West Elm on Tuesday announced that it would open one of its boutique West Elm Hotels in Portland, ME, in 2020, to be operated by its partner, hospitality management and development company DDK, and developed by local firm Portland Foreside Development Company, according to a company press release.
The 150 room, full-service boutique hotel will be part of a new mixed-use development on the city’s waterfront that includes historic buildings and newer construction.
The furniture retailer last week opened its first Portland retail store in the city’s Old Port downtown neighborhood.
The Portland Company, the site of West Elm’s hospitality effort in Maine, is a 19th century industrial complex where locomotives, marine vessels, paper-making machinery, Civil War gunboats and equipment to build the Panama Canal were once manufactured. Its historic nature, as well as the possibility for renovation, fits with West Elm’s original plans for its ongoing hospitality project — to include local, historic elements along with its modern decor.
"Portland has experienced a renaissance within the past decade, creating a distinct and modern vibe, while honoring its maritime history," Peter Fowler, vice president of West Elm Hospitality, said in a statement. "Our collaboration with Portland Foreside Development Company brings forth local knowledge and expertise that will deliver an original experience for guests, as well as the surrounding seaside community. Together, we will celebrate the city’s past and create opportunities for discerning guests to discover Portland."
The company’s hotel rooms and common areas incorporate design elements from their local communities to "reflect traditional décor, handicraft, cuisine and culture from the region," West Elm said when it first announced the project last year. Guests will also be able to purchase furnishings and artwork found in any room online.
West Elm has properties scheduled to open in Detroit, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Oakland and Savannah beginning in early 2019. The effort is part of an ambitious brand extension in an era when retailers are trying to better leverage stores and provide an enhanced customer experience. It's a route with great potential: Hotel guests will be able to buy furniture and decor they see and like based on first-hand interactions and experiences.
Boutique hotels, often smaller sites with decor that reflects the more idiosyncratic takes of their designers (frequently tied to local artists and tastes), are increasingly in demand. Commissioning and selling local art and other handcrafted items also fits well with West Elm’s track record: it previously worked with young artists from the Savannah College of Art and Design, for example, and has participated in the White House’s "maker event" for artisans and entrepreneurs.