This Group Is Reimagining the Future of Boutique Hotels

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By Julia Brenner / Published by Dwell
Chicago–based Aparium Hotel Group is investing in communities and celebrating local heritage, one vibrantly reimagined building at a time.

When it comes to accommodations, Aparium delivers much more than another place to rest your head at night. Thanks to its collaborative, community-driven approach, this company is paving a new path for hospitality with each additional opening. 

From a bygone department store in Covington, Kentucky, to a shuttered candy factory in La Crosse, Wisconsin, Aparium aims to redesign unused structures in a way that pays homage to the building's unique history, while also celebrating the local heritage of each particular city. 

Below, we've taking a peek inside four of Aparium's 13 hotels across the USA. Keep scrolling to see how—and where—you can join in on all the fun.

Detroit, Michigan: Foundation Hotel

Located in the former 1929 Detroit Fire Department Headquarters at the gates of downtown, the Foundation Hotel houses 100 rooms.  

Located in the former 1929 Detroit Fire Department Headquarters at the gates of downtown, the Foundation Hotel houses 100 rooms.  

One of Aparium's most recent projects, the Foundation Hotel in Detroit, Michigan, was launched in 2017 as "the re-imagination of the 1929 Headquarters of the Detroit Fire Department."    

Guests are greeted by plush leather booths and classic hardwood floors in the chic bar area.

Guests are greeted by plush leather booths and classic hardwood floors in the chic bar area.

The company's ethos of embracing site-specific heritage is evidenced in the way they opt to leave the original architectural elements in place, such as the soaring ceilings and grand archway doors of the fire department headquarters. 

Gorgeous blue curtains allow this area to be broken out into separate rooms, if needed.

Gorgeous blue curtains allow this area to be broken out into separate rooms, if needed.

In addition to reinvigorating historic buildings, Aparium prides itself on forming partnerships with makers and businesses to bring forth local products to hotel guests. 

For instance, at the Foundation Hotel, the company partnered with Detroit is the New Black, a local apparel brand, to create customized uniforms for the hotel staff members.  

An inviting lounge area for guests to gather and enjoy.

An inviting lounge area for guests to gather and enjoy.

By creating locally-formed partnerships, the company is able to "help local entrepreneurs grow their business at a much greater scale," says Kevin Robinson, Aparium's chief operating officer and managing partner. 

A quick peek at the Commissioner's Suite at the Detroit Foundation Hotel. 

A quick peek at the Commissioner's Suite at the Detroit Foundation Hotel. 

LaCrosse, Wisconsin: Charmant Hotel

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Another Aparium property is the Charmant Hotel, which is housed in the former Joseph B. Funke Candy Co. factory that operated from 1898 until 1933. The hotel is named after a premium line of chocolates produced by the candy company. Ironically, the name is also the French word for 'charming,' which is aptly fitting for this stylish space. 

A candy counter greets hotel guests as a subtly elegant nod to the building's history. 

A candy counter greets hotel guests as a subtly elegant nod to the building's history. 

"It is essential for us to understand the significance of the building and celebrate it —not knock it down or hide its true character," explains Kevin Robinson.

Guests can enjoy plush, comfortable bedding in each room, along with exquisite exposed brick.

Guests can enjoy plush, comfortable bedding in each room, along with exquisite exposed brick.

Architectural details of the original structure—which is now considered a historic landmark—have been carefully preserved and integrated into the new design, including maple flooring, wood beams, and exposed brick. According to some hotel staffers, these original elements still emit the sweet smell of candy at times.

Covington, Kentucky: Hotel Covington

Aparium relaunched Hotel Covington in a way that reimagines its legacy as a center of style and culture along the Cincinnati Riverfront.

Aparium relaunched Hotel Covington in a way that reimagines its legacy as a center of style and culture along the Cincinnati Riverfront.

Originally built in 1910, Aparium's Hotel Covington is acclaimed for being Kentucky's first skyscraper. It formerly was the home to Coppin's Department Store, in which it maintained a reputation as "the greatest store in Northern Kentucky" until its closing in 1977. 

Hotel Covington's restaurant and bar is named Coppin's, in homage to the department store. 

Hotel Covington's restaurant and bar is named Coppin's, in homage to the department store. 

Robinson explains the mission of Aparium is "to ensure that each property remains authentic and genuine to its roots, using its heart and soul to create an extraordinary hotel." 

He further describes that, as a business model, this approach forces the company "to create hotels that are completely authentic and genuine to the local market, each time."  

Sleek, stylish vibes await guests in the rooms at Hotel Covington. 

Sleek, stylish vibes await guests in the rooms at Hotel Covington. 

Along with seeking buildings that possess a unique story, the group looks for properties that can support restaurants, bars, and event programming, as well as structures that can be transformed into robust hotels while still maintaining historical elements and structural integrity. 

Milwaukee, Wisconsin: The Iron Horse

To minimize waste and reuse workable infrastructure, Aparium kept the original wood beams and steel pipes throughout The Iron Horse. Locally-produced textiles and artwork were also added to provide decorative accents in the rooms. 

To minimize waste and reuse workable infrastructure, Aparium kept the original wood beams and steel pipes throughout The Iron Horse. Locally-produced textiles and artwork were also added to provide decorative accents in the rooms. 

Guests visiting The Iron Horse experience modern loft-inspired rooms housed in a remade 100-year-old manufacturing warehouse. 

Because Aparium works to minimize waste and reuse the infrastructure of its properties, the industrial origins of this building have been incorporated throughout the hotel.

The Iron Horse is located near Milwaukee's electric downtown, offering guests plenty of opportunity for unique entertainment.

The Iron Horse is located near Milwaukee's electric downtown, offering guests plenty of opportunity for unique entertainment.

Encouraging guests to experience and explore the rich cultural and entertainment scenes of each city, Aparium strategically seeks out properties in vibrant arts and entertainment districts. This type of community partnership showcases the company's vision of invigorating local markets and driving commercial growth, while honoring local culture and legacy stories. 

"We built a company that will be a sustainable organization for a lifetime; it has never been about ego," Robinson notes when explaining Aparium's mission.

"We built a company that will be a sustainable organization for a lifetime; it has never been about ego," Robinson notes when explaining Aparium's mission.

With 13 reimagined boutique hotels in cities across the USA—and more in the works—Aparium illustrates the stunning possibilities of adaptive building reuse, and the endless growth potential of creative collaboration within community inclusion. 

Interested in booking a stay at one of Aparium's 13 locations? Check out their website here