The story of The Dwell Hotel, a standout boutique stay in the heart of Chattanooga, is two-fold: it’s a tale about superior design. And it’s also a yarn about the designer, who happens to be the owner. Who happens to be a woman by the name of Seija Ojanpera.
Usually, there is more to a story than meets the eye, but the eye is the rub for Ojanpera, who opened Dwell in 2016. Born in America with Finnish roots, she traveled extensively with her parents as a child, soaking in the nuances of the cities she visited and places she stayed. Back at home, she would rearrange her parents’ furniture, unleashing artistic expression through interior design.
The hotel’s sixteen suites, lobby, Solarium Café, and Matilda Midnight lounge are testaments of Ojanpera’s artful eye, each a design-lover’s playground of mid-mod charm, bright color, unusual wallpaper, and contemporary artwork complementing the more rustic brick, hardwood, and travertine surfaces.
My room, The Argyle, features a king-size bed whose pert white covering pops against the colorful diamond-pattern wallpaper. Light floods the sizable suite, which has a sitting area with vintage chairs, shag rug, and gas fireplace. Many of the rooms have small sitting porches, so I enjoy my complimentary cocktail in the sun. Another tasty surprise, chocolate-covered Oreo cookies from local shop The Hot Chocolatier, tempt me—but I save them for dessert (in the deep soaking tub).
The building originally housed the Colonial Hotel, opened in 1909, which became the Stone Fort Inn. Its downtown corner was once Fort James during the Civil War. Ojanpera complements the building’s history with a refreshed vibrancy that doesn’t detract from its former glory: stone, brick, wood. Part of her method, it seems, is for the past to mix and mingle, much like her guests.
The Dwell Hotel balances unexpected whimsy and playful attitude with neutral tones and vintage appeal. Time is of the essence here, but Ojanpera’s grasp of hospitality, comfort, and good taste remains timeless.
The Dwell Hotel, 120 E 10th St, Chattanooga, TN. (423) 267-7866, thedwellhotel.com