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.
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.
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.
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