We're not sure if Home is the best new hotel in the world. Unlike the elite panel of international experts - including actress Jane Birkin - who judged the Wallpaper* awards, we haven't visited every new hotel in the world. But there's no doubt that Home is one of the best lodgings in BA, and that every gong slung at owners Tom and Patricia (he's English, she's Argentine) is richly deserved. They put three years of their lives into getting this place open, didn't cut any corners, demanded the best of everything, got lost several times in the jungle of Argentine bureaucracy, eventually hacked themselves out, and are now reaping the rewards and awards.
What else can we tell you about Home? The bar serves some of the best cocktails in town. The garden is Scandinavian cool under a South American climate. The room decor is playful and reflects the tastes of the owners: no playing it safe here (no boutique worth its salt tries to please all the people all of the time). U2 had after-gig drinks here (St Bono gets pretty frisky after a few Martinis). So did Franz Ferdinand. The Bush twins stayed here and behaved impeccably. Their entourage stayed here and behaved horribly. They seemed to be under the impression they'd landed in the BA chapter of their sorority. The pillows are still recovering. On Friday nights in summer, owner Tom (a former record producer) and guest DJs play retro party music in the garden. Drop in for this even if you can't get a room.
Home is our top pick too. The problem? You'll need to come in the bleak midwinter or else book six months ahead. The solution? Go somewhere else. It's not the only great boutique/guesthouse in town. Below are some thumbnails of our other faves, in no particular order.
1555 Malabia House
The genuises at Time Out Buenos Aires reviewed this in their 1999 first edition, listed below Howard Johnson and above Holiday Inn Select. Owner Maria is a visionary who saw the potential of Palermo Viejo several years ahead of her competitors. She's also a wonderful hostess with an eye for detail. Natural lights streams in from everywhere, colours are earthy, simple and soothing, the three mini-gardens bring a bit of Tuscany into town. All rooms have queen-sized beds and a/c. Guests are welcomed as if they were long lost siblings.
Bo Bo Hotel
Another award hamster (Condé Nast Traveller 'Hot List', etc), Bo Bo has been going strong for two years and looks like a stayer. The name, which stands for 'bohemian bourgeois', is meaningless and pretentious and therefore ideal. There are only seven rooms, each with a distinct design strategy linked to a modernist art movement - Pop, Art Deco, Rationalist and, er, Techno. What this means in practise is different colored pillow cases and less stuff in the Minimalist room. But they all look good, the 'Argentinian' suite has a big jacuzzi, the staff are beautiful and professional, and the breakfast is one of the best in town. Perfect location in the heart of Palermo Viejo. Try to book at least a decade in advance.
Five (Cool Rooms Buenos Aires)
Boilerplate boutique in some respects - pine flooring, chairs that look better than they feel, groovy gravel, enough bamboo to feed all the pandas in captivity. But it's got more than twice as many rooms as Bo Bo (17, not 5), an even better location, and, again, well-trained staff. If you've got a couple of hours to spare, take a look at the website.
Costa Petit Hotel
Only four suites, all stunning, with valuable antique gimcracks in every corner. But at 300 bucks a night for the best suite, you're kind of expecting to find the Hope Diamond stitched to your dressing gown. What you do get is a king size bed, Egyptian linen and a plasma TV. The website also claims that guests have access to a 'menu of pillows'. Not cheap, but you can't help but be seduced by the amount of blood, sweat and handcrafted cupboards that owners Diego and Eugenia have put into this place. We're still in Palermo Viejo.
Krista Hotel Boutique
And we're still in Palermo Viejo. Krista hovers in the gray area between cookie-cutter boutique and beautifully designed B&B. Rooms are nothing special but competitively priced - $100 for a standard with a 20% discount for cash payments out of season. Staff are friendly, verging on puppyish.
Soho All Suites
This part of Palermo Viejo is sometimes known as Palermo Soho, hence the name. Probably the best located of all BA lodgings for those who like to be in the thick of the action. Nothing hip about this place, it's a boutique for people who think boutiques are pretentious. As for the decor, Soho All White would have been a more apt name. To repeat: great location.
Describing itself as a 'Hotel Boutique Argentino', Finisterra then proceeds to sell itself short. The website says:
All of the spaces in the hotel are designed for your enjoyment. Inside, there is a sitting room with a fireplace to savor a glass of wine and a good book.
The same could have been said about Ben Cartwright's log cabin. But Finisterra is actually a fine looking place, even if everything has been ordered from Boutique Fittings Ltd. The main draw is the location, in Las Cañitas, yet another Palermo sub-barrio. Depending on your point of view this is either the hippest or the most soulless barrio in the city. We veer towards the latter, though it should be noted we are writing this article in socks and sandals and the dial has hit 35 degrees.
La Cayetana Historic House
Finally we're out of Palermo and back downtown. They're not shitting you with the name - the house dates back to the 1820s. Here's a boutique where the designers (Estela Fitere and Silvina Tarrio) have devoted more than 10 minutes and a few phone calls to their scheme. A perfect blend of restored original features (the mosaic floors, the high bare-brick ceilings, the free-standing tubs) and modern conveniences (Wi-Fi, etc). Another brownie point: they quote their rates with tax (a ridiculous 21%) and transfer included. At $100 for a Standard suite this is one of the few design hotel bargains in BA.
We've saved our personal favorite till last. Located in San Telmo, the Cocker (British owners Ian and Aidan have a pet spaniel named Rocco) is more gorgeous guesthouse than beautiful boutique but its design touches put most of its overhyped competitors to shame. Each of the five suites is unique and packed with character, using lush sweeping fabrics, restored antique furnishings and modernist twists to create a twilit, romantic ambience. But with only five rooms it must be expensive, right? Wrong. The best suite goes for $85 including tax and breakfast. Two other points. First, Ian and Aidan are possibly the nicest hotel owners in the world. They don't seem to understand that every so often you have to treat a guest like shit just to let off steam. Second, they import their breakfast tea from England. You won't appreciate the magnitude of this until you've tasted local tea.
This is by no means an exhaustive, or even a comprehensive, list. If you'd like our opinion on a place we've left out, please leave a comment and we'll get onto it.