The Art of Living: Hotel Chic at Home

Inspired Design Ideas from Glamorous Escapes

Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography courtesy of The Monacelli Press.

The alluring premise of “Hotel Chic at Home” is something any reader will understand—what if ordinary life could feel more like vacation?

On vacation, dinner might be arrayed outdoors for a view that you’ve journeyed hundreds of miles to see. A room might transport you to another, more genteel era. A serene moment might be found anywhere, from a swinging hammock, to a wrought-iron table in a garden, a luxurious bathroom oasis, or an intimate corner with a velvet wing chair. As travel and design blogger Sara Bliss has discovered, the experiences of adventure, freedom, sophistication, and calm that she has found in the world’s most unique hotels can be recreated on a personal scale almost anywhere.

Sara Bliss grew up living in Southeast Asia and Manhattan and is happiest when she is discovering a new place. Sara’s articles on travel and design have appeared in “Travel & Leisure,” “Town & Country,” “House Beautiful,” Yahoo Travel, and Refinery 29. Sara has written seven books including “Exotic Style: Great Ideas for Bringing Global Style Home.” She is the founder of the weekly travel and design site “, which has a devoted readership in over 180 countries.

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing Sara Bliss where she resides with her family in Manhattan.


VIP: The premise of your lovely book—”Hotel Chic At Home”—is what if ordinary life could feel more like a vacation. Elaborate on this theme.

Sara Bliss: I think we are all at our best when we’re away on vacation at a hotel. We are more relaxed and we tend to be happier. Part of that is being away from the stresses of your everyday life. Another part of that is the way hotels are designed to make you feel that way. There is a lack of clutter in your room. Boutique hotels are the best version of home. There is an emphasis on beauty and all of those things affect your mood. As a journalist who interviews many types of designers and high profile people I have found that there are so many people who are getting inspired by hotels. I love that idea of bringing something wonderful from your trip home other than a souvenir. You may recreate a happy experience at your home. One of the ways to do that is the design of your home.


VIP: You grew up living in Southeast Asia and Manhattan and I read that you are happiest when you are discovering a new place. Name a few of your favorite destinations and why. 

SB: My favorite hotel in the world is probably The Connaught in London. I just love the old world, classic look. It’s very, very British and elegant. It feels almost like you are staying in a private club rather than a hotel. You have your own butler. You get swept away in that whole fancy British experience and all the details are right. They use a lot of antiques in the suites. It really does feel like you’re staying in a glamorous London apartment.

In the states one of my favorites is The Chequit on Shelter Island, New York. It is an old Victorian property that has been revamped. I love what the owners did with it. They modernized it and opened up the spaces and did fun color blocking on the walls with gray on the bottom and pink on the top, which is kind of unexpected and very clean. They have a lot of vintage furniture there. It’s a beautiful example of how to modernize an antique space, especially Victorian architecture. It feels very fresh and it’s colorful and a very happy spot.


VIP: Share with our readers a few ideas to make a functional everyday space into a dreamy escape.

SB: Lighting is key. For me it is lighting and art. These are two things that have been a bit of an afterthought for me. But in a lot of hotel spaces they start with art and build a room around art, especially unique abstract art. Two examples in my book are at the Edson Hill Hotel in Stowe, Vermont. They used art to set off the color palette for the space, which is a very cool idea.

Another space that does that is the J.K. Place in Rome and Capri. There is a beautiful living space there where there is an oversized painting of black, red and white art that works with the whole palette, which is gray and white with some black. The designer uses black lamp shades, which dim light and make the space more sultry and alluring.

A lot of hotels are using intense colors and dark colors. I used this technique in my own space. I have a dark navy living room which was inspired by the J.K. Capri.


VIP: Boutique hotels seem to be gaining in popularity. Why do you think this is and what may our readers learn about boutique hotels that they may apply to their homes?

SB: Hotels used to be kind of cookie cutter anonymous places. There is something rather cold about those spaces. But people love spaces that are unique and beckon you in. Boutique hotels make the best of the limitations: enhancing dark spaces with bold pattern, color, and lighting or maximizing small spaces with smart furniture layouts and taking advantage of creative solutions conceived by some of the best interior designers working today.


VIP: Besides painting your living room navy, what other hotel design ideas have you used in your home?

SB: At the Palais Hotel in L.A. they do oversized framed artwork like a grid of Polaroid pictures of the neighborhood matted and framed. I did a mini version of this look with my son of our neighborhood and we framed it in an expensive frame. It was really, really fun and all of his favorite stuff—a comic book shop, the park, school, sports etc. are featured.


VIP: What decorating trends are you seeing in homes today that mimic hotel decorating trends?

SB: It’s a combination of traveling and bringing those ideas home and having visual access to a lot of hotels. You don’t have to travel to a place to get inspiration from it. People can love a hotel in Paris or Morocco or Hong Kong and recreate that design experience. One really popular design idea is the use of wood paneling done with wallpaper like they have done at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon.


VIP: In “Hotel Chic” you write that hotels are wonderful places not only to look for great design ideas, but for real-life design solutions. For example, I loved the library wallpaper found in The Pig Hotel in the Cotswolds in England. You write that the paper, which features a faux bookshelf lined with classics is so real that guests often try to grab the spines.

SB: Hoteliers have learned how to use siding to solve decorating design dilemmas like awkward spaces, cookie-cutter architecture, lackluster views or dark rooms. Hotels aim to book every room every night. We learn how to maximize a teeny room with smart furniture layout, how to enhance a dark space with pattern, color and lighting; or how to jazz up bland architecture with unique details.


Hotel Chic cover.jpg

“Hotel Chic At Home: Inspired Design Ideas from Glamorous Escapes” by Sara Bliss. Published by The Monacelli Press in New York, New York. Available on