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Ace Hotel’s Stylish Budget Hotels

200906-a-ace-hotel-budget

Photo: Paul Costello

Meanwhile, in Paris, a block away from Père Lachaise, the storied cemetery in the 20th Arrondissement where Marcel Proust and Jim Morrison are buried, Philippe Starck (who designed the Paramount for Schrager all those years ago) has completed a hotel of his own: Mama Shelter , a 172-room property where overnight accommodations with a private bath will run you $105. (Or, if you would prefer a suite, $344.) Working with architect Roland Castro, Serge, Benjamin, and Jeremie Trigano (son and grandsons of the founder of Club Med), and “philosopher” Cyril Aouizerate, Starck tore down a former parking garage and built a very contemporary hotel. “Mama Shelter is first and foremost a place of freedom and creativity; a place for young people, artists, students, and people not interested in material goods,” reads the manifesto. “Our ambition was not only to create somewhere to spend the night, but to establish a modern kibbutz, a laic monastery.” Materialistic or not, each room is equipped with a 24-inch iMac and a kitchenette. There is also a 160-seat restaurant, a 40-seat bar, an eight-person foosball table, and a yoga room. True to Starck’s winsome ways, the bedside lights are covered with plastic Halloween masks.

As for Ace’s commitment to the new-affordable-chic-Bohemian-Hotel cause, it dates back to 1999, when Calderwood and two friends, Wade Weigel and Doug Herrick, made their debut as hoteliers with the Ace Seattle , a 28-room hotel in a former halfway house downtown. The idea, at the time, was not to become the next Ian Schrager or André Balazs, but to provide affordable accommodations for the trio’s friends and acquaintances, “the creative types who have been behind the evolving cultural renaissance of the Pacific Northwest in the past decade, and who aren’t generally awash in cash.” According to Calderwood, Ace’s MO was straightforward: “Taking characterful old buildings in emerging neighborhoods and doing as much as we could with the existing infrastructure on a shoestring budget.”

Though the rooms were spare, they had good light, good beds, and shimmering stainless-steel prison sinks, and they cost $95 a night. So what if the unisex showers and WC’s were down the hall?If you really minded, the Ace Seattle offered rooms with private baths for $150.

In 2007, the company opened the second Ace , in Portland, Oregon, in the former Clyde Hotel: 79 rooms—half of which were decorated by artists, half by Ace’s in-house graphics team—plus a large exhibition and event space, a restaurant, and an outpost of the celebrated Portland-based Stumptown Coffee Roasters.

Bolstered by its successes in Seattle and Portland (where the company is now based), Ace looked to Palm Springs for hotel number three, and New York City for number four. (The New York property , on West 29th Street, opened in April.)

“Too often Palm Springs opts for a slavish, cookie-cutter Midcentury Modern thing, which was maybe exciting 10 years ago,” Calderwood says. “But we wanted to celebrate the desert and southern California, and a sort of modern Bohemia or modern folk or hippie aesthetic…more representative of the desert than of Palm Springs.”

Calderwood called his friend Roman Alonso, a founding principal of the five-year-old Los Angeles–based firm Commune, for the job. “Ace hotels have a democratic, highly urban vibe, so it was an interesting challenge to bring that out to the California desert,” Alonso says. “Commune and Ace share so many things philosophically—love of honest materials and pure design and handcraft—it wasn’t hard for all of us to be on the same page. We kept thinking of a desert experience that didn’t really say Palm Springs, but was more about the Southwest, Native American culture, camping, communal living, Nature Boy, and desert movies of the early 1970’s...as if M*A*S*H, Billy Jack, and Jesus Christ Superstar were thrown in a blender.”

Somewhat telegraphically, Alonso continues: “Albert Frey meets Timothy Leary; dune buggy meets ‘Magic Bus’; Steve McQueen meets Mountain Girl…an assembled subversive mix of styles; an all-purpose repair station; a retreat for simple comforts in the sunny sanity of nature.”

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