The space features repurposed décor with finishing touches added by local artisans.
By Rachel Gallaher
Photographed by Jeremy Fenske
When asked how he’d describe the interiors of the new Kex Hostel in Portland, Oregon, Icelandic designer Hálfdan “Dani” Pedersen demurs a bit before answering. “It’s hard to put a finger on it style-wise,” he says. “It’s everything and nothing because we’re not trying to fit into any certain mold. It’s very eclectic.”
Much like its sister property, the popular Kex Hostel in Reykjavík, the Portland outpost is composed mostly of salvaged materials and repurposed décor, with finishing touches added by local artisans. “For us, the building really dictates the look,” Pedersen says. “Kex in Iceland is in a former biscuit factory that has a heavy, industrial feeling. The [Portland] hotel is in a building from 1912 that is mostly brick and timber, which gives it lighter sensibilities. The color palette and design approach are completely different. We’re going with earthy, light tones and more of a feminine vibe.”
Opened this fall in the city’s Central Eastside area, Kex provides a mix of traditional hostel-style lodging (bunkrooms) and private rooms, which together can accommodate around 150 guests. In keeping with its commitment to foster community between travelers and locals, the hotel has a street-level restaurant and bar serving Nordic-inspired cuisine, as well as a rooftop deck and bar, all of them open to the public. Kex also holds a lounge area, a lushly planted open-air courtyard, and, in the basement, a gallery and event space called Gym and Tonic. “We hope to get a whole melting pot of people coming in and out,” Pedersen says. “We want to host local bands, screen work from local filmmakers, and have artists come in to show their work.”
To furnish the space, Pedersen went on a buying trip to Belgium and Holland and sourced items from North Africa, Germany, France, and England. Purchases included enviable midcentury furniture and five crates of earth-toned 1930s-era tile from Cairo. He had it all packed into shipping containers and brought to the West Coast. There, Pedersen tapped local design talent including Hennebery Eddy Architects, R&H Construction, Portland Garment Factory, Lonesome Pictopia, and Bainbridge Island, Washington–based Blackmouth Design. “Things were made better in the past than they were today,” he says of his choice to furnish Kex mostly with vintage finds. “The wood was thicker and stronger, and everything was made by hand, with strong attention to detail. That’s the kind of mentality we want to foster.”