Hotel Vintage Portland

Christopher DeSantis • July 08, 2015

Few U.S. cities are so preceded by their reputations as Portland, Oregon, where the culture sets the stage for an alternative standard to everyday hospitality. Pebblebrook Hotel Trust sought to carve its own niche in the famously forward city with a redesign of the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants-managed Vintage Plaza Portland, rebranded as Hotel Vintage Portland—a reinterpretation of the brand established by its sister property, Hotel Vintage Seattle. For the redesign of the eight-story, 117-room site, the owner called again upon Seattle-based Dawson Design Associates (DDA), to reference the original property, but with an avant-garde quality all its own.

Vintage Portland lives in a historic building constructed in 1894 as the Imperial Hotel and later converted in 1991 to the Vintage Plaza Portland with what DDA’s CEO and art director Andrea Dawson Sheehan refers to as “the DNA of a traditionally conservative European hotel.” To reposition the property and capture Portland’s industrial energy, Sheehan based her design around a wine theme previously realized at the Vintage Seattle. 

“Both Oregon and Washington have a very strong winemaking industry,” she says. “We wanted to highlight what makes Oregon wine different and celebrate Portland’s grassroots art movement.”

In the lobby, light fixtures made from plumbing pipes hang over reclaimed oak flooring complemented by black metal detailing. A Google map of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, known for its wine production, was blown up and serves as a wallcovering, mirroring a rug in the adjacent atrium depicting an aerial view of the local vineyards.

The lobby’s Bacchus is a café by day and bar by night, with a lounge space highlighted by a sealed blackboard wall adorned by a Boston-based wine specialist with notes from his lectures, providing both an aesthetically pleasing and informative experience. Mingling the hotel’s wine and local themes, a backlit image of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, is playfully modernized in sepia tones with tattoos and nipple rings.

“Before, there was a fireplace where the bar is now,” Sheehan explains. “We dropped the bar right into the lobby to encourage an interactive experience fueled by wine tasting.”

A hand-wrought iron stair introduces a needed verticality to the lobby and helps the first and second floors appear as a taller, continuing unit with enough mass to lessen the impact of the guestrooms soaring eight floors above in the atrium. 

Converted from a small meeting space, a game room sits at the top of the stairs and features exposed concrete paired with walls clad in chalkboard paint and a local street artist’s graffiti-like installation of red and white wine. “We tore out the ceiling and exposed the mechanical to create an open quality in the game room,” says Sheehan. “The spaces were so confined, boxed, and boring. We wanted to open up the sight lines throughout the hotel.”

The 98 different layouts of the guestrooms are unified by elements also found in the lobby, such as reclaimed oak flooring and aerial-view carpets. Each room also includes a wood headboard inspired by the wagons that traversed the Oregon Trail, and a butcher-block-topped desk with galvanized legs. The top floor features a group of suites dubbed the Sky Lofts in reference to the building’s pre-existing sloped skylights. The bathrooms’ Roman tubs, also original to the building, are contrasted with theatric Parisian-inspired imagery.

“The whole space is an art installation,” says Sheehan. “We have funky twists everywhere, but there’s an approachable energy that entices the guest to stay and hang out.”