We’re always glad to see a classic American roadside motor inn de-branded, renovated and repurposed. It’s a shame to see these mid-century buildings torn down, and as the building disappears, so does an example of an authentically American cultural form. Luxury boutiques can stay in the cities, and luxury villas can stay in Bali, where they belong — on the highways of the American west the motel is king.
Admittedly, though, we didn’t see this one coming. For the Seattle-based Ace Hotel group, an expansion into downtown Portland was always in the cards. An outpost in Manhattan presents a challenge, but not a total re-invention. Palm Springs, however, is another matter entirely — but if anyone’s capable of swimming against the twin tides of faded mid-century design museums and bland contemporary luxury resorts, in the process making Palm Springs both hip and affordable once again, you have to imagine it’s Ace.
Text Courtesy of Tablet Hotels
The idea of the “hip hotel” is a concept that could probably bear some examination. Hipness is a state that quite a lot of hotels strive for, and in fact only the cheapest and the most expensive hotels can afford to ignore it completely. And if the Ace group is known for anything, it’s for a certain very distinct kind of cool.
Theirs is not the intimidating, almost alienating brand of cool that seems to be the goal of the typical modern urban boutique hotel. Though design is a vital element in the Ace hotels, nowhere is it prankish or self-consciously avant-garde. One struggles to find a better word than “funky” to describe the sensibility: vintage but not retro, with a celebratory respect paid to the past rather than an ironic arched eyebrow. And sustainability here is not a slogan or a mission statement but an organic side effect of the use of second-hand furniture and surplus hardware.
Any hip hotel presents its own version of an idealized lifestyle. But while some present a consumerist bachelor-pad fantasy, others an elitist fashion-insider vibe, the Ace hotels feel democratic, participatory, accessible. Maybe it’s a product of the brand’s origin in the Pacific Northwest, a region that’s known for an egalitarian, community-oriented philosophy. At the Ace Palm Springs you don’t occupy spaces created by big-name designers, dine in a celebrity chef’s concept restaurant, or drink in some nightclub impresario’s branded cocktail bar. Here you drink in a high-desert dive bar and sit for meals in a repurposed diner — lunch counter and all — and order from a menu that’s high-quality and locally sourced but still comfortingly familiar.
The inclusive approach makes for an interesting crowd, as does the very reasonable price point. The social life is among the Ace’s strengths, but in a natural, organic way. Rather than a desperate closing-time atmosphere over expensive cocktails, the Ace fosters a sense of genuine camaraderie. The poolside atmosphere, and in fact the atmosphere throughout, is more summer camp than fashion show, and it threatens to put Palm Springs back on the map for a whole new generation.