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Friday, June 22, 2018

Affordable Design Hotels

I have been traveling extensively recently, to the point where I have stayed at dozens
of hotels already this year. During the course of these travels, I have discovered several
really great properties, which I will share from time to time here.

But lest you get the idea that a travel journalist’s life is all heavenly beds and
five-star hotels, let me first off assure you that I have stayed in several fleabags along the
way. To that end, I can’t advise you enough against staying at New York’s Riverside Tower
Hotel and Boise’s Best Value Inn and Suites. They are so bad that I won’t even grace them
with a link.

But let’s get back to the good stuff.

In May, I traveled to Austin to be a judge in the O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships
(yes, that’s a thing).

During my stay in the capital of Texas, my home was Hotel Eleven, located in Austin’s
funkadelic East End. The 14-room property is owned by a wife and husband team.
He’s the architect; she’s the hand-son general manager.

Credit: Paul Bardagy

Rooms are located on three stories, each floor with its own outside lounge/balcony.
The rooftop sports a for-guests-only lounge with spectacular 360-degree views of the city.

The Crash Pad
Credit: Paul Bardagy
The interiors are modern, popping with orange and blue accents. Guest rooms
(from a Crash Pad to the junior suites) feature wallpaper of varying color and design,
along with cool lighting fixtures and contemporary artwork from local artists.
Some rooms have freestanding bathtubs that are just inviting guests in for a soak.

This month, I decided to spend a couple of days in “my happy place.”
That place is Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho. I discovered that the previously-rundown
Clarion Hotel in downtown Ketchum had been refurbished into the Hotel Ketchum.
While the general manager refers to it as a three-star hotel, and the rates are among
the cheapest in the area, I was impressed, and I don’t feel sheepish in saying so.

A mural by a local artist graces the exterior of Hotel Ketchum
In fact, the hotel mascot is the sheep--which is appropriate given that this area is known for sheep farming. (Ketchum and neighboring Hailey host The Trailing of the Sheep every October, which is one of the best festivals I have ever attended.)

Trailing of the Sheep Festival
But I digress. While looking around the 58-room property can be an exercise in counting sheep (there’s the sheep mural, and the sheep salt and pepper shakers, and the sheep doorstops, and the “thank ewe” messages on your receipts),  the decor doesn’t cross the line into kitschy. Rather, the Idaho-inspired interior design, from the potato sack collage scaling the lobby walls to the local wood used in the furnishings and accessories, give the hotel a modern, cool ambiance.

Guests can also hang out at the Hangout. The onsite cafe is open in the morning for breakfast (free to guests) and again after 4 PM. That’s when the space converts into a cocktail lounge featuring beers and wines made in Idaho, along with craft cocktails and a light menu.

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