Here to stay

The Stay Hotels offers everything one could wish for over and above an indulgent night’s sleep in Istanbul – luxurious comfort, impressive views, authentic cuisine, local art and designer shopping. Better yet, the group’s at the vanguard of sustainability design in Turkey’s hospitality offering

Spending a few nights in September last year at The Stay Boulevard Nisantasi, The Stay Hotels newest establishment, was to be the second time in my life that, quite by chance, my hotel was directly adjacent to a Zara store. To be clear, I don’t seek them out as a prerequisite for where I choose to stay! Rather, it was a fortuitous coincidence, given my soft spot for the label’s menswear. The first was in Paris, at Hotel Le Placide, not far from the Left Bank’s Le Bon Marché. Like the upmarket Parisian neighbourhood, populated with French labels including Mariage Frères, Le Labo and Isabel Marant, the Nisantasi suburb is considered Istanbul’s fashion quarter, and every other store is a flagship for luxury brands including Louis Vuitton, Prada and Christian Louboutin. Little more than a block away from my hotel, in Abdi Ipekci Cadessi, is another of The Stay Hotels premises, The Stay Nisantasi, proof that the brand considers the neighbourhood hot enough to merit two properties. And directly across from where I’m staying, on the opposite side of Tesvikiye Cadessi, is City’s Mall, a nine-floor shopping complex that’s home to both Turkish and international fashion brands. In the heart of Istanbul’s sartorial quarter, with no shortage of desirable merchandise around me, one absence is noticeably felt. There’s no Uniqlo. Not here, nor elsewhere in the city.

Clockwise from top left: Bebek Hotel by The Stay’s waterside restaurant is not only the neighbourhood’s see-and-be-seen hotspot but has unrivalled views of the city’s Asian suburbs; across from The Stay Boulevard Nisantasi is City’s Mall, home to both local and international fashion brands; comfort with a view of the city’s iconic Ortaköy mosque from The Stay Bosphorus; breakfasts at The Stay Boulevard Nisantasi showcase local produce; dining at The Stay Bosphorus offers views of Istanbul’s bustling waterway.

When he gives me a tour of the neighbourhood, it’s chatting about this that helps breaks the ice between Dorukcan Koca, marketing director for The Stay Hotels, and myself. He’s young, fashion-savvy (equally disappointed by the absence of Uniqlo), driven and always on the job – he’s given up an evening with friends to introduce me to another of the brand’s establishments, Bebek Hotel by The Stay. En route to the hotel’s waterside restaurant (a see-and-be-seen hotspot) located in Bebek, one of the city’s most sought-after and affluent neighbourhoods, from the back of a taxi Koca tells me how he’s been with the company for what now equates to almost three years, his first day on the job being the day Turkey went into the pandemic’s hard lockdown. These have been some of the busiest years of his career, particularly 2022, which saw the launch of Boulevard Nisantasi mid-June as well as the brand being awarded carbon-neutral status by the internationally recognised sustainability specialist Bureau Veritas. The Stay Hotels is, proudly then, the first carbon-neutral independent hotel group in Turkey.

Above: The Stay Bosphorus is in the heart of the popular Ortaköy neighbourhood. At the water’s edge, the hotel is housed in a historic mansion built by the Balyan family, also involved in the building of the city’s must-see Dolmabache Palace.

“We’ve been sustainable and eco conscious since we first launched the brand,” Koca explains. “It’s about protecting and developing socio-cultural, economic and environmental values at all of our locations.” This value unites all five of The Stay Hotels’ unique properties, which number four in Istanbul (in Nisantasi, Bebek and Ortaköy) and one – The Stay Warehouse – in Alacati, on the Cesme peninsula. “Not a single tree was cut during the construction of The Stay Warehouse,” Koca continues. “Bricks from abandoned, century-old houses in Anatolia and the Black Sea region – all of which were destined to be demolished – were rescued and repurposed to create walls, and wood from these dwellings was upcycled into sun loungers and bespoke furniture.” Even the hotel’s pool has eco cred, its mosaic tiles created from recycled glass bottles.

At Bebek Hotel by The Stay environmental awareness differs. The historic hotel has attracted discerning crowds since its launch in the 1950s, until such time as it fell into disrepair in the early 2000s. In 2019, the property was purchased by the group, and Turkish architect and interior designer Mahmut Anlar was commissioned to update the interiors. Rather than discarding the hotel’s existing furniture, Anlar chose to evoke and preserve the history of the hotel by refurbishing original pieces including wardrobes, desks, lamps and bedside tables, upcycling them to fit comfortably into the 22 suites’ sultry, nautical aesthetic. Amidst the dark wood panelling, metallic fixtures and mood lighting, the decades-old furniture looks entirely at home.

Clockwise from top left: Entering The Stay Boulevard Nisantasi is a mesmerising experience, thanks to OUCHHH’s video-mapping art installation; bedrooms at Bebek Hotel by The Stay are sophisticated and nautical, with upcycled furniture and local artworks; the hotel – far right – can be accessed by car or by boat; the interior of the hotel’s restaurant pairs old-world glamour with contemporary Turkish art.

Supporting Istanbul’s local fine arts community is another of the brand’s values, once again the approach differing to best suit each hotel’s offering. It’s hard not to notice the arresting collection housed in the public spaces of The Stay Boulevard Nisantasi. Regardless of the number of times I’d previously stopped to admire it on my arrival back at the hotel, I found it impossible not to be mesmerised by the hypnotic AI video-mapping art installation by Istanbul-based creative studio OUCHHH in the entrance stairwell. Or to appreciate the giant fairy-tale-like canvas that presides over the jewel-toned breakfast room. At The Stay Bosphorus, waterside in Ortaköy and with breath-taking views of the Bosphorus from pretty much all rooms, art takes a backseat, the impressive views beyond all the canvas one needs. And at Bebek Hotel by The Stay, a happy median is achieved, with framed drawings, photographs and paintings – mostly figurative – commanding as much attention as the bustling Bosphorus beyond.

It’s the combination of finger-on-the-pulse locations, aesthetically pleasing art and design, and the knowledge that the hotel group is taking strides to become fully sustainable that makes a stay in any of The Stay Hotels’ properties so rewarding. Step out their doors and the city’s most luxe shopping neighbourhood awaits, or the sheer majesty of the iconic Ortaköy mosque and Bosphorus bridge stop you in your tracks. Who needs Zara or Uniqlo when the portal to Istanbul begins with The Stay?

words and production: martin jacobs
photography: courtesy of the stay hotels

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