Enter the ‘Mad Men’ zone: one night at The Durham Hotel

Enter the ‘Mad Men’ zone: one night at The Durham Hotel

My husband recently surprised me with an overnight stay at the new mid-century modern hotel in downtown Durham called The Durham Hotel. I squealed with delight as he told me the details– Superior King suite, New Year’s Eve, rooftop celebration for the countdown– as I had been long coveting the aesthetics of the new hotel located in the heart of the Bull City. I’ve collected vintage Danish furniture and refurbished a few pieces along the years and was anxious to check out The Durham Hotel in person as a fan of retro design (plus my husband is an architect and was also curious).

The dining room inside The Durham Hotel.
The dining room inside The Durham Hotel.

The swanky six-floor boutique hotel at 315 E. Chapel Hill Street is an artfully-crafted space adorned in bold jewel tones(goldenrod and garnet) and patterned (black and white) hues. Step foot onto the outdoor lobby and you’ll immediately notice that this ain’t your normal run-of-the-mill boutique hotel–it is the well-coiffed man bun of boutique hotels. The black-and-white geometric Native-tiled lobby is flanked by a polished stainless newsstand lined with a selection of curated local guides and on the tippy-top, a small fanned collection of Merge records. Continue inside and you’ll find the front desk with a view of the expansive and gorgeous lobby and dining room.

The Superior King suite living room at The Durham Hotel.
The Superior King suite living room at The Durham Hotel.

Wave your room card in the elevator and you’ll find that the 475-square feet inside the Superior King suite is not only luxurious, but quite comfortable. The well-appointed private living room is surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows–draw open the goldenrod curtains and you’ll be greeted with the streetscapes of E. Chapel Hill Street. Guests can rest on the mid-century modern settee (with its cute hairpin legs) and rest drinks on the Noguchi coffee table. The rest of the living room is a tasteful mix of vintage furniture and modern elements like the industrial television stand.

The well-curated touches extend to the bathroom where Red Flower bath products await guests inside the walk-in shower and Durham’s Burt’s Bees lip balm and Milk and Honey lotion line the vanity. Another interesting and cool touch is the Hinoki stool inside the shower for guests that may need the extra support. The hallway leading to the bedroom is lined with ample storage space for luggage and offers several wooden hooks to hang jackets and hats.

The bedroom is no less impressive than the rest of the suite. The king-sized bed is bedecked in a duvet cover made especially for The Durham Hotel by Raleigh Denim. The bar is stocked with a spread of locally-made items from the likes of Big Spoon Roasters and Escazu. Caffeine hounds would be wise to also take advantage of the coffee service offered in the morning that uses Counter Culture Coffee, the Durham-based indie coffee roastery.

A rooftop bar and lounge crowns the top of the hotel, with exquisite views of the Bull City. On the bottom floor, hungry guests can partake in the “Farmer’s Market” breakfast downstairs in the dining room and feast on flaky pastries and blueberry muffins with a mug of Counter Culture coffee.

My only detractions from the stay were two small quibbles: no iron and ironing board in the room (though a phone call downstairs quickly resolved that issue) and I was mistakenly given sour cream in the miniature ceramic bell pitcher instead of half-and-half for the morning coffee service (weird!). Service was accommodating and mostly friendly.

The Durham Hotel and its furnishings may have its critique, perhaps as pretentious or a pastiche return to an ephemeral period in time, but the short stay was certainly fun and a vacation from the norm. No spotting of Don Draper this time, but maybe the next…

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