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Review: The Dwell Hotel, Chattanooga

This deep-south city might not be on most travellers’ list of must-visits in the US, but swerving it would mean missing out on one swell dwelling.

Most people wouldn’t register Chattanooga as a must-see city when it comes to planning their visit to the States, not when the likes of New York and Los Angeles are there to suck up so much oxygen.

But this Tennessee city has much to offer those who deviate south, not least a peach of a boutique hotel.

The Dwell Hotel is the brainchild of Seija Ojanpera, who studied medicine and worked on humanitarian projects around the world before finally indulging her childhood dream of starting a hotel.

“I have loved hotels since I was a child,” she says.

“I am fascinated by the idea that you can create an experience for so many different types of people.

Hospitality is in my blood, and I have always treated guests who visit my home as if they were at a hotel; great bedding, luxurious toiletries, grand feasts.

It felt natural to purchase an actual hotel and open up that experience to everyone.”

The Dwell Hotel is the result.

Housed in a charmingly weathered building built in 1909, all exposed brick and limestone, inside the industrial heritage of the exterior is usurped by the exuberance of colour and whimsy.

“We say the hotel is a swanky take on mid-20th century modern,” Seija explains.

“It’s a super-eclectic mix of textures and patterns; the colours are very bold, but combined in a clean, simple way.”

The 16 rooms and suites each possess their own unique personality, filled with enough vintage finds and quirky touches to fill an Instagram feed for days.

“Almost 100 per cent of the furniture, art and light fittings are vintage from the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s,” says Seija.

“My friend Laurel and I scouted high and low for months on end late into the night.

We searched eBay and Etsy into its deepest crevices; we went to junk shops all over a 300-mile [480-kilometre] radius.

It was a blast!” The rooms are each individually named to reflect their character, from The Dandelion Suite (quiet and peaceful) to The Kite Suite (bright and summery), two of Seija’s favourites depending on her mood at the time.

As befitting a boutique hotel of this ilk (it is a member of Design Hotels after all), there’s also a be-seen-here restaurant on site, Terra Máe, and a cocktail bar, Matilda Midnight, both of which have the same more-is-more charm of the rest of the property, with banquettes and snug seating areas; fake foliage as art on the walls; and lots of light streaming in through the huge windows at the front of the building.

In the end, the myriad fanciful elements at play in The Dwell Hotel come together to create a brilliantly cohesive and thoughtfully curated space.

“Each room, hallway, bathroom is a different experience,” says Seija.

“It’s a visual feast of something new.”

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This article appeared in issue 29

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