Discover these contemporary conversions that promise more than your average hotel stay...


- Maastricht, The Netherlands

Fusing the austere Gothic with chic modern design, Kruisherenhotel opens straight into the inner shell of a 15th-century monastery, one reason for its DesignHotels™ member status. The 60-room complex consists of the original monastery and a Gothic church, which now houses the reception area, conference rooms, a library, a boutique, a restaurant, and a bar.

Interiors are enhanced by features such as the stained glass windows and the stunning, authentic wall and ceiling paintings The combination of contemporary architectural design with age-old construction and detailing creates unique visual appeal.

Each room has its own individual character designed by notable designers including Philippe Starck, Le Corbusier and Ingo Maurer. In fact, the bespoke Kruisheren bed is custom-made by designer Henk Vos and Auping.

Cotton House Hotel

- Barcelona, Spain

Housed in the former headquarters of the Cotton Textile Foundation, this 19th-century building constructed in the neoclassical style is a beloved Barcelona landmark. Originally built by a bourgeoisie Catalan family when the textile industry was booming, the structure was refurbished in 2015 as it was transformed into Cotton House Hotel.

Acclaimed interior designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán honoured the building’s origins and preserved many original design elements including an imposing marble staircase, delicate parquet flooring and boiserie embellishing ceilings, and antique floors in some of the rooms. Of special interest is a suspended spiral staircase fixed from the metal frame of the upper floor. 

As well as original features and antique furniture – such as the shelving and the books in the library, you’ll also encounter rooms with names like ‘Taffeta’ and ‘Damask’ and a small salon with displays of cotton bolts where you can have your very own shirt made to measure.

Even the hotel bar, Bar Batuar, has historical significance as the name Batuar refers to the machine responsible for pressing cotton to eliminate all its impurities.

The Liberty Hotel

- Boston, USA

This hotel, carved out of an iconic 19th century jail, has interesting design credentials as well as fabulous folklore to impress guests. Built in 1851, the Charles Street Jail was a collaboration between accomplished architect Gridley James Fox Bryant, and Rev. Louis Dwight, a prominent Yale-educated penologist whose travels shaped his interest in and advocacy for prison reform. Renovated in 2007, the interior design reflects a commitment to authenticity with many playful prison references. 

The aptly-named restaurant, CLINK, has reappropriated jail cells as cosy nooks for dining and do not disturb signs are wisely worded ‘solitary.’  The lobby showcases the full view of the cell blocks now repurposed as restaurants and bars.

Across ‘The Yard’ and adjacent to a historical gallery of images and tales from the previous 150 years, a 16-storey tower houses 280 guest rooms with prison-themed décor accents such as throw pillows with counting-the-days etchings and vintage items such as cast iron keys from the original cell locks set in frames.

The Press Hotel

- Portland, Maine, USA

Former home to the offices and printing press of the Portland Press Herald, this tapestry brick and stone building was originally constructed in 1923. In 2015 the property re-opened in the city’s historic Old Port District as Portland’s first independent boutique hotel.

The property retains virtually all of the building’s architectural details, including its vintage exterior lettering and the newspaper’s City Room repurposed as the Inkwell Bar.

Original and recreated newsroom references abound, including thought-provoking quotes and occasional one-liners in the most unexpected places. A mosaic wall of letterpress printing blocks sits behind the reception desk and the lobby features tables emblazoned with Press Herald headlines spanning 150 years.

Taking inspiration from 1920s writer’s offices, each of the hotel’s 110 guest rooms feature a vintage-styled editor’s desk, while the corridors have vintage typewriters hanging on the walls, and the alphabet is playfully reflect on the carpet and the wallpaper.

Malmaison Oxford

- Oxford, UK

With an imposing 18th-century defensive stone wall entrance, Malmaison Oxford is unmistakably a former prison. Originally the site of Oxford Castle, dating back to the Norman era, HM Prison Oxford was built in 1805 and finally closed in 1996. It reopened as an intriguing hotel in 2005 and remains a Grade I-listed building with modern appeal.

The interior walls are painted with a yellow ochre limewash and burnished metal doors access row upon row of cells that have been transformed into luxurious suites, some combining two cells, with a third making an en-suite bathroom featuring a roll-top, claw-foot bathtub that sits under a peephole window with cast iron bars.

The original latticework staircases with crossover landings still connect the cells (guestrooms), and are now painted white, sporting cool glass panels as a feature balustrade. The textured brick walls have also been painted white to give extra light while arched ceilings remain an architectural feature.

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