Thomas Jefferson designed this hotel.
It’s true. Our third president of the United States crafted many things during his long life, including the Declaration of Independence, his beloved home Monticello, and the University of Virginia. It makes sense that this arbiter of taste would lend his eye to the lobby and halls, rooms, and even baths of The Graduate, a three-star boutique lodging that rests on the edge of the UVA campus in Charlottesville, Virginia.
That is certainly the idea, according to general manager Yolunda Harrell. “If Thomas Jefferson were alive today, how would he decorate his home? That is the premise behind the designers’ idea for the hotel,” she says. And, indeed, no stone appears unturned in their quest to integrate the smartest details into the space, courtesy of found and handmade objects. Take the lobby, for example: the front desk is a brainy combination of card catalog and toy railroad, which reflects Virginia towns by bespoke train-set creator Rail Tales. Instead of cards, however, the small drawers contain candy and dog treats (you can bring your furry bestie).
Picture This // In Charlottesville, guests are greeted at the card catalog–turned–reception desk, and guest rooms include a calculated collection of UVA-themed details.
Every nook, I find, is full of surprises. From the broad strokes of décor—plush plaid carpeting and hardwood floors like in Jefferson’s day, antique photographs, and inspired light fixtures—along with a game room/lounge (with conference/ping pong tables, aka ping pong tables with chairs), The Graduate goes for extra credit. Even UVA students hang out here, but I wonder if they are strategically placed like everything else.
The Graduate Hotels are a collection of boutique lodging in college towns throughout the country—in addition to Charlottesville, Athens, GA, Oxford, MS, Ann Arbor, MI, and more—designed with the geographic and cultural characteristics of each location. The giant fish above my luxurious king bed isn’t like something carelessly tacked to a dorm room wall. It’s a Wahoo, which is a nickname for the students at UVA, officially called Cavaliers. Legend has it that they adopted the name after a baseball game in 1890, when fans of rival Washington & Lee dubbed the students “Wahoos,” an insult they embraced.
Pop quiz! Try to locate the chandeliers covered in custom-made crochet or maybe the intricate threaded wallpaper. (Hint: They’re upstairs near Heirloom, the hotel’s rooftop restaurant and bar that crafts food with the seasons, utilizes local produce, and shakes up a damn good drink. I recommend the Society of Precious Blood, with Strange Monkey Gin, St. Germain, lemon, blackberry simple syrup, and sparkling wine.)
Game Day // Enjoy coffee in the game room lounge, where you might bump into UVA students working on latest projects; by night, grab a drink and try your hand at ping pong. The newly renovated and expanded Sheepdog Coffee (not pictured) offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and cocktails.
Among the hotel’s calculated design, I am especially taken with my in-room bath. The mirror, fixtures, elevated sink, and metal baskets for towels, hair dryer, and tissue have Jefferson’s contemporary imprint, and—poof! just like that—past and present mesh in perfect time. With myriad throwback details, including placement near UVA’s beautiful campus, The Graduate offers the best of college without fail—but, like its name implies, with a refined, accomplished spin. It reminds that, at heart, we are students for life.
The Graduate Charlottesville, 1309 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA. (434) 295-4333, graduatecharlottesville.com. Rates start at $125/night.