The hotel I keep coming back to is this one in Tbilisi, Georgia. It’s almost worth paying a visit to the city just to stay in the Stamba; you could spend a very happy long weekend here without venturing much out of its environs.
I love it because it’s so unusual. Built in a 1930s Soviet printworks, it’s a top-class hotel and very comfortable, and does all the things the best hotels do, with great style and attention to detail. But it’s just so different.
When you first walk in, what strikes you is the way in which you can see right up to the roof, five storeys above. The architects have taken out all the floors, so you are left with a concrete structure of pillars and beams that feels very industrial and creates the impression of huge space. It is as if you are entering some sort of Modernist cathedral. But the hard edge is taken off by the plants that grow indoors like some kind of urban jungle. Sprouting from the basement (also visible from the entrance area) and in large pots, there are trees and shrubs that create a great indoor/outdoor feeling.
As you approach reception, you see huge banks of bookshelves, a theme that continues into the rooms, where there are book collections. What’s extraordinary about this is that the books are really interesting. We’ve stayed in the Stamba on three occasions, every time in a different room, and each one had its own books. None were books for looks. There were so many titles I would like to read here.
The books are complemented by vinyl. Again in reception, there are towering racks of records, and each room is equipped with a turntable, amp and speakers, and a small selection of LPs. We had albums by Sade and Shalamar, which seemed about right to create a holiday vibe. It’s a nice touch. As were the red push-button old-school phones in the room, which are surely a gag about the mythical Washington-Moscow hotline of the Cold War.
The rooms themselves are spectacular. They are enormous. It’s not often these days that you get big hotel rooms, unless you’re paying a fortune. The Stamba is not that expensive, at less than £200 a night, so the size of the rooms is really a treat. There are floor-to-ceiling windows, and balconies that look over a huge inner grass-covered courtyard that would once have been industrial but now has an outdoor cocktail bar. Floor-to-ceiling curtains, a huge walk-in shower and a large comfortable bed complement beautiful parquet floors, great patterned tiles and original modern artwork.
But if the rooms make you feel special, then so do the communal areas. The landings have giant-patterned floral wallpaper and you can look down or up through the entire height of the building. Look down and you see the greenery. Look up and you spy the bottom of a glass-bottomed pool that sits on the roof.
Downstairs at pavement level, there’s Café Stamba, a café, bar and restaurant that is open to the public and has become something of a hangout for those who live in Tbilisi. And there’s a good hotel shop and bookstore too.
Everything about the Stamba speaks of a quirky and unique approach. From the Hungarian artisan tiles made by Pataki, the liveried doormen and the graphic floral wallpaper by Georgian Maya Sumbadze, to the products in the bathrooms, the beautiful sinks, the nice brass rail on which to hang your clothes, the in-room cocktail tray and coffee machine, and the choice between AC and ceiling fan. If a great hotel is all about the details, then the Stamba passes that test admirably. The remarkable thing about it, though, is that this is done on an industrial scale here, in this unashamedly industrial building.
The Stamba Hotel is at 14 Merab Kostava Street, 0108 Tbilisi, Georgia; stambahotel.com, tel +995 32 202 11 99
Peter Howarth has been the style director of British GQ and the editor of Arena, British Esquire and Man About Town. Today, he is the co-founder and CEO of creative agency SHOW Media and the editorial director of Secret Trips