The Award-Winning Concept
“Play Design Hotel is less a hotel but more of a small curated experience of an inhabitable design gallery.”
Play Design Hotel is a boutique hotel in Taipei with the unique concept: Let everyone use, touch, feel and live in a space showcasing innovative Taiwan designs beyond the showroom. This novel concept gave birth to an inhabitable design gallery carefully curated by Taiwanese artists with everything designed and made in Taiwan.
The design hotel is nothing like any other hotels I ever stayed. Quite frankly, it transforms the paradigm of traditional lodging. It is rather an innovative design lab than a conventional hotel. And that’s what makes Play Design Hotel special and stand out from the rest.
Also, I was impressed by the number of international recognitions the tiny designer hotel has been receiving. The original concept and creative designs have won many international awards:
2018 iF DESIGN AWARD Service Design/UX Category
2017 Radical Innovation Award, USA
2017 CONDE International Design Awards
2016 Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Award, USA
2016 IxDA Interaction Award
2016 Design Hotel of the Year – Luxury Travel Guide Award, UK
Recommended by Louis Vuitton City Guide Taipei
German Design Award – Nomination
>> Heading to Taipei? Be sure to read my Taiwan Travel Tips from a local resident’s perspective. I shared everything I learned in the past three years living in Taiwan as an expat.
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>> Pssst! Heading to Taipei? Read my Taiwan Travel Tips with everything you need to know before planning your perfect Taiwan trip. Also, see how you can add the city’s historical sites into your Taipei Itinerary, check how Taipei Old Town (Dadaocheng) became the city’s new hot place, and steal Taipei day trip ideas.
The location of Play Design Hotel Taipei is as smart as it gets. It is strategically located smack in the middle of Dadaocheng (Taipei Old Town) and Zhongshan (Youth Taipei), where the old meets the modern world.
To the West side of the Hotel is Dadaocheng, the Old Taipei flourished in the late 1880s to 1930s. The nostalgic neighborhood has been restored and revived its old glamor once again through the government-initiated Urban Regeneration project.
To the East side of the hotel is Zhongshan, Taipei’s fashionable youth district with designer boutiques, coffee shops and clothing stores. There is no shortage of places to eat and shop in this area.
The hotel is situated on Taiyuan Road. Taiyuan has long been a shopping mecca for designers and makers in Taipei to buy various materials from plastics to metals to wood. Because Play Design Hotel is where designers showcase their innovative living arts, it is not a coincidence to have a presence here.
Oh, and let’s not forget that Play Design Hotel is right around the corner of Ningxia Night Market. It only takes 5 minutes to walk to one of the best night markets in Taipei with three Michelin Guide food stalls. There is also a Wellcome supermarket and coffee shop across the street.
But don’t worry about the noise, which by the way is the essential part of Taipei life. While being near all of the actions, Play Design Hotel is in the quiet residential area, tucked away from the busy street.
How to Get to Play Design Hotel Taipei
The nearest Taipei MRT station is Zhongshan on the Green Line, which is only one stop from Taipei Main Station. From exit 3, it takes about 7 minutes on foot.
From Taipei Main Station
The hotel is also super close to the Taipei Main Station. It takes about 15-20 minutes on foot or 10 minutes on taxi without traffic. Based on my experience, a uber ride will cost between NT$70 and NT$220 depending on the road condition.
From Taoyuan International Airport
A taxi ride will cost around NT$1,200 (USD 40) with 10% surcharge after midnight. If you prefer to use public transport, take the Airport Express to Taipei Main Station.
Don’t be fooled by this unassuming facade. This designer hotel transformed in 2014 from an old hotel built in the 1970s.
Play Design Hotel
Play Design Hotel offers only five rooms (and often sells out quickly!). Each room has an entirely different layout and designs, filled with almost everything designed and made in Taiwan – except a few electronics.
With its manageable size, a friendly team efficiently operates the property. Once I checked in, one of the staff (Xaki) gave me the rundown of the hotel. The rooms display creative design products with many hidden functions that I would not have guessed how to use to its full potential. Every time she demonstrated products after making me guess what they are for, my eyes opened up and jaw dropped. (Explained below.)
501 Guest Selections Room
Imagine waking up to this view!
The Best View in the House
This 501 suite is not only the most spacious room but also has the best panoramic view in the house from the living room to the bedroom to the bathroom. Three large glass windows face the elementary school across the street. But instead of the school building, you see the lush greenery that fits right into a window frame like a painting.
This is the Taipei city view at night from the bathroom window. (Apologies for the reflection.)
Guest Designs the Room
However, what’s even more special is that the hotel lets guests choose the furniture and decorative items in the room. I loved playing the interior designer for a day. When I walked into the room, I loved how lovely “my design” came out! I instantly felt at home, probably because I designed the room the way I wanted.
During the booking process, I was asked to visit the website to design my room. The interactive website allowed me to learn more about the selections of furniture and accessories and to show how it would be displayed in the room visually.
From the furniture to lightings to small decorative items, I could tell the designers had put some serious thoughts into designing and crafting each product. It was beyond using high-quality materials. The design was impressively detailed and elaborate. One example is the tufted bench I selected that turned out to be carved wood, not tufted with buttons on fabric.
Another seemingly ordinary wood chair (left on the photo above) had a surprising function! It splits in half to accommodate two people and collapses for four. Hard to imagine? See my Instagram video later (I will post soon).
I selected this table (right on the photo above) double-functioned as a make-up console with a hidden mirror and organizer. I can use this at home, too!
I also got so fascinated by the bird lamp (on the makeup console above). The porcelain bird has a touch sensor; it changes light colors every time I pet! I tried to record this so many times to show you; however, whenever I pressed the record button, it wouldn’t change the color. It was almost like the bird refused to be tamed!
At the end of my stay, the only problem was that I wanted to buy everything I selected and more. I especially loved all the lighting selections Play Design placed in this room and at the reception office. I’m still contemplating which one to buy to bring back to the U.S.
Comfortable, Thoughtfully-Designed Space
At the end of the tiring day, good night sleep is what travelers want from their lodging. I give 10 out of 10 on the comfortable bed and warm bedding. The king-size bed was roomy for two adults to sleep comfortably. The light duvet kept me warm through the night. Also, scented essence oil and dispenser are near the bed for relaxing aromatherapy that will help you fall into a deep sleep.
Another thing I appreciated a lot was the location of A/C. I never enjoy the air blow right at my face while I sleep, which typically happens in a hotel room. Play Design Hotel rooms carefully place the A/C so that the air gets circulated well in the room while avoiding the direct blow. While I’m not sure this was all calculated, based on my impression of all the small details they paid attention to, I believe they intended so.
Spotless Clean Bathroom
If you have read my other hotel reviews, you would know how essential a clean bathroom is for me. I was so touched by how speckless Play Design’s bathroom was. I’m not just talking about the stranger’s hair strings. No water scums, no mold!
In Taiwan, it is challenging to keep the bathroom squeaky clean even at home. The humidity is easily above 80% every day. In this environment, you have to make extra efforts to maintain the bathroom dry and tidy to keep away from any mildew and mold.
I also enjoyed the provided toiletry here. The collection includes shampoo, conditioner, body wash and shaving cream by Cha Tzu Tang, Taiwanese skincare brand using all local ingredients from Taiwanese farms (e.g., locally cultivated camellia seeds). These are high-quality products you can find at department stores or the international airport.
As for the other standard toiletry you can find at all Taiwanese lodging, the hotel also provides hair comb, cotton swaps and pads, shower cap, shaver, and two toothbrushes and toothpaste, as well as plush towels. Since the room had almost everything, the only things I needed to use from my toiletry was body lotion and deodorant.
Other Amenities in the Room
Each room is equipped with a refrigerator and laundry washer/dryer (including detergent). Two bottles of water per day and Taiwanese sodas in the refrigerator are included free of charge. So try those unique Taiwanese sodas!
Play Design Hotel collaborates with Wang De Chuan tea (award-winning Taiwanese tea brand) and HWC Roasters (local coffee brand). It would be an excellent opportunity for you to try famous Taiwanese oolong tea or drip coffee on cute teacups in the room. By the way, I was impressed by how clean their kettle pot was (free of water scums). So go ahead, enjoy your morning tea!
Alternative Design: Naho Selections Room
Another option for room 501 is Naho Selections Room, curated by Japanese illustrator Naho Ogawa. If you are overwhelmed by the selections they have, you can choose to keep Naho’s choices, which will also save you the headache and NT$700 (USD20). According to the website, you will also receive a copy of Naho’s Taipei illustration book with some social engagement requirement.
↡↡ Why Stay in an Ordinary Hotel? Live in a Design Gallery! ↡↡
505 Maker Room
On my second night, I stayed at Maker Room. The theme of this suite is Taiwan’s manufacturing technology and industry. It features materials and tools to tantalize the creative minds – such as a 3D printer, driver bits and more – that oozes out the craft studio vibe.
Maker Room invites guests to play with all of the items in this room. Although I was super tired after a long travel day, I had to check out the letter-building stamps before going to bed. You know, how Chinese characters have so many strokes? This kit is designed to build your own characters with only six stamps.
If you enjoy outdoor activities, you will love to hear this. This room comes with a handmade bicycle and a skateboard. Guests who stay in this room have the privilege to take them out for a ride.
Compared to Guest Selections Room, the overall space of Maker Room is smaller. So are the bathroom and a queen-size bed. But I have to say; the efficient layout makes the room still big enough for two adults. And the bed provided the same level of coziness and comfort. The room also features comparable amenities like refrigerator, laundry, desk, etc.
503 MIT 3.0 Room
The MIT 3.0 Room is across from 505 Maker Room at the end of the hallway. Although I didn’t get to stay overnight, I got lucky to peek at it while the room was getting ready for other guests.
MIT – stands for Made In Taiwan – has nothing to do with the famous college in Boston. This room features a king-size bed and many traditional Taiwanese crafts, which are designed and made in Taiwan. In this room, the wooden bench and the tea table are my favorites.
502 Future Lab
Future Lab is quite a quirky room, although I didn’t get to see it in person. The more I read about the room, the more I got curious.
The theme here is “Ouroboros Organic Organisms of O in Taiwan.” To explain in plain English, Play Design Hotel invites Taiwanese designers to decorate this space with bio arts. The chairs are made of mold. The chandelier contains Norovirus in Petri dishes. Laboratory beakers replace coffee cups. Are you intrigued or intimidated?
504 Play Tea Room
If this room had been available on my date, I would have chosen to stay here because I love Taiwanese tea and ceramics. In this room, you can enjoy the award-winning tea by Eightyeightea and cute Taiwanese teacups. Play Tea Room with the zen atmosphere features a king bed.
Play Design Lab
The reception office features many exciting design products from a cloud chandelier (I’m obsessed with it!) to teapots, clocks, ornamental pins, etc. that you can purchase if you’d like. There is also a micro select shop exhibiting small decorative items that guests can buy. By the way, you can buy anything you like from your room, too, via the Hotel Website.
Can you imagine what this is? I guessed a pencil holder. Wrong! It’s a bottle opener.
This pineapple-shaped thing is a cleaning tool in a porcelain holder – cute & practical. Traditionally, Taiwanese homes used ostrich feather to dust. They are so soft!
Play Design Salon
Play Design Salon is a rentable event hall above the guest room floor. When Play Design Hotel bought a 40-year-old hotel building and recreated the space, they up-cycled some of the original pieces of furniture from the old hotel. Play Design Salon is the space where you can see those antique furniture and interior designs mixed with modern furniture, creating an eclectic yet retro chic space.
While the counter near the entrance is completely renovated with the contemporary industrial look and feel, the baroque-style round tables and chairs under the chandelier co-exist in the room. On the corner, the bright-orange dial phone on the worn-out aluminum cabinet screams retro.
Behind the steel-framed glass door, there is a private room. The glass window frames the skyline of the neighborhood behind a desk. Okay, the deer with dry flower decoration is a bit of random disposition, but I loved the idea of it. I have seen a taxidermic deer head on the wall of many Texas homes, but not the plastic deer with its antler as a flower vase. Why not?
Add-On Facilities & Services
While Play Design Hotel doesn’t have an in-house gym, guests can use the nearby SUNFISH Fitness Center at an additional NT$100 (USD4). Available in another building across the street, the fitness center features a swimming pool, spa, gym, as well as dancing studio and spinning studio.
The hotel created the area guide book and custom-designed map for their guests. This handy guidebook introduces both local and tourist hot spots in Dadaocheng and Zhongshan District. The numbers in the guide match that on the map, making it super easy to use. I used them for my trip and brought back as a souvenir. For a small hotel with five rooms, isn’t it really touching guest service?
If you want me to be nip picky, the only drawback of this hotel is that it doesn’t have a restaurant to serve breakfast or dinner. However, the hotel is near the Ning Xia Night Market and plenty of coffee shops and restaurants around the Zhongshan station and Dadaocheng. Play Design Hotel also provides a breakfast map with loads of affordable Taiwanese breakfast shops. It was not a dealbreaker for me as I usually prefer to explore the neighborhood anyways.
A few other things to consider before booking:
- All the rooms sell out quickly! Book as soon as your dates are confirmed.
- All reservations are non-refundable except natural disasters.
- The office is open 9 am – 6 pm with a 24-hour service line to handle any after-hour emergencies. Easy self check-in and check-out are also available.
↡↡ Ready to Experience this Design Gallery? Book Your Stay Here! ↡↡
I consider myself a smart traveler who always strive to find unique designer hotels that satisfy my desire for luxury and comfort while not breaking the bank. Play Design Hotel Taipei fits the bill.
The innovative concept of Play Design Hotel is flawlessly executed and managed by their team. Every small detail has been thought out to meet beyond the basic needs of the guests. The friendly staff made my stay extremely comfortable and pleasant. I truly enjoyed playing with the creative mind, designing my room, and living in the functional design gallery.
Beyond the creativity and comfort, the hotel’s killer location also makes it a perfect place to stay in Taipei. This boutique hotel would be an excellent home base to explore the Old Town Dadaocheng, other historical places in Taipei, and hip, youthful Zhongshan District.
Will I recommend this hotel? Absolutely! If any of my friends or family from the U.S. visit me in Taiwan, I will wholeheartedly pick this hotel for them.
Will I stay here again? In a heartbeat! The greatest part is that this hotel still has three other rooms with completely different design and personalities that I am yet to experience.
A big thank you to Play Design Hotel for making my stay possible. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.