Beneath the generous shade of a verdant canopy in the heart of Buenos Aires sits a feat of design that provides a sleek home- away-from-home for design-savvy visitors to the enchanting South American city. An eco-friendly urban refuge of a mere 17 rooms, Home Hotel welcomes its discerning guests as if they had always lived within its cosy designer perches.
There’s music coming from somewhere – perhaps a window opening out onto the street or a doorway left slightly ajar, or maybe a nearby cafe. The beat that emanates from the unknown is an infectious Latin rhythm; one that captures your feet with its irresistible cadence. Basking in the early morning sunlight, I look around at the other pedestrians, mostly locals, wandering this particular street in the heart of Buenos Aires. But the magic of the moment seems lost on them – perhaps because it’s part of their everyday. To me, a wide- eyed visitor setting foot in the city for the first time, it’s a sheer delight.
Buenos Aires is a charming mix of the world’s most enchanting cities – a touch of New York mixed with a dash of Paris, a hint of New Orleans and a pinch of Barcelona, with glimpses of many others in between. As I round each corner on my wanderings through the city, flashes of travel nostalgia run through me, making me feel like I’ve known Buenos Aires forever.
A beautiful constant of the summer here is the dancing carpet that lines the streets, composed of the rustling shadows from the foliage above. The verdure that imbues the city is breathtaking, and forms a cosy canopy overhead with ample shade offering respite from the shining summer sun. My temporary residence in Buenos Aires is Home Hotel, which sits unassumingly on Calle Honduras in the chic suburb of Palermo Viejo. Blink and you might miss it (in fact my cab driver did, twice), this boutique hotel framed picturesquely by greenery is a design delight in the heart of one of the city’s most fashionable neighbourhoods.
Named Best New Hotel by Wallpaper* in 2007, Home Hotel possesses a vibe so welcoming that you feel as though you’re staying exactly where the name implies. That is, if your home were a cosy 17-room shrine of design adorned with vintage European wallpaper and the coolest retro Scandinavian furniture. The idea for the hotel came to its stylish benefactors Patricia O’Shea (who grew up in Palermo) and husband Tom Rixton (British DJ and record producer) when they were arranging their wedding in Buenos Aires in 2002. With all of their friends flying in from around the world, the fashionable pair realised that there was no hotel in the city that suitably catered to their discerning visitors’ tastes. So they created a hotel (in what used to be a furniture factory) that embodied exactly the kind of designer refuge that they and their friends would want to retreat to whilst on holiday. An intimate, welcoming space adorned with impeccable design juxtaposed with the charm of vintage adornments.
The hotel’s greatest virtue is its personal touch, from the soaps crafted lovingly by local artisans, to the hand-tended flower gardens. The first boutique hotel in Buenos Aires to incorporate a sustainable side into its being, Home shyly reveals its greener tendencies through the smaller touches. Electricity cards turn off the power when your room is empty, and there are motion sensors in the common areas, so that the lights will never be on when nobody’s home. Custom-made reusable pump dispensers for toiletries reduce unnecessary disposal of plastics (the average hotel room otherwise discards six small plastic bottles per guest). And then there’s the hotel’s enviably efficient recycling scheme, which gives a second lease on life to everything from kitchen fats and oils to TV remote batteries and plastic bottle caps. The neighbourhood of Palermo Viejo is polished but pulsating with creativity. Artfully fusing the old- fashioned with the contemporary, the barrio is full of beautiful ageing French-style townhouses now home to design studios, quaint little boutiques and cafes. Known as a gastronomic centre of Buenos Aires, Palermo Viejo is home to endless restaurants of all tastes and budgets.
Returning from my early morning sojourn through the neighbourhood, I wander back into the hotel’s airy lobby. Smartly dressed guests mill about, reading books in the lounge, tapping into the WiFi on their iPhones or chatting animatedly with the charismatic staff. I return their welcoming smiles and stroll through the lobby to the back of the hotel, where the bar and restaurant are located. As I sit down to breakfast on the outdoor deck that looks out onto the lush garden, all feelings of being in a big city vanish. I am surrounded by greenery and flowers; the water from the pool laps lazily against the sides, nudged seductively by a gentle breeze.
The few guests seated nearby are of all kinds. Dapper young men seated poetically in a Byronic manner, penning furiously in journals or immersed in books. Young couples deep in conversation over tempting liquid fruit concoctions. Breakfast (made from local ingredients and inspired by the cooking of Patricia’s grandmother) is an artistic affair served with the same discerning hand of design that has brushed over the entire hotel. Freshly baked bread served with chocolate butter, fresh jam and perfectly scrambled eggs (served in a glass), sit alongside creme caramel and a shotglass of exotic melon juice, followed by a steaming pot of herbal tea or a fresh espresso.
After breakfast, I’m enticed to try out the hotel’s spa, located in the base of the hotel. As the lift bounces delicately to stop at the basement level, the doors slide smoothly open to a divinely scented refuge accented by the soothing tones of exotic world music. I’m led into the massage room, where the intimate light of flickering candles dances around the walls. The menu of massages on offer is vast, but my travel-weary muscles beg me to select the most vigorous. I settle down onto the sunken massage table on the floor in the middle of the room and close my eyes in relief. If only home were truly like this.