Feast Your Eyes on Portland's Hippest New Hotel
Blind Tiger celebrates local culture and its speakeasy past.
TEXT BY JEN DEROSE
PHOTOGRAPHED BY READ MCKENDREE & CODY JAMES BARRY
Here are a few hotel-y things you won’t find in Portland’s newest boutique hotel: headboards bolted to walls, phone chargers built into bedside tables, mini-bars, matching rooms. “We design spaces to live in, not perfect hotel rooms,” says Rob Blood, president of Massachusetts-based Lark Hotels, which opened Blind Tiger in the West End’s former Danforth Inn in February. Each of the nine guest rooms features a freestanding four-poster, paneled, spool, or upholstered bed, a pair of vintage or contemporary nightstands, and its own theme. Winslow Homer’s stormy sea etching, in the collection at the nearby Portland Museum of Art, inspired “Eight Bells,” rendered in a black-and-tan palette and swirly brushstroke wallpaper. “Diavolo,” meantime, named after restaurant Street & Company’s Lobster Diavolo dish, features enveloping deep-sea-green paint on the walls, woodwork, and ceiling. The idea, says Blood, who conceived the décor with Megan Kennedy, his co-founder at the Massachusetts design firm Elder & Ash, was to make guests feel like they’re kicking back at a stylish — and benevolent — friend’s place.
ABOVE 1) “Diavolo” has a Polaroid transfer by Matt Schwartz. 2) The Federal mansion has been a private school and a rectory. 3) The “Eight Bells” guestroom features Kelly Wearstler’s painterly Graffito wallpaper.
A friend, perhaps, like the 1823 brick Federal’s second owner, merchant and banker Elias Thomas, who, in 1901, enlisted renowned Portland architect John Calvin Stevens to design an addition to accommodate the Thomas family’s lavish parties. Decades later, during Prohibition, the festivities moved to a secret basement club, inspiring the current hotel’s name: blind tiger was code for a speakeasy.
At today’s Blind Tiger, happenings are a bit tamer. Locals are welcome to work and socialize in the hotel’s five living areas, furnished with elaborately carved fireplaces, mid-century-style sofas, leather armchairs, and vintage art, and a dining area outfitted with a long mahogany table and six-seat bar. Guests, who receive a welcome letter upon check-in with shop, restaurant, and activity recommendations from local “hosts,” such as artists Tessa O’Brien and Will Sears and restaurateurs Andrew Taylor and Mike Wiley, can also take advantage of the “Adventure Room,” stocked with canvas backpacks and picnic blankets. “Our whole concept is bringing Portland into the hotel,” Blood says, “but also making sure we’re pushing people out to experience the city.”