Unique Lodging in Portland, Oregon

by Joy Uyeno

Portland is a quirky city that is proud of its independent spirit and arts-driven, eco-friendly nature, and the hotels in Portland reflect this dynamic. From a hotel with chalkboard painted doors in a transformed motor lodge to one that used to be an elementary school, unique lodging in Portland is abundantly available.

Juniper Hotel

Located in the buzzing Lower Burnside neighborhood of southeast Portland, the Juniper Hotel marries clean, retro design with comfortable accommodations. The location formerly housed a motor lodge and underground piano bar, but in 2005 it reopened as a completely refurbished boutique hotel. Rooms are dressed in Ikea-chic style, with blackboard-painted doors and photo mural walls. The hotel's adjoining bar and restaurant, the Doug Fir, is popular with locals and often features bands that are passing through Portland. The hotel welcomes pets and promotes environmentally friendly practices, such as in room recycling, use of low wattage light bulbs, and environmentally friendly cleaning products. Night owls and last-minute travelers can take advantage of deep savings, with $59 rooms available after midnight, as of October 2010. The Jupiter was featured in Budget Travel's article "The Motel Gets Its Groove Back," with information on the transformation from motel to boutique hotel.

Heathman Hotel

Although the Heathman Hotel exudes luxury and elegance in its downtown Portland location, the developers paid great attention to infusing environmentally friendly choices into every detail. In an article titled "Northwest Hotels Go Eco-Plus," the New York Times' Jennifer Margulis points out that "the tea court’s teal rococo-pattern couches are made from rubber tree sap and soy-based foam." Original works of art by Andy Warhol are part of the collection of fine art that adorns the walls, and each guest room features a piece of original artwork created by an artist from the Northwest. Guests are given three mattress options: European featherbed, European pillowtop or Tempurpedic. The Heathman Restaurant and Bar chef Philippe Boulot is a recipient of the James Beard award. The Heathman Hotel also welcomes pets. It is situated conveniently along the Max light-rail line, which allows for easy access to the airport, and it's also within two blocks of the waterfront.

McMenamins Kennedy School

The McMenamins family is famous in the Pacific Northwest for creating quirky spaces that create an ambiance of whimsy. There are eight McMenamins hotels in Washington and Oregon, and the Kennedy School is located in the Hollywood neighborhood of Portland. Formerly an elementary school, the McMenamins brothers kept the original structure of the building intact while converting the classrooms into 35 large guest rooms. Blackboards and cloakrooms give the rooms an authentically scholastic feel. Downstairs, a soaking pool, several bars, movie theater (with big, old couches), restaurant, and brewery serve guests and locals alike.

Ace Hotel Portland

The Ace Hotels make up a small chain, with locations in Palm Springs, New York, Seattle and Portland. The Portland hotel is located in the trendy Pearl District of the city, among coffee shops, martini bars, high-end boutiques and art galleries. In the New York Times article "Portland's Retro Fit Hotel," Jamie Gross says, "Part of the Ace philosophy is to create an egalitarian atmosphere by bringing together creative types with tight budgets and more affluent travelers willing to trade down, as it were, in exchange for cool." The developers stayed true to the original building and kept things ecologically friendly by reusing many of the old materials, including bathtubs, doorknobs and doors. Each room is unique, with hand-painted murals and an eclectic decor made up of vintage desks and chairs, old clothbound books and record players (guests can borrow records from the front desk). The hotel is attached to a Stumptown cafe, which is Portland's most beloved coffee line, and to an award-winning restaurant called Clyde Common. All are decorated in a pared-down, minimalistic, chic style that points to Portland's laid back, independent spirit.