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When a Luxury Watch Brand Opens a Hotel in Its Home City the Result is an American Dream

J.P. Anderson | July 25, 2019 | Lifestyle

Detroit-based watchmaker Shinola brings its all-American aesthetic to life with a design-minded, must-visit new hotel.

The lobby-level Living Room is a showcase for local artists and the hotel’s always-buzzing social center.

It’s been only six years since Shinola debuted its retro-cool made-in-Detroit wristwatches, but the brand’s rise has been nothing short of meteoric. From handassembled urban bicycles to smart leather bags, sleek Bluetooth speakers, alpaca fleece blankets and more (not to mention the feel-good story of the company’s investment in the city’s turnaround), Shinola has become a powerhouse in the world of accessories.

Now, the brand takes an ambitious next step: translating its timeless American style into the new Shinola Hotel, a 129-room boutique property located (where else?) in downtown Detroit. Set in a cluster of five deftly restored and connected buildings on historic Woodward Avenue—prime among them the former Rayl department store clad in terra-cotta tile—the hotel embraces the brand’s aesthetic inside and out.

“To me, Shinola’s defining touch points are expert craftsmanship and elegant detailing,” says Christine Gachot of New York-based Gachot Studios, which designed the hotel, “and beyond that, a comfortable ease. We sought to bring that to life in the hotel by creating a residential atmosphere. All of the furniture has a residential scale, and many of the fabrics used throughout are residential grade.” The result is inviting mohair sofas in the lobby Living Room (the hotel’s undisputed social center); intimate lighting from Hervé Descottes of L’Observatoire International (“He’s the master,” says Gachot); and apartmentlike rooms and suites in rich colors and textures so comfortable, it’s tempting to settle in, order room service and never leave.

Dishes like octopus with 'nduja and salsa giallo have made on-site Italian restaurant San Morello one of the city’s hottest tables.

Just as extraordinary is how the hotel interacts with the city itself. Floor-to-ceiling windows let in views of surrounding landmarks such as the Elliott Building and Broderick Tower; public spaces showcase works by emerging and iconic Detroit artists like Charles McGee and Beverly Fishman; and behind the hotel, Parker’s Alley brings the Shinola energy to the streets with a series of curated shops and The Brakeman beer hall, which opened this spring. It all adds up to a space that, in Creative Director Daniel Caudill’s words, is “beautiful, inviting, comfortable and uniquely Shinola.” Perhaps more important, it’s uniquely of the Motor City and its vibrant, stylish new life. “From the outset,” sums up Gachot, “we envisioned the hotel as a harbinger of downtown’s revival. Walk into the Living Room during prime time and you’ll find it buzzing with hotel guests and locals alike—drinking, eating, working and relaxing. We couldn’t ask for more.” Junior suites from $495 per night, @shinolahotel


Photography by: Nicole Franzen