When bling is not your thing: Inside Hong Kong's top boutique hotels

Story highlights

  • Want a respite from the bling of Hong Kong's five-star classic hotels? The city has plenty of boutique offerings
  • Often in prime locations, these hip hotels offer the latest in design, technology and local culture

Hong Kong (CNN)Hong Kong has some of the glitziest hotels in the world, all offering plenty of ways to live lavishly.

But if your tastes run to more understated comfort, you might want to skip the bling of the five-star classics and opt for something quieter.
Enter the city's many boutique hotels.
    In little more than a decade, the boutique hotel category has become a mainstay in the local hospitality sector, spurred by the rise of experiential travel or, as some might say, the need to stay in a place that will look cool in an Instagram photo.
    Boutique hotels are generally in prime locations, but the focus on design, technology and local culture gives them an in-the-know vibe.
    What they may lack in breakfast or a gym, they more than make up for with a "hip" style of comfort.
    That means attentive service and high-quality products such as artisanal bath products and sustainably sourced coffee.
    Here are four of the best boutique hotels Hong Kong has to offer.

    J Plus By YOO

    J Plus by YOO has been drawing artsy, stylish travelers since 2004, when it was called J Plus Boutique Hotel.
    Designed by French creative Philippe Starck, it was marketed as Asia's first boutique hotel. A rebranding and a HK$10 million ($US1.3 million) makeover in 2014 by Starck-owned design firm YOO Studio to celebrate its 10th anniversary has injected a new dose of cool into the Causeway Bay property.
    "Our aim is to surprise even the most jaded traveler," says YOO Studio design director Mathew Dalby.
    Guests are not only treated to a complimentary continental breakfast, afternoon cakes and evening wines, but also in-room shopping services and free 3G-loaded smartphones for the duration of their stay.
    A too-much-is-never-enough philosophy characterizes the décor, starting with a giant Renaissance-style portrait of a woman on the exterior façade.
    Inside, a spacious street-level lobby features framed glass panels inscribed with Chinese motifs of coins, dragons and bamboo.
    Boutique hotels: Niche work if you can get it
    There are industrialized multi-spotlights, cocoon-shaped cut crystal pendants and playful imported European furniture, from a Babette chair to a seat shaped like a golden hand and a rug covered in doodles.
    Loud fabrics are juxtaposed with artwork by local and international artists, some of which are available for purchase.
    The 32 rooms and 24 suites are also eclectic. Styled in four different bright hues -- pink, tangerine, yellow and blue -- they include plush handcrafted cowhide carpets and more Starck-inspired furniture.

    Tuve

    Practically hiding in plain sight behind a narrow, dark façade, Tuve is the perfect hipster hotel -- starting with its location.
    The 66-room property is in the laidback, up-and-coming neighborhood of Tin Hau on Hong Kong Island's eastern side, which has a rich history as a fishing district.
    Close enough to bustling Causeway Bay and Victoria Park, the area has moved at a slightly slower pace than its hectic neighbors, and feels distinctly "local."
    "It makes for an ideal choice for those wanting to experience a lesser known side of Hong Kong," says managing director Pauline Tsang.
    The entire hotel is a lesson in modern minimalism and industrial chic.
    Raw materials, from marble and concrete to oxidized metal and sandalwood, define most of the discreet design, along with clean lines, clever lighting and all-white hallways.
    "We wanted to create a calming, parallel universe," says Tsang, "so that once guests come in, they can forget about the outside world, and really try to switch off and reconnect with themselves. "
    But Tuve doesn't scrimp on comforts or social media plug-ins. Each room comes with all the modern conveniences, from natural skincare products by Fresh to complimentary Wi-Fi and a fully equipped smartphone with unlimited local and selected overseas calls.
    Unsurprisingly, it's the art, fashion and media crowd that loves the property.
    "They are drawn to the 'unique' factor we offer -- both in terms of aesthetics and the area we're in," says Tsang.

    One96

    Opened in 2014, One96 belongs to the National Hotels collection, a cluster of chic, small-scale properties that also includes The Jervois, The Putman and 99Bonham.
    The four hotels are situated between the business-oriented Central district and the trendy neighborhood of Sheung Wan, and offer unassuming luxury in, for Hong Kong, remarkably spacious quarters. They have all been created by different internationally renowned designers.
    For One96, Hong Kong interior architect Norman Chan was called to the task. The designer is known for his clean, minimalist style and rigorous attention to detail, and the hotel reflects that.
    Unbeatable views of Victoria Harbour at One96
    Each of the 36 full-floor bedroom suites feature soothing modern interiors, and pairs a neutral palette with brisk furnishing and thoughtful use of technology. Ground-to-ceiling windows afford plenty of natural light.
    Choose a penthouse floor, and you'll wake up to the breathtaking sight of Victoria Harbour.
    Rooms include a bedroom, a lounge and dining area, with a thoughtfully equipped pantry. Each comes with a private lobby, serviced by an exclusive lift, giving it the feel of a secluded apartment in the middle of one of the world's most hectic and crowded cities.
    "Our rooms are like the swanky home you've always dreamed of," says guest relation supervisor Kary Ip.

    The Pottinger

    Forget modern high-rises and up-in-the-sky penthouses: The Pottinger brings you back to 1950s-era Hong Kong.
    The 68-room property in the heart of Central sits on one of the city's oldest pebbled streets, Pottinger Street, and is framed by century-old tenement buildings.
    Because of its location, the design "pays homage to the surrounding heritage," says hotel manager Gina Tam, "playing with the 'east-meets-west' aesthetics Hong Kong was built upon."
    That has translated into colonial touches like Art Deco-inspired western furnishings and oriental details in the form of Chinoiserie, paintings of plum blossoms and cutout doors in traditional motifs.
    The artwork is by the photographer Fan Ho, who spent the 1950s and '60s taking gritty and beautiful street photos of Hong Kong. The Pottinger partnered with the late artist's estate when it opened in 2014, hoping to give his pieces a permanent home.
    But it's not just Hong Kong's past that's on display: hotel features include complimentary smartphones, Acca Kappa bathroom amenities and huge marble bathtubs. Think old world meets contemporary luxury.