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Interiors

The Dwell Hotel: A Stylish Step Back in Time

by Garrett Fleming

When you design a space inspired by a specific decade, you walk a fine line. If you drive home the theme too much, you risk it appearing kitschy and staged. A keen eye for color and pattern, though, can be your ticket to making any retro room appear fun and modern. Just take, for example, Chattanooga, TN’s The Dwell Hotel, originally opened in 1909 and newly redesigned. Every corner of the boutique hotel proves that 1950s design is timeless when styled right.

The masterminds behind the revived look are Owner/Designer Seija Ojanpera and Head Buyer Laurel Creager, two women with a passion for mid-century decor and saturated color. They’ve taken their fun aesthetic and amplified it, and it’s all thanks to an in-your-face, palm wallpaper. When they found it, a lightbulb went off immediately and the duo was inspired to take risks and be a bit bolder with the space’s look than they had initially planned. Thanks to the fronds, all 16 of the boutique hotel’s themed rooms now feature their own unique prints and brazen color scheme. But the most admirable design feature may be the furniture and decor. They’re all authentic pieces — no replicas here. Seija and Laurel scoured eBay, Craigslist and estate sales, staying up all hours of the night to snag the perfect furnishings.

Clearly, their hard work has paid off as the hotel’s new look is extremely cohesive. So cohesive, in fact, you’d never know that the whirlwind of a project came together in a mere five months. “It was wild and so fun, and I’d be crazy to do it that way again… but probably would,” Seija says with a wink. If their next project turns out this great, I say forget the stress, and go for it. We can never have too many fabulous hotels to visit. Click through to explore all of the The Dwell Hotel’s prettiest spots. Enjoy! —Garrett

Photography by Graham Yelton and Margaret Pate

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Martinique Wallpaper in the same pattern that was used in The Beverly Hills Hotel adorns the walls of the lobby. From the get-go, the team knew they wanted a bold look, but this pattern sealed the deal and wallpaper went up in every room.
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The Chattanooga of yesterday was heavily influential in the hotel's design. Throwback photos of the hotel and pictures of the city that were "full of color, lights, gorgeous signs and fab design" led the team to decorate the space in mid-century finds. So many other hotels use replica pieces to achieve that vintage vibe, but not The Dwell. All of their furniture is true vintage and has been sourced from eBay, Craigslist, estate sales, etc.
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A guest lounge area in bold, retro colors. From start to finish, it took five months to get the 16-room hotel into working order. Owner Seija tells us it was a whirlwind. With results like this, though, she says she'd do it all over again.
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The hotel's restaurant Terra Máe is a spot where "no spice is off limits, [and] no dish [is] too exotic."
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Throughout the design process, Seija learned how following your gut and being bold can truly pay off. When it comes to design specifically, she says that The Dwell Hotel is a testament to how approaching decor light-heartedly can be the key to success.
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The Kite room is named after the iconic painting hanging above the crisp bed. An accent wall in a bold wallpaper complements the orange accessories that sit in front of it. Mixing patterns such as these ovals with florals -- as seen on the chairs -- may not be conventional, but bold moves like that make The Dwell's rooms so memorable.
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No room named after a kite would be complete without a bit of fresh air. This room's balcony offers just that.
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The Mod Executive Suite features an oh-so-retro, yellow-and-brown color palette.
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Connected to the bedroom of The Mod is this throwback living space with a working gas fireplace.
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Featuring a king-sized bed and a balcony, The Palm Springs room gets its name from none other than the city that inspired its bright-and-cheery design.
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Visitors who need to get a little work done can sit here in The Palm Springs Room's vintage work space.
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The Tropicana Suite is home to -- what else -- images of flora and fauna and a lush color scheme inspired by the jungle.
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Brazen wallpaper not only ties together the room's theme, but the leaf pattern is a nice carry-over from the lobby's palm treatment.

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