Design Feature #04

Everything You Need & Don’t

Ace Hotel

Written by RMM
Photos by © Ace Hotel

What is a ‘hotel’? For some, it’s just a place to spend the night before another day of intrepid traveling – a home base of sorts, to explore the city. A room amongst many rooms, filled with familiar but faceless people who return to the same place to sleep every night.

Ace Hotel on the other hand, prides itself as a “collection of individuals”. Praised as the “#1 Best Hotel” by Casa Brutus, one of Japan’s foremost interior design and architecture publications, its founders never sought to reinvent the hotel, but to bring out its human qualities in a fresh and energized way. A hotel for the 21st Century modern traveler. A space where a real, fluid community exists. In short, Ace Hotel was built for the people. It goes against service for the sake of service and instead invokes the hospitality code from days gone by, where genuine concern for others’ well-being was paramount.

Ace Hotel New York

Ace Hotel celebrates a certain kind of slow lifestyle that’s increasingly popular with hipsters and kindred spirits who need a break from the highly commercialized everyday grind.

Its online presence is friendly and personalized – images are artfully dropped across the page, imitating a handmade scrapbook. Think a mix of still ‘Polaroids’, Kodak moments and quirky futuristic ‘moving-stills – it’s past meets present meets future all in one. And that’s what each Ace Hotel really is.

Its flagship Portland location was established in 1999 and seemed stuck in a time bubble. With heartfelt philosophies about what hospitality really was, it was in a sense alienated from its chain hotel counterparts. Yet, its savvy aesthetic sense and strong brand story was nothing but ahead of its time.

Each of their 7 locations (as of July 2014: London, LA, New York, Palm Springs, Portland, Seattle, Panama) has been styled and furnished to reflect the property’s location and history, and often tries to ‘re-imagine’ and ‘reinvent’ the space for a younger crowd. For example, London’s Ace Hotel lies on the site of the original Shoreditch Empire music hall. Other Ace properties occupy old, iconic hotels or restored heritage buildings. We don’t need to stay in a refurbished piece of history, but there is something inexplicably compelling about being in and being seen in a space that’s full of worn (but inviting!) leather chairs and the heady scent of locally roasted coffee beans.

Ace Hotel Portland

Ace Hotel London

Ace Hotels have a formula, albeit a seemingly haphazard one that was championed by its late founder Alex Calderwood. He has an amazing knack of adapting each new property to its surroundings. As business collaborator and Wieden+Kennedy creative director, John Jay said in an interview to Fast Company, each Ace Hotel made “you feel like you’re a guest in the neighbourhood”. This additional layer of complexity in each hotel seems counter-intuitive at first, but by incorporating local favourites in the property – the Portland Ace has coffee sourced from local roaster Stumptown, the London branch has local business like Tokyobike and That Flower Shop in the building itself – Ace Hotel allows people and neighbourhoods to mix together.

And despite criticisms that the hotels are a prepackaged appropriation of hipster counterculture, Ace Hotel still stands as at the frontrunner of redefining how people sleep, eat and shop. Perhaps that’s why everyone wants to sleep with Ace Hotel.

Ace Hotel Palm Springs

Ace Hotel Panama

Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles

Ace Hotel Website: www.acehotel.com