A Designer Previews tip: If you want to be where it’s happening, on Thursday night, this week, head to official opening of The Dean Hotel in Providence RI. (tell them I gave you my invitation)!
It felt like the coldest day of the year when, last month, I paid a visit to Providence’s newest hotel. Located in the “Downcity” neighborhood that’s really the historic heart of downtown. There you’ll find narrow streets lined with a cohesive ensemble of 18th- and 19th-century neo-Classical-style and Italianate mercantile buildings, made of brick and limestone. I remembered how their stature and elegance is what had always impressed me about Downcity. In fact I wrote about the area in the New York Times a few years ago: Providence Sees Its Future Around the Corner.
That’s when I first met Ari Heckman. He was raised in Providence, influenced by an architect grandfather, and now he, along with Jonathan Minkoff, are co-owners of Brooklyn based ASH NYC, Will Cooper is the creative director. They too recognize that Downcity is an urban gem; very worth preserving, and investing in. When they found the right property, a 1912 brick building, he knew ASH could create their version of New York chic there. And they really have done it. The look of The Dean is the perfect balance of mid-century meets industrial design, mixed with the patina of chic Belgian antiques, along with luxe comfort–that even hipsters in Williamsburg crave. And yes, that IS a compliment.
ASH NYC is all about merging the worlds of interior design and property development. They also design furniture and lighting, source antiques from around the world, and bring an entrepreneurial spirit to the hospitality model. Essentially they’re major players in the Zeitgeist.
The five story property where The Dean is located is near Brown and RISD, close to the multitude of cultural organizations associated with such prestigious universities. ASH NYC saw that the building— a former brothel and one time vaudeville theater—was in sad shape, but still had elements to love: Distinctive original details, a mosaic tile floor in the lobby as well as a coffered ceiling, with a stately brick façade. They then imbued it with some extra style (and new structure-it was totally gutted) that was sorely needed: Gorgeous new windows, (my room had about 8 along one wall!) There are cool new bathrooms, old style doors with thick trim, all painted a rich black — so right against the crisp white of the walls and fabulous sheets and duvet. Heckman speaks to the detail oriented method of ASH; even finding the right bed linens was important, he agrees, (as do I) “the sheets at The Dean are epic.”
Each room is unique, but all feature a fresh take on comfort and simplicity. ASH gave the hotel a timeless design that feels European— that thoughtful mix of ancient and modern that one finds in great hotels in Italy or Greece. Few of the 52 rooms or suites are alike – all include vintage and custom-designed furniture pieces and really interesting industrial style lighting made of unlacquered brass and cold rolled steel. Their design was inspired by the manufacturing past of Providence, at the beginning of the 20th Century. “Updating the look of industrial steel with a more polished material like brass presented a nice juxtaposition, as well as modernizing the lines of industrial lighting, and keeping the silhouettes simple and functional,” explained Will Cooper, who designed them. The fixtures were manufactured in Vermont by a company that has been working with metal and lighting for the last 50 years.
In fact, “everything was made within 200-miles of the hotel, every sofa, all the desks, lighting,” explains Heckman. And with a nod to the artistic vibe of Providence, there is unexpected artwork; each room is bestowed with an oil painted portrait.
Of course there’s a great coffee bar in the lobby of The Dean from local roaster Bolt Coffee. The Boombox is a private karaoke bar; but whatever you do make sure to have a cocktail in The Magdalenae Room.