Splashy boutique hotels are expected in tourist destinations like Los Angeles, New York, Miami, and Chicago. Now add Durham, North Carolina, to the list. Commune—the design firm behind the Ace Hotel’s outposts in downtown Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and Panama—was tapped by the Gentian Group, the developer, to transform a 1969 bank into a design destination.
Anchored by a burgeoning tech district, Durham is steadily undergoing change with a bumper crop of small businesses opening. Along with the 21c Museum Hotel by hot-shot interior designer Deborah Berke, and the American Tobacco Entertainment District, the Durham Hotel represents the luxurification of downtown.
Commune—which is headed by designers Roman Alonso, Steven Johanknecht, and Pamela Shamshiri—riffed on a laundry list of sources for the Durham Hotel’s concept, including Black Mountain College in nearby Asheville whose faculty included Josef and Anni Albers, Buckminster Fuller, and Alvin Lustig, among others; the Okura Hotel in Tokyo; and a list of the usual mid-century suspects like the Eameses. The punchy hotel hits you with its vivid color scheme, swanky space-age lounges, and sweet rooftop. Somehow it all works and the interiors are a fitting complement to the retro shell.
So Durham, North Carolina—top destination for 2016?