In the 2011 movie Midnight in Paris, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson) is a Hollywood screenwriter whose career has stalled. With his hopes pinned on instead writing a novel, he accompanies his fiancée and her parents on a trip to Paris where on a midnight walk one evening he inadvertently ends up time travelling to the 1920s. Over the next four nights, Pender finds himself in the wee hours engaged in fascinating conversations with F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, poet T. S. Eliot, and writers Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas.
It is in these cabarets, jazz clubs, restaurants and hotel lobbies where Pender and his newfound friends—additionally comprised of composer Cole Porter, singer Josephine Baker, filmmaker Luis Buñuel, novelist Ernest Hemingway and artists Henri Matisse and Salvador Dalí—are engrossed in lively discussions centered around the arts, new fashions, music, politics and literature. This energy is what The Ramble Hotel is looking to bring to the corner of Larimer Street and 25th Street in the River North Art District (RiNo).
“I wanted to create a place in RiNo where people could congregate and have meaningful conversations over meals and drinks,” says Ryan Diggins, founder of the hotel. “I was very much inspired by the old Parisian salons established by Catherine de Vivonne that predated coffee houses as gathering places. It was this ‘relaxed elegance’ I envisioned for the hotel.”
Mademoiselle de Vivonne introduced her salon concept at the Hôtel de Rambouillet in 1617, and it served as the platform for spirited dialogue among influential Parisians and literary invitees until her death in 1665. Borrowing equity from 17th century French culture, Diggins infused that ‘relaxed elegance’ into the hotel’s DNA.
“Your class, your rank or where you stood in society didn’t matter to de Vivonne,” explains Diggins. “All you had to do is have an opinion and wish to have a conversation with others. That was the genesis of this project for me, giving people a comfortable environment where they could exchange intellectual ideas and really interact with each other.”
While Diggins recognizes that people have a lot of diverse choices in RiNo to eat, drink, talk and chill, he believes that what the neighborhood was lacking was the ideal atmosphere for people to hunker down for an extended breakfast, lengthy lunch or long evening so they could really connect.
Step through the vintage glass-paned lobby vestibule and you see that the interior design firm masterfully captured Diggins’ vision of transporting guests to Paris circa 1650. A trio of ‘conversation islands’ with plush couches, comfy chairs and long coffee tables make the lobby feel more like a giant living room. Along the right side of the north wall, a banquette and chairs await parties of two, three or four, while on the west wall facing Larimer Street are several other spots for two to four people to gather. To the left of the vestibule is a pair of high-back booths well suited to foursomes. Without question the centerpiece of the 30-foot-high space is a handmade bar that is distinguished by three massive mirrors and more than 200 bottles of brand-name spirits. A row of leather-topped stools invites a dozen people to sit at the bar, while the space around the bar accommodates 90 or so patrons.
Even though the 50-room hotel just opened in April, it feels like it’s been a part of RiNo for decades. Designed to align with the neighborhood’s IMX3 zoning guidelines—industrial, mixed use, three-stories—the building pays homage to Denver’s turn-of-the-century warehouses, mercantile buildings and historic mansions.
“The architecture and design were two of the most critical components of this project,” Diggins explains. “A lot of buildings being built in RiNo right now don’t really fit in with this neighborhood, they don’t really honor any of the warehouse history. It was important to build something that really resonated with the neighborhood and hopefully evoked a bit of nostalgia with this classic, Denver-orange brick, old warehouse looking building.”
Diggins, a partner at Gravitas Development Group with his dad, nurtured the idea for the hotel from its inception on the back of a napkin to the hiring of Denver-based architectural firm, Johnson Nathan Strohe, Avenue Interior Design of Los Angeles, and builder Sprung Construction. He and his project colleagues went to great lengths to include both new and old materials in the construction. The brick, which is hand cut, was sourced in Maryland. Sourced from Ohio, the reclaimed American beech and sugar maple covers the lobby floor. The chicken wire glass in the bathroom doors off the lobby, the cabinets in the rooms and tall window panel sliders in the lobby were reclaimed from Rockefeller Center in New York. The windowpanes in the entrance vestibule were salvaged from an early 1900s Denver factory. Made to look vintage, the custom-designed crystal chandeliers are new, as are the locally crafted dressers in the guest rooms. Handpicked by Diggins over a two-year period, most of the 70-plus Persian rugs in the hotel are between 80 and 100 years old.
“I think it is important when you design a project like this that you curate the items you put in the building,” Diggins says. “We were looking to impart some history and add some patina to the hotel, so we incorporated an eclectic blend of materials, and then layered in artisans and craftsmen. When things around you have a story (behind them), they can enrich your experience.”
For those looking to host meetings, special events or parties, the hotel has more than 5,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor spaces. Located at street level, its 2,300 square foot Vauxhall has best-in-class AV capabilities and a private Larimer Street entrance. Guests of the boutique hotel will find their rooms as quiet as they are beautifully appointed, thanks to a sound-dampening space between the interior walls. Paints in warm grays, sapphire blue and soft ivory color the walls, and eclectic prints and paintings are finishing touches. Floor-to-ceiling Juliette sliding doors let light pour into the room in the daytime, while shades and draperies allow for privacy come nightfall. By hotel industry standards, the room count at The Ramble Hotel is relatively small, which allows the property to have more of a ‘bed-and-breakfast’ vibe.
“The response from people has been overwhelmingly positive,” Diggins explains. “We’ve been able to create this really cool blend of locals with travelers, and it really fosters a dynamic room set with quality interactions between people across all demographics, age groups and different parts of the country.”
And to that, Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet, would say “c’est magnifique!”
Developer: Gravitas Development Group
Architecture: Johnson Nathan Strohe
Interior Design: Avenue Interior Design
Contractor: Sprung Construction
Hotel: 1280 25th St., Denver, CO 80205
Reservations: theramblehotel.com, 720-996-6300
Culinary: Death & Co.
Death & Co, launched in New York City in 2006, is a must-visit destination for enthusiasts of serious drinks and cocktails. The first expansion of the now 11-year-old institution, Death & Co Denver wows patrons with beverages literally taken from the pages of the Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails book. Published in October 2014, it is considered the definitive guide to the contemporary cocktail movement.
Woven throughout The Ramble Hotel is a variety of Death & Co hospitality experiences, including the main lobby bar. Fun, lively and informal, The Garden is a rooftop gathering place for enjoying vibrant and fresh drinks accompanied by Middle Eastern-inspired food on sunny afternoons and warm evenings.
An intimate space seating 20 guests, Suite 6A takes inspiration from the highly-personalized service of Death & Co’s NYC location and elevates it to an immersive journey featuring highly-creative cocktails that utilize rare ingredients and impress guests with unique presentations.
Kim D. McHugh, a Lowell Thomas award-winning freelance writer, has authored numerous stories on hospitality, travel, food and wine. If time travel was possible, he’d love to sit in the lobby living room of The Ramble Hotel chatting over coffee or adult beverages with Jules Verne, Claude Monet, Ian Fleming, Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway.
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