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Design Diary: Tour The Verb Hotel in Boston’s Fenway

Last time I was in town I scored a private tour of The Verb Hotel with Elizabeth Lowrey, Principal and Director of Interior Architecture at Elkus Manfredi Architects and stylish lead behind the redesign of this humble-turned-hip Boston boutique hotel, just behind Fenway Park. The architects worked closely with the development team to embrace the area’s legacy .

Initially slated for a tear down—the hotel had become a HoJos after all—Samuels became disillusioned by the shiny new development happening all over the city and decided to re-imagine the 94-room mid-century modern hotel, knowing it would add character to the revitalized neighborhood.

The Verb Hotel first opened in 1959 as the Fenway Motor Hotel in a neighborhood that by the thriving indie music scene. Over the years a multitude of clubs popped up on Lansdowne Street, along with the alternative weekly newspaper the Boston Phoenix and rock radio stations.

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Developer Steve Samuels and hotelier Robin Brown enlisted “vibe conservators” Stephen Mindich, publisher of the Boston Phoenix, and David Bieber, WBCN Creative Services Director to consult with Elkus Manfredi on the hotel’s new look and feel, which pays homage to the rock scene of the ’70s and ’80s. Bieber dipped into his enormous personal archives of pop-culture memorabilia which the designers used to decorate the lobby.

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The two-story modernist building, designed by architects Irving Salsberg and Ralph Leblanc, went up in 1959. Elkus Manfredi Architects honored the original building, retaining the footprint of the motel and guestrooms. The feel is that of an authentic motor inn, including a courtyard pool and cars pulled up outside the rooms.

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The team stuck to a pretty strict budget. Easy upgrades like colored film by Solar Graphics were applied to the new windows to add rhythmic pops of color. In 1959 when the original motel was completed, different colored stained-glass windows formed solid vertical lines on its structure. Eventually, these windows were replaced and the solid vertical stripes of color became irregular. When replacing all the windows for the restoration, Elkus Manfredi deliberately retained the irregular Mondrian-like pattern.

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The architects dressed up a front façade with vertical wood siding and simple landscaping.

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A circular skylight in the lobby lets in light and provides a glimpse of a new high rise across the street.

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Lobby Desk

The front desk is upholstered in tufted black leather. Amps and electric guitars are propped up beside it. Black and white geometric flooring by Mondo.

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Lobby Banquettte

The lobby, with its deep blue walls and tufted yellow leather banquette custom-designed by Elkus Manfredi Architects broadcasts that it is indeed a Boston boutique hotel. Authentic vintage music ephemera, curated by David Bieber from his own collection, include backstage passes from the J. Geils Band, and torn $4.50 ticket stubs to a Blondie show at the Paradise on Commonwealth Avenue. Framing done locally by Stanhope Framers. Triangular Island tables by Calligaris. Knoll Risom lounge chairs designed in 1943 by Jens Risom and sheepskin throw both from Design Within Reach.

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Music posters and vinyl records along with a vintage jukebox.

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Original brickwork was painted black using textured paint by Sherwin Williams.

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If the lobby’s not crowded, guests can spin records on the yellow vintage Realistic-brand LAB 440 turntable. They’ve got 150 vintage local and national vinyl albums.

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A display case in the breezeway connecting the main lobby with the guest rooms houses The Archives at the Verb,  curated from Bieber’s warehouse of thousands of pop-culture memorabilia.

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Stairwell

Original brick walls were painted vibrant hues and treated to music-related stenciled sayings. Perforated steel railings custom-fabricated by MIW Co. Ipanema Multi-Bloom Pendant Lamp by Jonathan Adler.

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Stairwell

“If the music is too loud, you’re too old.”

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Stairwell

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Photographs of numbers from Fenway park were pulled together to form the room numbers on hotel room doors.

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Illuminated signs on black walls in the hotel lobby.

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Guest Room

Guest rooms are clean and crisp with integrated wood veneer headboards. Elkus Manfredi Architects designed the mid-century modern inspired furnishings, which were manufactured by Artco.

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Framed Phoenix newspaper pages hang on the walls in each room.

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Mid-century dot pattern drapery and a shot of pink from the window film.

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Photo by Adrian Wilson

Like many boutique hotels, the contemporary bathrooms are simple but don’t skimp on amenities.
Tile by Dal-Tile.

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The desk in each hotel room is equipped with a typewriter purchased on eBay. The desk chair is an armless Setu side chair by Herman Miller.

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Best part: the hotel courtyard has a pool. The vibe is motor lodge, but really it’s like a hip resort, right downtown. Check out the green stands at Fenway in the background.

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Period-appropriate colors were carefully chosen.

The Verb Boston Boutique Hotel Sign

The Verb Hotel, 1271 Boylston Street, Boston

Photos by Marni Elyse Katz/StyleCarrot

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Design Diary: citizenM Hotels

I used to write the “Destination Design” column for Design Milk, and I keep “Hotel Style” Pinterest board, but lately I haven’t been keeping up on all the best new hotels. That’s not to say that I don’t welcome the chance to stay somewhere fabulous, or at the very least, blog about it. I was glad to hear about citizenM hotels, an innovative and budget-friendly, but style heavy, international chain of design hotels.

The New York Times described the citizenM hotel as “a cross between a style-conscious boutique and a pod hotel.” The Dutch company, led by Rattan Chadha, a New Delhi-born entrepreneur who sold his Dutch clothing company, Mexx, to Liz Claiborne in 2001, cuts costs but cultivates a hip vibe. citizenM stands for “citizen mobility.”

According to an article in Inc. Magazine, Chadha came up with the concept from observing how the young designers who worked for him at Mexx craved cool hotels, though not necessarily overtly luxurious ones. He tells Inc., “I wanted to create a hybrid: great style for a price a 25-year-old designer could afford. That concept existed in fashion but not in hotels.” 

Dutch architectural firm Concrete designed this design hotel concept. The rooms are individual modules prefabricated in their own factory, then stacked shipping container style. The rooms are all the same small size, with the same size windows, and all cost the same per night. They sport must-have amenities including large custom mattresses, high thread-count sheets, high pressure showers, free Wi-Fi and free bottled water.

Reservations are taken online only,  and check in and check out are done via lobby kiosks. There are no concierges, but there are “ambassadors” on hand to help if you ask. (Interestingly, they’re not from the hotel industry, but rather, at least in New York, drama students.) In place of the ubiquitous hotel  restaurant is a “canteen” that provides good quality food like sandwiches, salads, sushi, and such, open 24 hours a day.

The public areas of these design hotels are set up as communal living rooms with different types of spaces for working and lounging, furnished with sublime pieces by Swiss design company Vitra. There’s abundant and enviable high end artwork by the likes of Julian Opie, Andy Warhol, Tracey Emin, and David LaChapelle. Chadha told Wallpaper, “[The lobby is] styled to look like the living room of a very well-travelled person.”

In a number of the hotels, citizenM collaborates Amsterdam-based bookshop Mendo, the self-described as a “candy store for book aficionados.” The pop-up bookshops sell glossy books on photography, architecture, fashion, and  travel, and will send them directly to one’s home. 

The company is expanding its chain of design hotels, and has named Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco as target locations for new citizenM hotels. I’d love to see a citizenM hotel in Boston. Perhaps they’ll offer me a bed for a night. 

Let’s take a tour of five citizenM hotels:

Paris

The citizenM hotel Paris at the Charles De Gaulle Airport, which opened in June 2014, has 230 rooms and is the chain’s seventh location.

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A commissioned art piece by contemporary London-born artist Julien Opie covers the entire full-glass front façade of the six-story citizenM Paris. 

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More of Julien Opie’s artwork lines a black accent wall in the lobby living room, above an extended, multicolor George Nelson Marshmallow sofa.

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There are XL king size beds, Hansgrohe power rain showers, wood ceilings, and mid-century modern furniture. There are customizable playlists by 22tracks, a music discovery service curated by top European DJs.

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canteenM Paris is designed like an open kitchen.

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Rotterdam

The 151-room citizenM hotel in Rotterdam, The Netherlands is the company’s fifth property.

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The black walls are on trend, as is the hanging bicycle. Not sure if it’s art or readily available for a ride.

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Tablet mood pads allow guests to dim or change light colors, draw the curtains, cool the room, and control the television. Unlike most hotels, every room is equipped with a small desk with sockets to charge mobile devices no matter what the plugs origin.

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New York City

The first Manhattan location (another will soon go up in The Bowery) is a 230-room structure in Times Square.

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A commissioned artwork by Jen Liu wraps around the exterior façade of citizenM NYC.  The hotel collaborated with s[edition] to allow guests select contemporary digital artwork for the displays in each room, with works  by Mark Titchner and Tracey Emin.

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canteenM Time Square rocks a coffee house vibe. Food is locally sourced from New York suppliers.

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In addition to a wraparound terrace, the rooftop bar has a fireplace and cocktail menu curated by celeb mixologist Mayur Subbarao.

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Amsterdam

There are two citizenM hotels in Amsterdam. One at the airport, and this one, with 215 rooms close to city center.

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Living rooms sport comfy green couches and iMacs on long communal work (or pretend to work) tables. 

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Rooms have XL king beds with Italian linens and super fluffy feather pillows, and as they tout on their website, “the best showers this side of the rainforest.”

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London

The group’s fourth hotel went up in London in 2012. It’s in walking distance of the Tate Modern.

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Conference tables evoke a party atmosphere.

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A spiral staircase leads to the first floor where there are seven meeting rooms. Artwork includes pieces by Hans op de Beeck, Gavin Turk and Mario Testino.

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So many George Nelson bubble lamps.

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The exterior of citizenM London features a piece of text art by Turner Prize-nominated artist Mark Titchner that says “Another World Is Possible.”

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