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Hotel Highlight: The Ace

Design Trends


Ace Hotel Palm Springs. Photo Credit: Douglas Lyle Thompson

The Ace Hotel, with locations all over the world, is a small, boutique hospitality chain that resuscitates deteriorating buildings and revives declining neighborhoods. It’s style, mixing elements of grunge, hip-hop, letterpress, army surplus, vintage vinyl and machine-age architectural salvage, has become a design movement in itself, defining a new generation of hospitality design that favors local touches and welcoming public spaces.

They are more than hotels: they are restaurants, social centers, shops, theaters and event spaces. The design of each location involves a hodgepodge of contributors and influences, from fashion companies, to coffee shops, as well as local artists. There is a devotion to what “local” means, creating an experience that truly relates to the city it’s in.


The lobby of Portland’s Ace. Photo Credit: JEREMY PELLEY


Photo-booth at Portland’s Ace. Photo Credit: JEREMY PELLEY


Interior of Portland’s Ace. Photo Credit: JEREMY PELLEY

The Ace began in 1999 in an old Seattle dockworkers’ hostel, but the Ace Portland, which opened in 2007, serves as the hotel’s gold standard and is the current location of the company’s design headquarters. The use of vintage furniture in the lobby helps to create the cozy feeling of a living room, making it a popular place for locals and travelers to sip a Stumptown coffee and work or socialize. Due to the success of the hotel, the once-gritty Stark Street became the reinvented West End, now full of boutique retail and restaurants.


Exterior of Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: D. L. Thompson & Jon Johnson


Lobby of Ace Hotel and Swim Club in Palm Springs. Photo Credit: D. L. Thompson & Jon Johnson

The design of each hotel starts with the history of the building, the neighborhood and the city. For example, the Palm Springs compound, created in 2009 by ferociously whitewashing a defunct Howard Johnson’s, celebrates the Mid-century style so quintessential to the area. The white buildings shimmer against the Martian backdrop of the San Jacinto Mountains, while the rooms sit around a central common space with two pools and an event hall. Local designer Michael Schmidt draped the lobby in a rambunctious “desert nautical” rope installation, while ceramic-tiled outdoor fireplaces tower over the walkways.


Ace DTLA - Exterior. Photo Credit: Spencer Lowell


Ace DTLA - LA Chapter Cafe. Photo Credit: Spencer Lowell


Ace DTLA Theatre. Photo Credit: Spencer Lowell

The company not only restores historic buildings, it helps to bring new life to deteriorating neighborhoods. For example, the Ace Hotel Downtown Los Angeles has helped to revitalize the southern historic core of downtown and resurrect a forgotten-but-spectacular movie palace. The design team stripped the building down to its concrete, restored its intricate designs and refashioned it with local art, making the hotel as eclectic and vivid as Los Angeles itself.


Exterior of American Trade Hotel in Panama. Photo Credit: Spencer Lowell


Dining Room at American Trade Hotel in Panama. Photo Credit: Spencer Lowell

In each case, the Ace designers make sure their properties reflect the indie culture, music, food and art inherent in their respective cities. Also, some of the distinctive design items found in the rooms are available to buy in the lobby gift shop, allowing visitors to bring the “Ace aesthetic” home.


Lobby Ace Hotel London Shoreditch. Photo Credit: Andrew Meredith

The Ace Hotel, with locations in Seattle, Palm Springs, London, Los Angeles, New York City, (and now Pittsburgh and New Orleans), is a hospitality powerhouse that will continue to grow. Each hotel has created “a place both by the neighborhood and for the neighborhood," and staying at one should absolutely be on your bucket list!

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Wall graphic at Portland’s Ace. Photo Credit: JEREMY PELLEY

All images used with permission