Since its founding in 2011, Detroit’s Shinola brand has quickly expanded its footprint, with flagship stores established across North America – and in London – to display the watch and leather-goods manufacturer’s high-end products less than a decade later. This year, the luxury retailer intensified its presence in Detroit, with the opening of the Shinola Hotel on one of the city’s prime commercial streets, Woodward Avenue. Combining a 129-room hotel with new street-level retail and a variety of new restaurants and cafes, the ambitious adaptive reuse project touts itself as “Detroit’s new living room.”
Designed by New York’s Gachot Studios with Detroit’s Kraemer Design Group, Shinola Detroit rehabilitates the 10-storey terra cotta-clad building at the corner of Woodward and Grand River Avenue, with a combination of smaller adaptive reuse components and new construction filling out the site. Dating to 1915, the TB Rayl Company building is now the centrepiece of a mixed-use urban hub. Here, the eclectic hotel lobby epitomizes the promised “living room” experience.
Warm lighting, wood tones, and deftly restored heritage elements — including a marquee staircase with an elaborate metalwork bannister – create a simple and comfortable backdrop for the rich array of furniture and artwork. Much of the furniture was custom-designed by Gachot Studios, with a combination of colours and textures used to create an informal atmosphere, punctuated by slightly rustic notes. Curated by Detroit’s Library Street Collective, the art program features a variety of styles, with a sense of fullness and enthusiasm underscored across the walls, where art reaches almost to the ceiling. In effect, the designers have created a space that maintains a sense of cohesion amidst the spectrum of playful accents.
The guest rooms display a more pared down – and restful – ambiance, allowing the building’s expansive curved windows to draw the eye. Shinola’s own products – like the Runwell Desk Clock – are interspersed throughout, asserting the brand’s slightly rugged, quasi-industrial identity, in spaces that work to complement this aesthetic. A number of Shinola products were also designed exclusively for the hotel, including the striped alpaca throw blankets spread across many of the beds.
At street level, Shinola’s own store is gradually being joined by new retail spaces for clothing retail Madewell, fragrance maker Le Labo, Drought juicery, and Detroit-based clothing retailer Good Neighbor, making the hotel a high-end shopping destination. A collection of restaurants – also designed by Gachot Studios – adds to the appeal. A beer hall and fried chicken joint offer casual options, while the Evening Bar serves up cocktails in a distinctly American setting. Checkerboard floors and wood finishes make the San Morello restaurant a highlight, creating a warm ambiance that speaks to the building’s history.
Deftly combining an assortment of retail and dining experiences with a boutique hotel, the mixed-use program and playfully elevated design makes the Shinola Hotel an attractive destination. While the decidedly high-end offerings make the moniker of “Detroit’s new living room” a politically prickly proposition, the hotel offers an attractive and welcoming space with the comforts of home.
*this article was amended to reflect the fact the Library Street Collective curated the art collection at Shinola Hotel, not Bedrock as initially stated.