The Hotel in the Middle of Durham's Inch Toward Relevance

The Durham Hotel sits at the center of the city's transformation.

For the uninitiated, Durham may recall images of airport layovers, Duke University hoops, tobacco smoke, and Kevin Coster wooing Susan Sarandon. These days, the central North Carolina city has been crawling toward relevance, specifically downtown. Real-estate developers have descended from high and low, leaving in their wake a bevy of trendy bars, offices, loft apartments, and art spaces. Banked in the middle of it all, on East Chapel Hill Street, is the 53-room Durham Hotel, which occupies the former Mutual Community Savings Bank, a building that dates back to 1969.

The hotel’s viscera is a bright explosion of midcentury modern designs—deep reds, yellows, and caramel tones throughout—by Los Angeles interiors outfit Commune, though a local style prevails. The rooms are appointed with custom Raleigh Denim blankets. James Bear Award winner Andrea Reusing of Chapel Hill’s acclaimed Lantern helms the restaurant. Staff uniforms are made with materials produced at a Greensboro moll. But the lobby, with it black-and-white scalene triangle tiles, is the hotel’s purely hypnotic piece de resistance. Its design, according to the developers, is reflective of both the historic integrity of the building and its period. In addition to that, the National Design Award-winning team looked to the Black Mountain College in nearby Asheville for inspiration. Sometimes all it takes to elevate a small town’s status is a stylish hotel.

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