Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on January 5, 2009
Wallpaper calls it: “rock n’ roll bohemia”. Architectural Record opts for: “austere modernism, organic forms and a dab of street culture”. “Superaesthetic barrack, with an in-the-know economy of style” shouts Time magazine. From the NY Times: “At the country’s most original hotel…God is in the details”. And finally Tablet exclaims, “The new breed of budget boutiques…hotels whose idea of cool has nothing to do with what’s in design magazines,” which is somewhat ironic, given design magazines are gaga over Portland’s Ace Hotel.
Believe when I say the Ace Hotel is ace. Built in 1912, the hotel used to be called the Clyde. New owner Alex Calderwood wanted to retain the building’s historic character while “marrying it with clean lines to create a warm minimalism”. Calderwood commissioned local artists, many who’d worked with Portland bands like the Decemberists, as well as internationally acclaimed graphic designers like Kenzo Minami who has collaborated with Colette and Ernest Sewn, to create murals and artwork in individual rooms and public spaces. The result is “elegantly disheveled yet uncluttered, comfortable and bohemian” with not two rooms alike.
While the lobby is “distinguished by lovingly restored original wood-paneling”, the bedrooms are really where its at. Standard rooms consist of beds made from 100% organic natural rubber latex, which feature “special ‘softboards’ covered in vintage olive green canvas culled from recycled army ponchos”. The army theme continues with reconditioned field desks or long tables made from salvaged timber serving as guest work spaces. A stack of second hand books atop an apple box becomes a cool bedside table, while US mailbags have been requisitioned as laundry bags. Brilliant. Prices range from giant deluxe rooms complete with Music Hall record players ($250 a night) to “band rooms” with bunk beds and shared bathrooms ($95 a night). To get around town, the hotel offers Dutch made Jorg & Olif retro bicycles.
Despite all the superlative adjectives and linguistic hijinks from the international press, I think a guest said it best when he/she said: “Ace is everything you need, and nothing you don’t”.