unique. When you step out of the lift, you enter completely different worlds, from a winter blizzard to a midsummer party,” says Suhonen.
Original Sokos Hotel Presidentti
– Renewal to be completed in 2018
– 483 rooms
– Design by IvanaHelsinki
Swimming in the sky
“Standing out” is something the newly opened Clarion Hotel Helsinki does effortlessly – if only by virtue of its vast height. The hotel is among Helsinki’s tallest buildings, offering spectacular views from its window-clad towers and transparent footbridge.
The Clarion Hotel Helsinki opened in October 2016 along with the Clarion Hotel Helsinki Airport. Together they mark the “Finnish invasion” of Norwegian billionaire Petter Stordalen, the Nordic hotel emperor infamous for his flamboyant opening-night stunts.
A passionate art collector, Stordalen favours contemporary art over conventional bling. Among the eye-catching artworks on display at the Clarion Hotel Helsinki are paintings by Sami Lukkarinen, including a giant pixelated portrait of author Sofi Oksanen in the lobby.
Under Oksanen’s watchful eye, a live DJ creates a clubby atmosphere while guests unwind in Carousel armchairs by Yrjö Kukkapuro and zebra-patterned Tank chairs by Alvar Aalto.
“A great hotel tells a story. The Clarion Hotel Helsinki showcases references to Finnish design history – but we’re not a museum. We want our hotel to become a fun living room for all the people of Helsinki, especially after we open our new terrace bar this summer,” says Stordalen.
Clarion Hotel Helsinki
– Opened October 2016
– 425 rooms + convention centre
– Architect: Davidsson Tarkela Oy
Cocktails with Garbo
Smaller boutique hotels are finding alternative ways to catch the eye. By the fireplace in the lobby of Hotel Lilla Roberts stands a life-sized plaster horse that seems to announce: “Get ready for something different.” Coming straight from the horse’s mouth, it must be true: This unusual boutique hotel is like a slice of The Great Gatsby in the middle of Helsinki.
“We combine a historic look with a contemporary feel, translating Nordic cosiness into Art Deco luxury,” says the general manager Kati Jousimies.
The hotel resides in a 1909 building which originally served as a power plant and later as a police station. The Art Deco interiors take their cue from the original harlequin floor tiling in the lobby.
The Lilla e bar, the Krog Roba restaurant, and the summer terrace attract a lively crowd of neighbourhood locals, most of whom appear unaware they’re actually in a hotel.
In addition to organising creative theme events such as fashion shows, Halloween parties, and cocktail workshops, the hotel strives to delight guests with special Nordic details such as sea-buckthorn morning shots at breakfast and generous helpings of salted liquorice diamonds placed around the hotel.
“And the liquorice even matches the floors tiles! We try to add a million thoughtful little touches to make our guests smile,” she notes.
- – Opened August 2015
- – 130 boutique rooms
- – Design by Jaakko Puro
Text by Silja Kudel Photos by Ville Palonen and hotels
This article is published in the March 2017 issue of Blue Wings.