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Four Best Hotel Lobbies San Francisco 2001 -

To the tourist it's a place for arguments over check-in times and attempts to pronounce "concierge," but to the resident connoisseur the hotel lobby is an architectural constant as open to contemplation and criticism as a public statue or the latest skyscraper. We expect our hotel lobbies to be comfortable enough for relaxation, central enough for assignation, and striking enough for distraction, and to hell with the rest of the building. To wit:

Triton

342 Grant (at Bush), 394-0500

No hotel is more existentially fun than the Triton, home to many a visiting rock star and cutting-edge bohemian. The emblematic lobby is all done up in Disneyland shades of burgundy, bright orange, aquamarine, and violet. Red, yellow, and purple davenports are shaped like errant puzzle pieces, the carpeting resembles a large royal-blue backgammon board, and the blue and gold pillars are as undulant as a belly dancer's abdomen. A sweeping mist-blue mural of Greek temples and reclining goddesses decorates the back wall, and out front there's a comfy bench in primary colors for a bit of aesthetic repose.

St. Francis

335 Powell (at Geary), 397-7000

One of San Francisco's grandest hotels boasts a palatial lobby brimming with opulence, commerce, and distinguished phantoms (JFK and Elizabeth II among them). Pillars of green and black marble frame a dramatic foyer featuring comfortable davenports in burgundy and gold, a baroquely gilded ceiling, and an ornate old clock San Franciscans have been meeting under for decades. A dramatic marble staircase beyond leads up to a cozy mezzanine where you can sit in Asian-accented splendor and contemplate all the finery.

Hyatt Regency

5 Embarcadero Center (at California), 788-1234

The city's first atrium lobby is still as vertiginously stunning as the day it opened. Twenty stories of expressionistically angled, foliage-dripping balconies enclose a sleek central fountain topped by a four-story Charles Perry sculpture. Sunken sofas are strategically located for ideal contemplation of the in-house birds, the twisted flora, and the Buck Rogers elevators catapulting skyward, seemingly through the ceiling. Although the overall effect is cavernous and a little spooky, there's no denying the cool elegance of the place.

Canterbury

750 Sutter (at Taylor), 474-6464

Strolling into this cozy lobby is like entering the sitting room of some eccentric old duke. Suits of armor, massive urns, hanging tapestries, a cheerful little hearth, and a fresco depicting the pilgrimage of Canterbury highlight a space at once comfortable, serene, and cheerfully quirky. The lobby's soothing illuminations, classical music, and overstuffed ambience make it particularly welcoming after a long and wearying tramp among the moors of Union Square.

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