You don’t have to be a Buddhist to believe in reincarnation. These hotels are living proof that a change is as good as a rest(oration). All eight of the now-stylish stays below started as something very different, from a schoolhouse to a ghost town to an embassy and more…
1. Washington School House, Utah
The clue’s in the name: in 1889 it was built as a school – ‘one of the finest in the territory’ according to the local paper – and named after the original George Dubya. Nine years later it survived a huge fire, but succumbed to the stock market crash in 1929 and was sold. Cut to 2011 and blackboards have been replaced with flatscreen TVs, desks with invitingly curl-uppable-on sofas and the canteen with a private chef for hire. And instead of a playground, there’s a mountain’s worth of Park City ski slopes to entertain you. We’d happily be sent for detention here any time.
2. Cap Rocat, Mallorca
Not to put too fine a point on it, but a stay here is a stay in a real-life, actual goddamn fort. Yep, we’re talking drawbridges, bunkers, turrets, archer’s windows – the lot. Not that you need to worry about invading hordes anymore, your peaceful Palma Bay setting gives seclusion in spades. That, and second-to-none sea views.
3. La Purificadora, Puebla
Chances are, you’ve never gasped in awe at a water-purifying plant. But then not many water-purifying plants have been given a wow-worthy makeover and turned into a heart-stealing hotel that our reviewer described as: ‘The architectural equivalent of a shot of tequila: momentarily overwhelming, but ultimately makes your weekend go with a bang.’
4. Dunton Hot Springs, San Juan Mountains
Once upon a time, these none-more-Wild-West buildings made up an entire mining town (possibly of the one-horse variety) and now, even having been brilliantly boutique-ified, you still expect an Ennio Morricone string section to soundtrack your every move. Accommodation options range from the old town store to a host of traditional wooden cabins, or even a jazzed-up frontiersman’s tent, and the only things to remind you that you haven’t gone back in time are the touches of luxury, winning service and the very mod-ist of cons. Yeehaw.
5. Saint James Paris
Inside: a centre of learned excellence for some of the country’s brightest minds. Outside: the first ever hot-air balloon airfield. Only a Parisian pile could have a history quite so, well, Parisian. Today, as a sort of château-in-the-city, it wears its eccentricities with pride – a muddle of colour-punch decor courtesy of interiors queen, Bambi Sloan – with plenty of nods to its academic and aviation pasts. So much so, that an afternoon balloon ride-cum-philosophy discussion never seems entirely out the question…
6. Das Stue, Berlin
Built in the 1930s as the Royal Danish Embassy, Das Stue has since swapped diplomacy for designer decadence. Here, without even leaving the building you can expand your waistline in style with a 25-course tasting menu at the Michelin-starred Cinco restaurant, swot up on all things artsy in the library, go clubbing til the wee hours, refresh at the Alpine-accented spa and spy on some exotic neighbours at the next-door zoo.
7. Samode Palace, Jaipur
Hands up if you’ve ever fancied yourself as royalty? At Samode Palace, you’ll feel as if you are – until you leave, at least. This truly astonishing walled wonderland on the outskirts of Jaipur was once home to the ruling maharajah, and guests today get similarly regal treatment. If you can stop yourself marvelling at the opulent interiors, marble-lined pools and cinematic setting, head beyond the walls for sand-dune dinners, camel safaris and elephant polo to keep up that royal pretence.
8. Hôtel Crillon le Brave, Provence
‘Hotel’ is a little misleading – Crillon le Brave is half a village: a charming cluster of honey-hued buildings pretty enough to get Vincent Van Gogh reaching for his paintbrush once upon a time. Though renovated to exemplary standards, it remains a study in Provençal perfection – a panoramic pool and a restful spa the only additions to the centuries-old draws of sweeping valley views, Chateauneuf du Pape vineyards and some of the finest food in France.
All hotel images have been altered (sadly, we couldn’t cast a real fire-breathing dragon for a photo shoot). Images via managements