Haute Hotels

Gachot Studios Teams Up with Shinola on a Chic, New, Downtown Detroit Hotel

John and Christine Gachot (above), of the New York City firm Gachot Studios, partnered with the watch and accessories maker Shinola to create the brand’s first hotel, in its hometown of Detroit. Top: The hotel’s residential-style living room features a staircase original to the historic building and an array of artworks, including a piece by Nick Cave, at far right. All photos by Nicole Franzen, unless otherwise noted

We’re entering a new era of branded hotels. While hospitality corporations — from the mega (Marriott) to the mini (Ace) — once had a lock on the industry, now companies from outside the industry are getting in on the action. Fashion labels like Bulgari and Armani were among the first to enter the fray, and the past few years have given us properties from Restoration Hardware and beer company Brewdog. This year is expected to bring debut hotels from Equinox gyms and West Elm furniture.

The first such property to make a splash in 2019, however, is the just-opened Shinola Hotel, which landed earlier this month in downtown Detroit, home city of the luxury watch brand behind it. Known for its slightly retro hipster aesthetic — applied today not just to timepieces but also to bags and jewelry and even bicycles — the brand has dipped its toe into hospitality with a smart, sophisticated hotel occupying two historic buildings in the Woodward Avenue shopping district. The former T.B. Rayl & Co. hardware store, built in 1915, and a Singer sewing machine store, dating to 1936, now house 129 rooms, various residential-feeling lounge spaces and an Italian restaurant from Andrew Carmellini, the chef behind New York restaurants Locanda Verde, Lafayette and the Dutch.

For the hotel’s design, Shinola turned to the Manhattan-based firm Gachot Studios, run by husband-and-wife principals John and Christine Gachot, who created the brand’s flagship stores in Brooklyn and Downtown Los Angeles. They had also had earlier success in the hospitality field with New York’s Smyth Hotel and its restaurant, Carmellini’s Little Park. Christine, in particular, has the sector in her professional DNA, having served as a vice president of design development for master boutique hotelier André Balazs.

“I’ve always admired the craftsmanship that Shinola insists on in its products, the elegance of the connections and detailing,” Christine says. “We wanted to make sure that was part of the interiors narrative.” To that end, they incorporated into the decor several Shinola pieces made exclusively for the property — a desk clock, a striped alpaca throw blanket — as well as custom Gachot furnishings.

Here, Christine reveals the full story of the Shinola Hotel’s design.

Gachot Studios Teams Up With Shinola on a Chic New Downtown Detroit Hotel
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Gachot Studios Teams Up With Shinola on a Chic New Downtown Detroit Hotel

The new Gachot Studios–designed Shinola Hotel — named for the Detroit-based watch and accessories brand behind it — occupies two historic buildings in the city’s downtown, including the 1915 red-tiled T.B. Rayl & Co. hardware store, designed by legendary Detroit architect Wirt Roland.

The Italian eatery San Morello, one of the hotel’s several restaurants and bars, is helmed by the New York–based chef Andrew Carmellini, of Locanda Verde, Lafayette and the Dutch.

The Gachots furnished the hotel’s living room, as well as its guest rooms and other public spaces, almost exclusively with custom pieces of their own design, taking inspiration from mid-century modern classics.

An alcove in one of the rooms provides a quiet spot to work or have a private meal.

Wood paneling offers a particularly retro-hip touch in this niche in the Penthouse.

The Gachots designed the guest accommodations to feel like the rooms of a private home. “When we did the model-room tours, people thought it was a residential project,” says Christine.

The Project

After building a brand intimately associated with Detroit’s renaissance, Shinola took things a step further by partnering with the real estate firm Bedrock to create a destination that represents and supports the city’s future. We wanted to design an environment that would encourage visitors to come to Detroit and the local community to linger. The public spaces are welcoming and warm. The guest rooms are comfortable and varied, with fifty unique types in one hundred twenty-nine total rooms.  It’s not a pass-through. It’s your living room, your pied-à-terre.

The Inspiration

From the outset, we were focused on blending the historical aspects of the city and the Shinola aesthetic, which to us means high-quality craftsmanship that is warm and accessible yet special.

We wanted the hotel to have a timeless sense of familiarity. The heritage of the buildings themselves brought that conversation to the forefront. We couldn’t get tricky — we had to celebrate the history. In the events hall, for example, we re-created the facade ornamentation on the ceiling in plaster, and the historic stair in the living room is a focal point. Our cues were often quite literal.

A seating area in a suite is arranged before one of the property’s many fireplaces.

The Palette

The palette is subtle and warm, with hints of color, allowing the people and artwork to play into the design. We used deep camels and browns coupled with blue hues. The furniture throughout is almost all custom by Gachot. It is thoughtfully considered for proportion and comfort, just as it would be for a private home.

The Art of the Mix

Working in the historic buildings was a wonderful opportunity. The clean lines of our furniture suddenly had an added elegance and warmth. The depth of the existing floor plates, along with the fenestration, allowed for large guest rooms, with proper foyers, generous closets and lovely bathrooms.

The Devilish Detail

There are fireplaces everywhere! You will be delighted — especially this time of year in Detroit — to find them in the living room, the evening bar, the mezzanine, the events hall and in penthouse suites.

The Innovation

It’s so low-tech and user-friendly that it’s genius! We used the Shinola power-supply collection of portable cords and multi-outlets in all the guest rooms and public spaces. Their colors add richness and vibrance.

The Speed Bump

Creating an interesting guest travel path from the historic building to an annex across an alley was a challenge. I referenced the industrial sky bridges of Tribeca, and like everything with Bedrock Development, if you dream it, they will find a way. Sky bridge accomplished!

The art throughout the hotel, including the pieces hung salon-style in the living room, were curated by the Detroit gallery Library Street Collective. “It’s rare to find such an important mix and inspiring collection in a hotel,” says Christine, who particularly loves the abstract blue, white and black piece by Paul Kremer just to the left of the chimneypiece.

The hotel’s bathrooms mix subtly veined marble with dramatic black-and-white tiling and mid-century-modern-inspired vanities.

The Custom Commission

The Detroit gallery Library Street Collective brought it home with the art installations it curated throughout the property. It’s rare to find such an important mix and inspiring collection in a hotel. I loved the blue, white and black painting that the gallery commissioned from Paul Kremer so much that I purchased one of his pieces for my loft.

The Vintage Find

Ages ago, John bought me a pair of vintage Jens Risom slipper chairs for our first apartment, and they have traveled with us ever since. They even made it on the ferry all the way to our place on Shelter Island. Cate, from our team, came across a pair from Metro Retro Furniture on 1stdibs while shopping for Shinola, and they fit perfectly. It’s always nice when something comes full circle.

The Pièce de Résistance

The circular multimedia wall piece by Nick Cave in the living room is striking. You kind of fall over yourself when you walk into the room.

The Room to Book

Stay in one with a fireplace. But also be sure to book an event in Bixby Hall and move your after-party to the conservatory. Then order late-late-night delicious room service courtesy of chef Andrew Carmellini. Oh, and invite me!

“We wanted the hotel to have a timeless sense of familiarity,” says Christine. “The heritage of the buildings themselves brought that conversation to the forefront.”

The Splendid Surprise

Head up the historical stair in the living room to the mezzanine. That’s where the fun happens: House beer on tap and a historic hand-painted wayfinding sign left behind from the old hardware building. During construction, we kept passing by it when we were on site, and it became an iconic in-the-know photo op. As time went on and walls went up, the sign just stayed in place. We added some protection around it, but it still hangs proudly.

The Comforts of Home

The scale of the guest rooms is very generous, so they really feel like a home away from home. The layouts are thoughtful. We made sure that you have a place for everything you bring on your travels and, hopefully, room for shopping bags too. There are many intimate moments of charm: The custom wall coverings throughout, the residential quality of the fabrics, the curation of accessories all help make the experience accessible and welcoming.

When we did the model-room tours, people thought it was a residential project. We hope it becomes your home. Move in!

Bring It Home

Channel the Shinola Hotel’s look with items hand-picked by designer Christine Gachot.

“Wormley clearly had Tom Kartsotis in mind when he designed this sofa — name and all!”

“You can find our collaborations with Stone and Sawyer everywhere in the hotel! It’s nice to work with close friends.”

“We used mahogany throughout the hotel in the architectural millwork, and the warmth of the cognac leather here is very Shinola.”

“There are fireplaces all over the hotel — what luxury!”

“The hotel’s mezzanine is filled with fun and games like this — and house beer on tap!”

“Great for their flexibility and for they way they enable you to create your own experience”

“My new favorite trick! It’s the perfect peekaboo partition, with parchment on one side and silver leaf on the other.”

“Kick your feet up and spill your wine!”

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