Back in 1999, Alex Calderwood opened the Ace Hotel in Seattle and forever changed our notion of what a luxury hotel could be. Set up in unlikely city buildings, halfway houses, or civic icons, Ace appeals to the creative class – nothing is stuffy, but everything is quality and storied. Over the last decade or so, Ace has expanded across America, and swathes of similar boutique offerings have emerged. Another recent edition to the category is Hi-Lo Hotel in Portland, which promises a comparable sort of cool, relaxed version of luxury. Local interior designer Jessica Helgerson is responsible for six-storey, 120-room hotel’s public spaces, including interior architecture, finishes and furnishings for a large lobby lounge with reception, lobby bar, several meeting and event rooms, a fitness centre and bathrooms.
Hi-Lo is housed within the historic Oregon Pioneer Building – the City of Roses’ first major concrete structure – and this became the interior canvas for Jessica’s interpretation of high-brow, low-brow, casual slash elegant design. “When we first visited the space it was basically gutted, a beautifully dusty space with raw concrete columns and concrete floors bathed in soft natural light,” she explains. “We decided to preserve and celebrate this rough, chalky, unfinished shell – the low – while bringing in soft, sensual, elegant, playful furnishings – the high.” For Jessica, low meant raw. Original concrete columns have been left in their raw state, rough and warn brick walls have been preserved, and newer concrete structural walls have been left unfinished. Decorative elements and ornaments make up the high element: curved sofas in forest green velvet, live edge ash and walnut tables feel luxurious but also speak to the site’s Pacific Northwest location. And spaces switch easily from ever-so-slightly formal to relaxed and lounging too – there are low, cushy sofas and swinging settees, as well as a long table with individual chairs or benches.