Head to Arkansas for What May Be America's Coolest Art and Design Hotel

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By Kelsey Keith / Published by Dwell
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Architect Deborah Berke designs a modern retreat in Bentonville, Arkansas, for 21c, a hotel mini-empire blending art, design, and hospitality.

Located on the northeast corner of the Bentonville town square and a short walk to Moshe Safdie's Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville is a 104-room boutique hotel that boasts an impressive collection of contemporary art and 12,000 square feet of exhibition (open to the public!). The newest location, which opened in 2013, joins two other 21c properties in Cincinnati and Louisville. 

Deborah Berke Partners, in collaboration with executive architect Polk Stanley Wilcox, designed the Bentonville, Arkansas, branch of mini-chain 21c Museum Hotel with a glass facade and 12,000 square feet of public exhibition space. In 2006, Berke was hired by owners Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson to design the first 21c Museum Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky: a series of "five deteriorating 19th century buildings along West Main Street with a design that highlighted the original brick, timber, and cast iron construction."

21c Museum Hotel Bentonville
200 NE A Street 
Bentonville, Arkansas 72712

Exterior benches made of local stone establish a relationship between the building and the surrounding landscape, as does the Dark Ironspot Velour Modular Brick from Endicott Clay used on the facade. The design team, led by Deborah Berke, achieved an open, inviting feel through skylights, light monitors, large windows and an interior courtyard.

The hotel's arts programming is curated by VP Museum Director Alice Gray Stites in collaboration with the 21c founders, who maintain a permanant collection of over 2,000 works comprising painting, sculpture, installation, photography, film, video, and digital art. Public art is on display at the Bentonville hotel via the in-room Video Art Channel, in elevator lobbies, hallways, and even the restrooms. The area rug in the lobby is from Lepere, Inc.

Berke’s design balances grand public spaces with "intimate, inviting" private spaces. The entry points to the hotel are categorized by high ceilings and polished concrete floors, and incorporating natural light is a central focus throughout the 100,000 square foot property. The sleekness of the space is contrasted by a rich wooden table, which serves as a check-in desk, by Simplemente Madera. The green penguins spotted throughout the building are by Cracking Art Group.

The property features nine site-specific installations created by artists, like Anne Peabody's Hide and Seek (2012-2013) in the restroom vestibule off the ground-floor Gallery 1.

21c’s guest rooms include furniture custom-designed by Deborah Berke Partners, like the banquette sofas lining the wall that are upholstered in fabric from Décor Fabrics Inc. Co-founder Laura Lee Brown is also a photographer and painter; her work can be found in each guestroom in the form of limited-edition prints.

104 rooms with six room types are designed by Deborah Berke Partners with a residential feel.

Large-scale glass tile lines the shower enclosure in the suite bathrooms; marble surrounds continue the material theme from the lobby.

21c Museum Hotel's ground-floor restaurant, The Hive, features Arkansas native Matthew McClure’s take on refined country cooking. The 125-seat restaurant was designed as a communal gathering place for diners; design notes include polished concrete floors, a white glazed-brick bar face, and a Carthage marble bar top (a limestone produced in the region). Terra cotta tiles line the floor, and the pantry is furnished with a selection of jarred house-made pickles, coffee beans, and other provisions.