Oregon's Heathman Hotel undergoes historic renovation

In Portland, Ore., the Heathman Hotel is undergoing a major overhaul of its 151 guestrooms and public spaces. The renovation, slated for completion in June, celebrates not only the history of the 91-year-old building, but the surrounding environment and community, while bringing the property into the 21st century.

Described as “lighter, brighter and more contemporary” than its previous incarnation, the new design is rooted in the building’s history and pays homage to the hotel’s role in the community. Located in the city’s cultural district, the hotel is not only adjacent to but also physically connected with the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, home to the Oregon Symphony Orchestra and hosts live performances year-round. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the Heathman’s mezzanine was home to the studios of Portland radio station KOIN, which broadcast live performances across the West Coast. More recently, it has hosted literary events and amassed a 2,700-volume library of works signed by the authors that includes texts and novels by Pulitzer- and Nobel Prize-winners, past Presidents and U.S. Poet Laureates. 

The creative heritage inspired the hotel’s new interior design created by Jackie McGee and her team at Perkins + Will. The lobby will become a “curated living room” with sculptural features that encourage social interaction. Behind the front desk, an intricate three-dimensional map named “200 X 200” celebrates Portland’s 200-foot-long city blocks, a human-scale feature of the city’s geographical layout. Architectural columns also become sculptural focal points surrounded by hundreds of floating blackened discs that symbolize the “Portland Penny,” whose flip was the deciding factor when city founders, Francis Pettygrove and Asa Lovejoy, named the bend in the Willamette River that would become the city.

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The property’s two-story Tea Court is being redesigned to evoke a modern twist on the social salons of Europe in a warm palette with a sophisticated residential feel. A new grand bookcase that covers the full height of the room will showcase the hotel’s library of autographed books and make it more accessible to guests. A dramatic fireplace with white handcrafted artisan tile will also stretch from floor to ceiling and create a second strong focal point to contrast with the room’s wood paneling (which will be stained a modern grey to complement the patterned William Morris wallpaper, a new herringbone wood floor and ample seating in leather and cozy fabrics). 

When the renovation is complete in June, the Heathman will use this space for literary readings with authors in collaboration with Portland organizations like SMART and Literary Arts. It will also be home to Headwaters’ Executive Chef Vitaly Paley’s Russian Tea service on the weekends.

Upstairs, the guestrooms will evoke the Portland landscape with natural materials and reclaimed elements to create a comfortable space for curling up with a book. (A selection from Powell’s, a local bookstore, will be available in every room.) A soft, neutral palate runs throughout the space from the whitewashed wood paneled walls to the warm wood flooring. A blue area rug, a caramel lounge chair, grey wood bedside tables, handblown glass credenza and eclectic artwork from artists based in Portland (and beyond) contribute to the calming mood. Works by locally based artists include Katie Jeanne Reim’s “Rose City,” which pairs the patterns and designs of topographical maps with inspirational natural images; Barry D. Kaine’s evocative “St. John’s Bridge”; Tony Thomas’ bright and vibrant “Sellwood”; and the abstract effervescence of “Dimension 9” by Hilary Winfield and Rachel Ann Austin’s “Poppies.” 

Guestroom baths have also been updated with new glass-doored showers and stone vanities with floating wooden shelves and illuminated mirrors against limestone tiled walls.

On the mezzanine, the hotel’s new fitness center will have treadmills and elliptical trainers from Intenza and Peloton spin bikes as well as analog options like dumb bells, stability balls and TRX bands—and lots of natural light from he large windows. 

The property is managed by Provenance Hotels. 

Photo credit: Provenance Hotels