Over the last few years, luxury brands have increasingly recognised the potential of creating their own signature hotel accommodation. The perfect market in which to sell a lifestyle, guests – a lucrative and captive audience – are cocooned in total brand immersion.

Nobu Hospitality, the holding company for the eponymous Japanese ‘celebrity’ restaurant chain, joined the party last year, with the opening of its new $30 million, 181-room establishment, right on the Las Vegas Strip. The hotel comes complete with a restaurant inspired by chef Nobu Matsuhisa, who has collaborated with long-time business partner Robert De Niro and film producer Meir Teper on all 26 of the acclaimed Nobu restaurants.

The group’s foray into the branded hotel arena is only the first step in what amounts to an assault on the luxury lifestyle segment, with imminent openings in Miami and Riyadh, and developments already well underway in London, Bahrain, Manila and Chicago.

So, why the diversification? Nobu Hospitality Group chief executive Trevor Horwell says an epiphany occurred when the rise in popularity of hotels that boasted Nobu restaurants was noted.

"We realised we were building other hotels’ brands, when what we should be doing is building our own," says Horwell. "We want to convert anybody who walks into a Nobu restaurant for ourselves."

Knowing the Nobu brand

Nobu co-investor Meir Teper was initially approached by Caesars Palace president Gary Selesner to create a Nobu restaurant in the hotel. "I told them I had a better idea," says Meir. "Since we were planning to do Nobu hotels, why not do a hotel and restaurant at the same time?" This turned out to be an especially congruent move for both parties, as Caesars recently repositioned itself as an upscale brand, and joining forces with Nobu lends it increased visibility as well as credibility.

David Rockwell, the project’s award-winning and prolific lead designer, also created the first Nobu restaurant, so he knows the brand intimately. "We’ve had many years with Nobu Matsuhisa and his partners to develop an idea of a hotel that used very simple, very authentic ingredients, just like the food," he says.

Nobu Hotel has been fashioned out of Caesars once-aging Centurion Tower. What was previously a boxy, and rather non-descript 1970s block has been completely gutted to make way for a whole new concept in Las Vegas hospitality. "The spaces were tightly defined," says Rockwell.

"We were intrigued by finding a way to take Nobu’s sense of informal luxury and, with a series of relatively small spaces, craft something that shares Nobu’s DNA."

Seeking to make the hotel a sophisticated and luxurious destination for "style-makers and trendsetters", the theme follows a Western-Japanese fusion of natural materials, and matching textures and patterns. All 181 rooms and suites – ranging from a one-bed at 1,000ft2 to a generous, 3,500ft2, five-bedroom accommodation – are designed with maximum comfort and simplicity in mind, a sophisticated move away from the Strip’s usual bling. As Matsuhisa says: "Hotels must be comfortable. It’s all about details: for me, a hotel has to be like my master bedroom."

So guests enjoy generous standard rooms, with lounge areas boasting coffee tables and L-shaped sofas, complete with Japanese-style pillows. Rockwell’s colour palette is cool cream and brown, complementing the hand-crafted calligraphy above the beds. Natural elements, including teak, oak, fir and hemlock, create an earthy ambiance, combining with artwork from up-and-coming Japanese artists.

It’s a Zen vibe: calming, sophisticated and peaceful. Even the carpet has rake-like texturing to create the effect of a gravel garden. "We took the notion of simple patterns and natural landscapes," says Rockwell. "[It is] very simple, but is hopefully an oasis of Japanese warmth."

Indeed, customary hot tea and rice cookies from Matsuhisa’s hometown of Saitama are delivered to guests after check-in.Vegas is hardly known for its designer hotels, so Nobu at Caesars might start a trend in the gambling mecca. Morgans Hotel Group, arguably the original hotel lifestyle brand, has also got in on the act, opening Delano Las Vegas at the beginning of September.

Bulgari and Armani hotels

Of course, luxury brands trying their hands at hospitality is not entirely new. Bulgari’s first foray into the hotel industry in 2004 in Milan came about through a collaboration with Marriott’s luxury division. The group has since added to its portfolio, with properties in Tokyo, Bali and now London, and a 2018 opening is confirmed for Dubai.

Bulgari Hotels and Resorts executive vice-president Silvio Ursini sums up the strategy: "Hotels are a great way to showcase the design identity of a brand, and to project a lifestyle that goes beyond products." Guests can peruse a Bulgari catalogue in each room, and room counts are strictly limited to ensure exclusivity.

Jason Harding, regional general manager at Armani Hotel Dubai, agrees: "A hotel is an entity that goes beyond the confines of fashion. It’s something that will endure."

Indeed, Armani leapt into bed with Emirates-based Emaar Properties to open its flagship hotel in Burj Khalifa, Dubai, in 2010. Eleven stories of the world’s tallest building embody the Armani lifestyle: cool, chic and sophisticated. The Burj’s Y-shaped floor plan means that each room is unique. Curved wall spaces are lined with luxuriant fabrics and leather, with antique bronze and two-tone silver metal coatings a continuing theme throughout the hotel.

"The result is a property that feels bespoke, from the Eramosa stone floors, zebra wood panelling and fabric covered walls, to the scents of the bath and spa accessories. The hotel brings to life Giorgio Armani’s dream," says Marc Dardenne, Emaar’s CEO.

Starck proposition

Philippe Starck straddles both camps. As a product designer and one-man brand, designing everything from furniture to bicycles, his name has become a licence to print money. However, as an interior designer, he is also often credited as the man responsible for creating the boutique aesthetic, following his collaborations with hotelier Ian Schrager in the early 1980s. His work with French boutique brand Mama Shelter have traded heavily on his involvement, with properties now open in Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux and Istanbul.

Openings in West Hollywood, Berlin and Lille are also on the cards. Backed by Club Med moguls the Trigano family, Mama Shelter’s ambition for the first hotel in Paris back in 2008 was to "create not only a place to spend the night, but also to establish a modern kibbutz, a laic monastery, a place where friends can gather around the table to share a meal prepared by our chef".

Versace was ahead of the curve in 2000, creating the Palazzo Versace on Australia’s Gold Coast. Marbles, mosaics and vaulted ceilings hark back to a golden era of Italian craftsmanship. Construction is still ongoing for the Palazzo Dubai, a Versailles-like edifice that is breathtaking, even for Dubai.

The rise and rise of the luxury brand hotel shows no sign of abating, proving there’s no recession for the super-rich. Whether you’re a guest at one of these luxury boutique hotels, or remodelling your apartment, designer David Rockwell has some apposite advice: "Design is about expressing yourself. Embrace your own idiosyncrasies, what you’re passionate about. Don’t be afraid to take risks."