By Rachel Gallaher
Photographed by Eric Staudenmaier Photography
WHEN TASKED WITH REDESIGNING THE HILTON EXECUTIVE TOWER IN THE HEART OF DOWNTOWN PORTLAND, TORONTO AND LOS-ANGELES–BASED DESIGNAGENCY (AN INTERIOR DESIGN, ARCHITECTURAL CONCEPT, STRATEGIC BRANDING, AND VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS STUDIO) HAD TWO MAIN CHALLENGES. First, it had to transform the space from bland and dated—think muted furniture, lots of oak, and a garish yellow-green carpet—into a freshly designed mecca for travelers. On top of that, hotel owners Thayer Lodging wanted a unique destination that would stand out from the dozens of other hotels that have sprung up in Portland over the past five years. The resulting Duniway Hotel combines a luxe aesthetic—earthy, rich tones with brass and rose gold accents—with the laid-back vibes of an independent boutique hotel, for an accommodation that feels authentically inspired by the City of Roses.
Blurring the lines between hospitality and residential design is a growing trend in the hotel industry, and The Duniway exemplifies this with its unfussy mix of furniture and Portland-inspired decor.
“As soon as guests walk into the lobby, we want them to feel like they have ‘arrived’ in Portland but are experiencing something very different than what the city currently has to offer,” says Allen Chan, co-founding partner at DesignAgency. “We wanted to create an ambiance that would provide a calm reprieve from the busy urban location, almost like you’re walking into someone’s home.”
The lobby eschews stiff formality with an eclectic mélange of custom chairs, stools, and tables that allow guests a quick sit-down while waiting for a taxi, or to work on a laptop. The existing dark Emperador marble floor was an inherited feature, and rather than try and hide it, the DesignAgency team worked with the pattern, teasing out the neutral tones throughout the room. To demarcate the seating area, they inserted white oak flooring, cut on a bias into the existing marble floor, and topped it with an area rug from Tai Ping Carpets for a subtle layer of color and texture.
Flanking one side of the seating area is an industrial-inspired screen that features blackened steel-framed glass floral imagery that pays homage to Portland’s native ecology. The reception desk, clad in a mosaic of black steel, brass, and stained white oak, is another nod to the interplay between nature and the city’s industrial roots.
The guestrooms are outfitted with custom furnishings from Lily Jack and Meadow Lighting, and DesignAgency added other bespoke touches such as sections of wood-framed wallcoverings that run up one wall, across the ceiling, and down the other for a unique textural addition. They also developed a partnership with Powell’s Books in which the retailer supplies a carefully curated selection of books to each guest room, all of which are available for purchase. It’s just one of many subtle cues throughout the hotel that, according to Chan, “convey Portland’s spirit of traditional craftsmanship and detailing, while also celebrating a fusion of history and modernity.”