Hotel Arts: The smart hipster’s sexy new hangout

Valerie Berenyi reveals the pleasures of an art-rich redesign

photo by Lori Andrews @theoriginal10cent on instagram

Curled up on our king-size bed and wrapped in pristine, butter-soft Frette linens—an afternoon breeze stirring the sheers on the patio doors—I contemplate the pleasures of a good hotel room.

Peace. Comfort. Privacy. Our newly redesigned luxury suite at Hotel Arts, located just south of Calgary’s downtown, has all of these qualities and more.

To back up a little, a recent weekend getaway with my sweetheart starts with a poolside lunch and pineapple mojitos from hotel restaurant, Raw Bar by Duncan Ly. Eye candy swirls around the blue-tiled swimming pool—tattooed hipsters, a groom’s pre-wedding party, a family of Saudi princesses (or so they appeared)—all soaking up the sun and the ambient techno pop.

Two business associates spy one another. “I’d get up and hug you,” the bikini-clad woman says to her male colleague. “But I’m nearly naked.”

After lunch, we take the hotel’s Brooklyn bicycles for a spin through the historic neighbourhood of Inglewood, stopping for a salted caramel treat at Village Ice Cream. Then we return for a dreamy afternoon siesta before a late dinner at the hotel’s other restaurant, Yellow Door Bistro – a whimsical, Alice in Wonderland-inspired dining room.

A successful hotel, it could be said, is greater than the sum of its parts. Everything—guest rooms, common areas, service, food and drink, sense of place—has to add up to create a whole experience.


photo by Lori Andrews @theoriginal10cent on instagram

photo by Lori Andrews @theoriginal10cent on instagram


For me, a satisfying hotel stay starts with the little things. The iconic Fort Garry Hotel in downtown Winnipeg is memorable for its 24-hour coffee and tea service, delivered to guest rooms on a silver tray, along with fresh-baked cookies.

Likewise, I love the hipster sensibility (rocking chairs and pool table) of the lounge at Halifax’s ALT Hotel, along with our room’s large, eco-friendly pump bottles of shampoo and lotion. (Who needs those wasteful little bottles, anyway?)

None of these details are happy accidents. They’re the result of carefully designed environments that banish the bland in favour of the inspired, as hotels seek to satisfy discerning guests and stay on top of ever-evolving trends.

“We’ve all become savvy travellers and people are looking for memorable experiences,” says Adele Rankin, a senior associate with Vancouver-based B+H Chil Design, an interior design company that specializes in hospitality. “Overall, we hear [from hoteliers] that guests want to be happy, comfortable and experience something unique.”

B+H Chil Design works with heavy hitters around the globe. In Canada, they’ve partnered with Shangri-La Hotels in Vancouver and Toronto, as well as the West Coast’s Fairmont Pacific Rim and Fairmont Waterfront Hotel.

Although Hotel Arts isn’t part of a multinational chain, the independently-owned hotel recently hired B+H Chil Design to do a $7-million makeover that injects personality into its hallways and 185 guest rooms.


photo by Lori Andrews @theoriginal10cent on instagram

photo by Lori Andrews @theoriginal10cent on instagram


“We’re a unique hybrid in the marketplace,” says Fraser Abbott, director of business development for the Hotel Arts Group. Abbott says he draws inspiration from innovative boutique hotels like the Hudson in New York and Auberge Saint-Antoine in Quebec City.

“Midweek, we’re sold out with corporate travellers, everyone from oil and gas to architects to creative agencies to fashion groups. On the weekend, we’ve got affluent leisure travellers, foodies, art lovers and wedding parties that bring a palpable energy,” he says.

“The common denominator is well-travelled people in the 30-to-50-year-old range with an appreciation for aesthetics.”

B+H Chil Design relished the opportunity to tackle a project that would appeal to a multifaceted guest list, says Adele. “The CEO isn’t staying at Hotel Arts, but the VP is. It’s less traditional, quirkier, more creative, more open-minded.”

Designers decided the decor in guest rooms should complement the Hotel Arts’ public spaces which are filled with art and design elements and already have big, bold personality. “The name Hotel Arts alone is about art,” she muses. “So each room should be artful.”


photo by Lori Andrews @original10cent on instagram

photo by Lori Andrews @original10cent on instagram


The design group stayed away from trendy choices, instead choosing a palette of warm greys and charcoals as base tones with pops of citron. Cutting-edge wall hangings add texture and colour, as do murals in the hallways.

In a twist on a regular headboard (steal this look for home), a huge framed swath of black, white and grey geometrically patterned fabric is mounted behind plush beds. “Rock-star headboards,” says Fraser. “We fell in love with them.”

One of the most clever touches is found in select hotel bathrooms. Above the Carrara marble countertop is an illuminated mirror with a TV embedded in it. The Electric Mirror is a pricey option, says Adele, but it provides excellent light for applying makeup. Watching HGTV while getting ready to go out, I have to say, is a bonus.

Another plus: all of the custom-designed side tables come with USB ports and plug-ins. “Nobody should ever have to throw out their back looking for a place to plug in,” says Fraser.

When Sunday morning arrives I’m reluctant to pry myself out of bed, but a poolside yoga class beckons. I pull on my Lulus and ride the elevator down with a group of subdued wedding party-goers en route to the airport. I’m thankful I’ve still got a few hours left at this urban sanctuary.

Our yoga instructor leads the small group through a strenuous series of sun salutations until we are fully awake. Every neuron buzzes as we lay in savasana, the sun warming our faces. A leisurely brunch back at the Yellow Door Bistro follows, and then we check out—utterly rested and renewed.


***A sincere thanks from Toque & Canoe to photographer Lori Andrews for her lovely self-portraits on this post. She’s TOTALLY worth a follow on Instagram if you ask us! #artful #canadiana


Note to reader: Our writer and photographer stayed as guests at Hotel Arts courtesy of our partners in tourism. This story, produced as the result of an arms length collaboration with Hotel Arts, was not approved or reviewed before publication.

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