Graduate LincolnWill Speros • September 27, 2017
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln is not simply located at the heart of the state capital, it’s fixed at the heart of America. It’s for this reason that the Graduate Lincoln reaches beyond local history and embraces the country’s colorful, agricultural past.
Spread across 16 stories in the Haymarket District, the 231-room hotel captures a sense of national pride, drawing influence from the state’s rich landscape as well as the historic brick warehouses in the neighborhood. “The rustic brick textures and barn wood-style floors in the lobby embody that aesthetic, whereas the rooms are intended to feel like a classic Americana hotel from the 1950s,” says AJ Capital Partners‘ chief creative officer Andrew Alford, who designed the property in his signature eclectic style.
A wide range of greenery punctuates the interior, reminiscent of Nebraska’s countryside in the summer, along with red, white, and blue tones, inspired by the area’s reputation as America’s heartland. Herringbone-patterned floors span the lobby along with brick walls and hand-glazed tiles in forest green. A communal table does double duty, both hosting meetings and acting as a social hub for guests. Classic arcade games (“The hotel is supposed to feel lighthearted and fun,” says Alford) deliver a dash of nostalgia and authenticity, he says, which “comes from thoughtful curation of actual vintage elements combined with selecting the right manufacturing partners to create reproductions of period pieces.”
The lobby is also home to John J’s Chow Hall, named for General John J. Pershing, who taught at the school until 1895. His portrait hangs above the host stand to greet diners, and his military days inform the design, which mirrors an army barracks done up for a tiki-themed party, complete with randomly strung party lights, art that hangs askew, and black and white photographs of loved ones back home. “The decorating is intentionally haphazard and homespun, as if soldiers on weekend leave dressed the space themselves,” explains Alford.
The bucolic qualities of the state are honored once again in the guestrooms, which are adorned with vintage corn print wallcoverings and fabrics (a nod to Nebraska’s famous crop). In addition to arcade games, guestrooms also include coffee tables outfitted with ice troughs for beers and balconies that feature picnic furniture and portable bars.
Old-fashioned TVs are installed as nightstands, an homage to Nebraska native Johnny Carson, while Lincoln sports hero Brook Berringer is honored in portraits across the hotel. Indeed, artwork tells “of the pioneering spirit, humor, and inventiveness of the people of Nebraska,” says Alford, including pieces that honor the state’s role in creating Kool-Aid, along with depictions of Nebraska’s natural history.
“One of the things we love about Lincoln,” he says, “is that everyone we encountered seemed to be happy, honest, hardworking, and optimistic. We wanted to celebrate that sense of happiness in the design.”