Mid-century luxe is on brand at The Durham Hotel
Constructed in 1968 as the headquarters of Home Savings Bank, the building that now houses The Durham Hotel became an immediate landmark in downtown Durham. The striking mid-century structure is recognizable by its corner tower, descending gold pilasters, and protruding signage spelling out its arrival on East Chapel Hill Street one letter at a time.
Acclaimed architect Perry C. Langston was tapped to design the storied building. By the end of the 1960s, Langston had peppered the nation with significant mid-mod buildings of commerce, and Durham valued its place in his esteemed portfolio. But two decades later, it would stand empty, a victim of the savings and loan crisis. Its second illustrious chapter wouldn’t begin until 2015, when it was reimagined as a 53-room boutique hotel aptly named The Durham.
A sixth story was added, creating a rooftop lounge and penthouse suite. Even the elevator was extended an additional story, no small feat of engineering for a vintage building. But the original top pediment remains, preserving Langston’s intended visage for the property. To date, it remains the city’s only independently owned and locally run hotel.
A curvilinear lobby soars several stories, playing coffee lounge, dining room, or cocktail bar, depending on the time of day. Los Angeles-based design studio Commune helped transform the interiors into modern, luxury lodging. These public spaces set the tone for the striking hotel. Every piece of furniture here is round or rounded, including a signature clover of four adjoining booths.
Overhead hangs levered pendants. The strands of glowing orbs pay homage to architect Yoshiro Tanaguchi’s lanterns at Toyko’s flagship mid-century hotel, The Okura. Underfoot there’s custom wall-to-wall carpet in primary hues. The overscale geometric pattern is an intentional nod to North Carolina’s influential Black Mountain College of the same era.
The color palette extends to the guestrooms, which are outfitted with blonde furnishings, original art, and lots of details by North Carolina purveyors. Staying at The Durham feels intentional and locally curated. Hefty bedspreads produced by Raleigh Denim add comfort to your sleep experience, minibars are stocked with North Carolina snacks, and Counter Culture coffee service is delivered each morning. Even the tiled bathrooms are so well-designed they feel sparse yet perfectly appointed.
The Durham Hotel Lobby is like no other
Locals show up at The Durham Hotel and utilize its atrium space—known as The Restaurant—like their own office: for coffee, meetings, happy hour and, of course, for dinner. It’s a lively ground floor, not a typical stagnant hotel common area. Breakfast is offered daily, lunch during the week, and dinner by reservation Thursday–Monday. The rooftop maintains its own scheduling, including yoga on the weekends, live music planned by jazz musician Al Strong, and notable bourbon events.
The Durham Hotel, 315 E. Chapel Hill St., Durham, NC, 919.768.8830, thedurham.com
Photography courtesy of Durham Hotel.