New York Times
While sleek minimalism set the tone for urban boutique hotels in the 1990s, rustic elements are warming up the newest crop of small hotels. These trendsetters emphasize their sense of place through local themes, building materials, restaurant fare, entertainment or a combination of them all.
Minneapolis | The Commons Hotel
Near the campus of the University of Minnesota, the 304-room Commons Hotel telegraphs a geek-chic attitude with argyle wallpaper, a library with a book concierge on call and a banquette-ringed central fire pit, and Sudoku puzzles on room-service breakfast trays. The brick building, once a Radisson hotel, could pass for a dormitory, but the accent inside is on Minnesota, with walls of reclaimed barn wood, a photo mural of a birch forest in the restaurant and vintage black-and-white reels of university sporting events screened on an expansive video wall.
Rates from $199; (612) 379-8888, commonshotel.com.
Burlington, Vt. | Hotel Vermont
Locally owned and designed, this independent hotel aims to be modern on the surface but Vermont to the core. Its 125 rooms are stocked with blankets from Johnson Woolen Mills, Lunaroma bath products and Vermont Teddy Bears (on demand). Much of the building material, including oak furniture and flooring and marble in the bathrooms, came from within 600 miles. Until the hotel’s Hen of the Wood restaurant opens in late summer, guests can order breakfast, including polenta with fried eggs and wild blueberry pancakes, from the Juniper bar; it, too, features local ingredients in its “carbon-negative” cocktails. In a twist on recycling, the hotel keeps a fleet of refurbished bicycles from a local shop, the Old Spokes Home.
Rates from $229; (802) 651-0080, hotelvt.com.
Kennebunkport, Me. | Boathouse Waterfront Hotel
On the Kennebunk River, this design-oriented hotel, one of nine in the Kennebunkport Resort Collection, is poised to be a social setting for summer Mainers. David’s KPT, a 200-seat restaurant with river views, is run by the Portland chef and restaurateur David Turin; it features a raw bar and lobster in many variations, including pizza. Inspired by the area’s yachting and shipbuilding cultures, the hotel interior includes a front desk suggesting a boat hull and a lobby with blue-and-white furniture. The nautical colors continue in the 12 guest rooms, where beds are dressed in Maine-made Cuddledown duvets.
Rates from $229; (877) 266-1304, boathouseme.com.
Aspen, Colo. | Hotel Jerome
Managed now by Auberge Resorts, the oldest hotel in Aspen is, after a five-month renovation completed in December, also the town’s newest. The good bones that distinguish the 1889 hotel, like its brick facade and lobby hearth, remain, but there is more lavish decoration incorporating historic and modern Aspen. Vintage collectibles such as old mining equipment, typewriters and antique buffet tables mingle with overstuffed couches and nested cocktail tables in the lively Living Room lounge. Photographs, old maps and Western art underscore the mining-era theme, while generously proportioned rooms exhibit the frontier sense of elbow room.
Rates from $325; (970) 920-1000, hoteljerome.aubergeresorts.com.
Portland, Ore. | Kennedy School
This converted 1915 elementary school on Portland’s Northeast side recently added a literary-themed English Wing of 22 rooms, each devoted to a different book, ranging from “Tropic of Capricorn” by Henry Miller to “Beezus and Ramona” by Beverly Cleary. Contemporary artwork corresponds to the book themes. Kennedy School, with a total of 57 rooms, is part of the McMenamin hotel chain owned by the beer-brewing brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin, who specialize in reclaiming historic buildings. At this one, patrons can watch a movie in the old auditorium and drink at a bar in the former boiler room.
Rates from $115; (503) 249-3983, mcmenamins.com/kennedyschool.
Chicago | Hotel Lincoln
A former residential hotel dating to 1928, this year-old hotel opposite Lincoln Park pays tribute to a few of its past habitués. For example, there is the architect Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic domes were the inspiration for angular entry mirrors in each of its 184 rooms. The author David Mamet is referenced in Elaine’s Coffee Call, a coffee shop in the lobby that was named for the telephone operator who called the budding playwright nightly to inquire whether he wanted coffee or tea. The front desk was created by stacking 30 vintage dresser drawers from antiques shops; flea market art festoons the lobby walls. A hotel pedicab provides shuttles to the nearby beach, and restaurants on the roof and the ground floor take advantage of the organic Green City Market, held twice weekly across the street, May through October.
Santa Monica, Calif. | Oceana Beach Club Hotel
Newly remodeled to pay homage to its midcentury roots, this 70-room hotel ditched its bright Mediterranean colors in favor of sun-bleached shades of blue in the pool courtyard. The lobby now features ’60s-inspired furnishings, including geometric-patterned rugs and a mobile-like chandelier. Rooms evoke a beach house with floral pillows and lemon-yellow walls. The chef Josiah Citrin, a Santa Monica native known for the Mélisse restaurant nearby, has opened the more casual Tower 8 in the hotel, focusing on Southern California seasonal dishes.