We have to admit, we are all mush when it comes to nostalgia. So, when Shinola (known for its luxury watches and leather goods) launched its first hotel early this year, developed by local real-estate firm Bedrock, we definitely were all attention. Located in downtown Detroit’s shopping district with partners picked for their Detroit roots and Michigan connections, it is hard to imagine that this place could exist anywhere but 1400 Woodward Avenue, one of the city’s most iconic roads.
Detroit is no stranger to landmark buildings - from the Fisher Building to the Guardian Building, the city is dotted with iconic structures, and their craft and durability are evidenced by their lasting presence even to this day. Today, on a street thick with history, the Shinola Hotel property occupies five buildings, including the historic former Singer Building and the T.B. Rayl Co-store (Rayl's department store), joined with three thoughtful new annexes designed to breathe new life into the block.
The main structure, which is now occupied by the Shinola Hotel, was built by the T.B. Rayl Company in 1915. Wirt Rowland was the architect behind the elaborate red-tiled façade on the hardware and sporting goods store. Rowland was known for exploring new design methods and materials, and his use of terracotta on Rayl’s became distinctive in Detroit. Rowland would later go on to design some of Detroit’s most recognisable structures, including the Guardian Building adorned with Pewabic tile and Parducci sculpture. While the detailed red-tiled façade gave the building its undeniable charm, Rayl’s was not the only eye-catching structure on the block. With an understated, limestone-clad neo-classical exterior, the adjacent Singer Building was home to the Singer sewing machine company in 1936. Now, more than a century later, Shinola and Bedrock are honouring the era when quality craftsmanship and pride of work ruled the land.
While Detroit continues to be in the midst of a resurrection, it is interesting to note how the luxury major is putting its name on a stylish new hotel in the centre of the motor city. The 129-room boutique property designed by the New York-based Gachot studio pays homage to the industrial spirit of the city. With the brand’s creative director, Daniel Caudill, closely involved in every aspect of the design, it is little wonder that the interiors are an extension of the brand with mid-century modern furniture, colourful artworks and plush furniture and fittings.
Caramel, camel, and gray are dominant tones, along with soft blush, deep greens and rich woods. In-room materials like oil-rubbed bronze, soft leather, plush mohair and American white oak evoke beautifully appointed homes. Cream hallway walls throughout the property get accents of Shinola blue, a signature colour developed by Gachot – inspired from a lone paint chip unearthed in the Singer Building.
Wall and floor coverings are all designed and created inspired by the look and feel of the buildings’ original architecture. Marbled wallpaper mimics marble found buried in the Rayl’s building, while you will find bathroom fixtures that take cues from caseback details of Shinola’s luxury watches created by Waterworks.
However, the standouts for us have to be the coveted Shinola Runwell turntable (retail price $2,500) and a curated collection of vinyls in each suite, and the uber cool and casual living room – a common area for hotel guests with its hip couches, bright artworks and a very young vibe. And oh, did we mention the engraving station – where you can select a piece of merchandise and get it customised on the spot!
The Shinola Hotel ticks all the right boxes for what is the new-age, easy-chic, relaxed interiors, but with its unique brand of luxury and regard to the era gone by.