Up to recently, small-scale lodging options were largely limited to inns and motels with fraying upholstery, annoyingly thin walls, and impressive collections of tchotchkes. For a luxurious experience, you needed to go bigger. But lately, a new breed of hotels featuring small, inexpensive rooms is escalating to serve the ever-expanding tourism industry. That's right—those in the hospitality business have been embracing the smaller-is-better trend. And though some have only four units, don't confuse diminutive properties with rentals. These are professionally run, and come with the hotel perks and services we all love. Whether you desire a full-time concierge, rooftop pool, or posh cocktail lounge, these petite and artisanal establishments deliver.
Location and a connection to community distinguish each of the following seven hotels, all of which offer a strong sense of place, both outside and in. Size doesn't matter when it comes to these design-savvy hotel rooms.
1. Little Island Lighthouse in Norway
Norway's Little Island Lighthouse lies 300 steps above sea level in perfect solitude. With a breathtaking view of the islands of Lofoten, the old European lighthouse makes whale-watching and gazing up at the Northern Lights a daily routine. The accommodations come with a guest library and two bedrooms that can each sleep three. In addition to watching the pods of Orcas break the surface from the cliff, a stay in this lighthouse also means exploring the island's underground caves.
2. Tcherassi Hotel+Spa in Cartagena
After an extensive renovation, this 250-year old colonial mansion springs to life in the heart of Cartagena's old city in fashion designer Silvia Tcherassi's first hotel. With seven unique rooms and suites, the 1,200-square-foot Gazar room in particular offers the ultimate in opulence, boasting a private rooftop pool, sun deck and sweeping views of Cartagena, Colombia. The Tcherassi Hotel + Spa reignites the enchanted setting of a bygone era whilst providing all of the modern amenities that discerning travelers have grown so accustomed to. The Tcherassi Hotel + Spa is an oasis within itself; it is the perfect place from which to enjoy the vibrant colors and culture of Cartagena de Indias. They've used original wood and stone alongside her modern fabrics, and added accents like the vertical, 3,000-plant garden, three swimming pools, and an Italian-inspired restaurant.
3. The White Hotel in Ostuni, Italy
Travelers searching for a designer holiday home in Italy are sure to be enchanted with this white stone hotel suspended on a ridge overlooking the sea. The hotel's lobby is an intimate courtyard with stretches of plains and sky. White paint and brilliant sunlight unite its mix of Sicilian and Moorish elements. Not only is it strikingly designed, but it's located in an organic olive grove near the famously picturesque town of Ostuni. Its six generously-sized rooms sleep a total of 14 comfortably.
4. Longman & Eagle in Chicago
What these hotel rooms lack in size, they don't lack in substance, thanks to innovative designs and technology-focused amenities. Longman & Eagle has six rooms available for overnight stay, efficient and intimate offerings that seasoned travelers will appreciate when looking to immerse themselves within the fabric of a bustling urban enclave. Although the rooms come in various shapes and sizes, aesthetics, comfort and function are manifest throughout. Starting at $95 a night in Chicago's bustling Logan Square, Longman & Eagle is as affordable as it is aesthetic. The rooms present homages to the '80s in the form of tapes and cassette consoles, alongside Apple TV, custom beds, and complimentary Wi-Fi.
5. The 404 in Nashville
A new and innovative concept in travel, The 404 is an urban fusion between renting an apartment and staying in a hotel. There's no lobby except for the square footage surrounding an espresso machine, and you'll almost never encounter the onsite manager unless you need him. Privacy is at a premium at The 404 Hotel: the five loft-style rooms and common spaces are accessible via keyless entry to registered guests only. It's designed to provide discerning travelers with an urban oasis, a hideaway in plain sight, where they can linger in comfort day or night or use as a home base from which to explore all Nashville has to offer. Each room has a designated parking space, and "invisible service" allows guests to customize their visits. The area features a mix of modern and vintage furnishings, flatscreens, and rotating artwork.
6. Hotel Covell in Los Angeles
Storytelling is literally engraved into this compact hotel project's conceptual DNA. Each room portrays a chapter in the imagined life of George Covell, a bon vivant writer. Examples include his childhood in Oklahoma, his early years as a writer in NYC, and his starving artist days in Paris with his love, Claudine. Twenties-inspired Spanish design abounds at the five-room boutique property located above Bar Covell. Each room is accessible via an interior wainscot-lined, skylighted corridor and outdoor passageways that flank the building's exterior. Its charming personality is sure to impress any design aficionado.
7. Hotel Lautner in California
Taking up temporary residency on the quiet lanes of California offers the sort of civic intimacy that often eludes mere sightseers. This gem of a hotel tucked away in a secluded corner of Desert Hot Springs is everything you want in a vacation lodging—small, intimate, and sexy. Its distinctive design still feels luxurious, with enough subtlety to be tasteful but special enough to make a stay worth the price. If you appreciate the niceties of interior design, make an excuse to visit.