Set in the artsy Olneyville neighborhood of Providence, Rhode Island, this 1880s structure was once occupied by American Woolens Company, a legacy distributor of woolen fabrics. More recently, the 5,120-square-foot space was converted into a live/work arrangement by a designer-ceramicist couple before being put up for sale in 2019. Now, its new owners have given the historical structure yet another life—this time as a boutique hotel and event space, aptly named the Dye House.
The hotel is the second of its kind by husband-and-wife duo Everett and Valerie Abitbol, who had actually never planned on getting into the hospitality business. It all started with a visit to San Francisco, when they stayed in the venue where the wedding they were attending took place. "All the rooms were booked by our friends and family, and it felt more like a large Airbnb than a hotel," says Everett. "It felt different than any other way we had traveled—our group had a way better time than those staying at the more formal hotels." When they got home to Philadelphia, they created The Deacon, a stylish hotel and event space set inside a circa-1906 Baptist church.
The story of Dye House starts with a purchase made by Everett. One day, he was reading about J Schatz, the ceramic studio that formerly occupied the building, and ended up ordering a bird feeder for his mother on their website. Since the Abitbols visit Providence regularly when they stay at their summer home in Narragansett, Everett decided to pick up the feeder in person. He immediately clicked with the owners, Peter Souza and Jim Schatz, who showed him around the neighborhood, introducing him to friends and local businesses like the Steel Yard, and Lotuff, a leather maker next door. Everett, smitten with the community, brought Valerie back the next weekend to finalize the purchase of the building from Souza and Schatz. "We joke that I went to get a bird feeder and ended up with a building," says Everett.
To create Dye House, the Abitbols wanted to break from the mold of traditional New England bed and breakfasts, instead imagining a more modern aesthetic set off by the building’s historic details. They naturally turned to Shannon Maldonado—the founder and creative director of the Philadelphia creative agency and boutique YOWIE—who had also helped them create The Deacon. "I was immediately struck by the building’s cool original details like the concrete and brick floors and its industrial look," says Maldonado.
The team came up with a design that merges old-school Rhode Island with a bold and edgy take on New England prep. "Think the guy that shops at Noah and just bought a coffee table from Lichen," Maldonado says. They capitalized on the building’s high ceilings and airy, light-filled spaces, highlighting its white walls with pops of color. And while the overall look is cohesive, each of the hotel’s four accommodations boasts an intentionally distinct look and feel. "Hospitality is still catching on that each room doesn’t have to be the same," Maldonado points out.
Initially, Maldonado was concerned about doing a project outside of Philadelphia, where she and the Abitbols didn’t have established relationships with the maker and creative community. But all they had to do was start: "One person introduced us to another, and we soon realized there was this tightly woven community of super talented designers and creatives that we couldn’t wait to work with, who are now our friends," shares Everett. The hotel’s rooms double as a kind of gallery space for the maker community, featuring furniture and wares that are all available for purchase in person and online.
"There are so many times I have been in a restaurant or hotel and just wanted to know where they got that chair, mug, or mirror from," Everett says. "And we knew with the amazing talent we worked with, our guests would ask the same." In each room, guides with QR codes provide curious guests with direct access to the makers.
In the end, the Abitbols were successful in providing Providence with a new boutique hotel and event space, but also in supporting something that they love and believe in. "By centering our hotel rooms around a public venue, we get to interact with our neighbors and provide support to local entrepreneurs, thinkers, community organizations, schools, and non profits," explains Everett. "We get to bring our neighbors through our doors and meet some really interesting people—and in turn help foster a community we want to be a part of."
Builder/General Contractor: Mueller Carpentry, Sam Mueller
Landscape Design Company: Groundwork RI, Steve Ricci
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