Since establishing its manufacturing facility in Detroit’s historic Argonaut Building back in 2011, Shinola has become one of the most significant voices in the city’s ongoing regeneration.
The brand’s highly anticipated move into hospitality brings another dimension to its lifestyle offering, as well as creating a unique social “living room” within the city’s burgeoning downtown corridor.
Developed in partnership with real estate firm and fellow Detroit resident, Bedrock, Shinola Hotel marries two lovingly restored buildings – the onetime T.B. Rayl & Co. department store and the historic former Singer sewing-machine store – with the addition of three thoughtful new annexes.
The main structure now occupied by the hotel was built by the T.B. Rayl Company in 1915, and features architect Wirt Rowland’s characteristic use of terra cotta.
“For Shinola in particular there was so much to draw from because the company’s aesthetic is rooted in a history that is uniquely American. The brand represents expert craftsmanship, comfort, ease – and most importantly – is dedicated to the community”
With its limestone-clad neoclassical facade, the adjacent Singer Building is rather more understated in style, though nonetheless striking. Home to the Singer Sewing Machine Company in 1936, the property was designed by Detroit-based Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, which still exists today as the SmithGroup.
To realise the image and DNA of Shinola in hotel form, the brand selected NYC design firm, Gachot Studios, whose portfolio includes New York’s Smyth Tribeca Hotel and Brooklyn’s Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club.
“We designed two major retail projects for Shinola; the downtown Los Angeles and Brooklyn locations,” explains Christine Gachot, co-founder of Gachot Studios. “While working on these projects, I caught wind of the fact that a hotel concept was being floated for the brand.
“My background is in hotel design and development, which I’m passionate about, so I didn’t hesitate to interject myself into the conversation when the opportunity arose. It was quite funny, in fact, but sometimes you just have to got for it!”
Armed with their implicit understanding of Shinola’s philosophy and aesthetic, Christine and her team worked to master plan, develop the property narrative, and design direct its exterior architecture.
“We, as a team, “lived” the brand for quite some time,” she explains. “For Shinola in particular there was so much to draw from because the company’s aesthetic is rooted in a history that is uniquely American. The brand represents expert craftsmanship, comfort, ease – and most importantly – is dedicated to the community.
“We sought to bring these ideas to life by creating a friendly space with a residential sensibility where all will feel welcome.”
Shinola Hotel offers 129 spacious guest rooms, awash with hardwood flooring, cosy mid-century modern furniture, earthy tones and loft-style windows that provide plenty of natural light. Each of the suites will have a coveted Shinola Runwell turntable and a curated collection of vinyl.
One of the key challenges for Gachot Studios was achieving continuity across the various structures, old and new, that make up the hotel. As a result, there are subtle variations of layout from room to room.
“It was a design marathon of sorts, but we enjoyed every bit of it,” Christine affirms. “Connecting historic and newly proposed buildings presented us with a number of architectural irregularities to work around and resulted in the creation of over 57 room types for 129 rooms!”
Shinola Hotel’s public spaces incorporate a lobby restaurant, mezzanine lounge, conservatory, and magnificent event spaces. Its impressive F&B offering has been overseen by Andrew Carmellini and NoHo Hospitality Group partners, Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom.
“As soon as you enter the ‘living room’, you are surrounded by art from local artists, American-made furniture, and warm light”
Tucked beyond the lobby area, the Evening Bar creates an intimate enclave with low-slung seating and soft lighting. American beer hall, The Brakeman, offers rotating drafts of craft beer from the Midwest, while Southern Italian restaurant, San Morello, serves up authentic, wood-fired dishes and house-made pastas.
The social energy of the hotel – as a multi-functional hub for the community – is reflected in its warm, inviting interiors. Inspired by the aesthetic of London private members’ clubs, caramel, camel, and gray feature heavily in the hotel’s palette, along with soft blush, deep greens and rich woods. Oil-rubbed bronze, soft leather, plush mohair and American white oak add to the luxurious feel.
In keeping with Shinola’s emphasis on quality craftsmanship, the hotel’s flooring, furniture, wallcoverings and accessories have been custom-designed for the project, and are predominantly manufactured in the US.
Indeed, the hotel has partnered with several brands in the Michigan area, including Pewabic, known for its covetable ceramics, Booms Stone Company, responsible for the elegant stone finishes in the guest rooms, and Great Lakes Stainless, whose decorative metals can be found throughout the hotel’s public spaces.
Library Street Collective, an esteemed Detroit-based gallery, has curated a provocative mix of art for the hotel with a broad representation of both local and international artists. The hotel’s reception area will become its own striking work of art; Detroit artist Margo Wolowiec will cover four walls, floor-to-ceiling with custom woven panels to create an immersive environment of color and energy.
“The building’s bones are laden with details and show the high value placed on craftsmanship at that time”
The materials and finishes used throughout the property chime carefully with the look and feel of the building’s original architecture. Marbleised wallpaper mimics marble found buried in the Rayl’s building, while the cream hallway walls feature accents of Shinola blue – a signature hue developed by Gachot from a lone paint chip unearthed in the Singer building.
This level of craftmanship and attention to detail even extends to the bathroom fixtures, for which Waterworks took cues from caseback details of Shinola’s luxury watches, and the room keys, which feature custom leather fobs with an engraving of the room number and the hotel’s street address.
“We always set out to create a cohesive visual narrative that respects the past while looking forward,” Christine explains. “The building’s bones are laden with details and show the high value placed on craftsmanship at that time. Luckily, Shinola as a brand represents these values.
“As soon as you enter the ‘living room’, you are surrounded by art from local artists, American-made furniture, and warm light. The defining touch points are in the feel of the leather and the quality of the fabrics . . . you should try the sofas!”
While it is as yet unclear whether Shinola plans to evolve its hotel concept into a national or even international chain, the brand and its partners have nevertheless created a meaningful new Detroit institution.