|Project Name||Ulysses||Posted in||Hotels, Design, Interior Design||Location||
2 East Read Street
Baltimore, MD 21202United States
|Telephone||+1 443 682 8578||[email protected]||Completed||2022|
“Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past”, wrote James Joyce in his literary masterpiece Ulysses, a piece of advice that also reverberates in the narrative-driven Ulysses hotel in Baltimore where the past surges through the looking glass into the present. Occupying an early 20th century building in Mount Vernon, a picturesque neighbourhood filled with stately mansions, the 116-room hotel is layered with arcane cultural references, from Art Deco movie palaces and Victorian-era interiors, to 1920s ocean liners and steam trains, to the cinematic language of Baltimore icon John Waters, welcoming guests into an almost vaudevillian, equal parts delightfully campy and elegantly classical environment inspired by Baltimore’s contradictions and eccentricities.
The fourth property of New York-based hotelier and design studio Ash, Ulysses’ idiosyncratic design follows the brand’s playbook whereby each hotel takes its cues as much from the city and historic building it resides in as from the creative team’s favourite films and artworks. Brimming with unexpected, lavish details, along with an all-day café, and two cocktail bars, plus a bespoke fragrance, the hotel uncannily transports guests into a stylized world full of drama, mystery and playfulness.
The concept of travel as a source of adventure and inspiration underpins Ulysses’ hospitality proposition and multifaceted design. It also informs its name which pays homage to James Joyce’s Ulysses and Homer’s Odyssey (Ulysses is the Roman name for Odysseus), two landmark pieces of literature that chronicle their protagonist’s peripatetic encounters—the former’s are of course much more confined in terms of geography and duration—as well as references the name of the ship that brought Bavarian immigrants to Baltimore in 1838.
In the hotel’s ornate lobby, guests are greeted by beautiful mosaics whose serpentine patterns are inspired by the loggia of the Petit Palais in Paris, Baroque-style oil paintings, and a pair of marble amphorae on matching marble plinths—a solemn ensemble that makes the exuberantly joyful spaces that follow all the more exciting.
Spread across eight floors, the 116 guest rooms alternate between four colour schemes, blush red, dark lemon, moss green and teal blue, transporting guests to the early 20th century with their Art Deco-heavy décor. Four-poster beds with scalloped canopies, claw-foot bathtubs, amphorae-shaped mirrors framed in burled wood and leopard-printed carpeting would not have been out of place when the apartment building was built back in 1912 to accommodate affluent bachelors. Custom textiles with flamingo patterns and flamingo-shaped bedside tables, both a nod to John Waters’s Pink Flamingo film, add playful touches, as do the handmade quilts inspired by Baltimore Album Quilts, an applique quilt style dating back to the 19th century, emblazoned with an invented visual language which guests can decipher with the help of the hotel’s daily newsletter. Ash is a detail-obsessed hotelier so it’s no surprise that every element in the rooms has been thought through, from the hand-beaded lampshades from Jaipur, to the custom-made bath products featuring notes of damask rose, nutmeg, carrot seed and amber spice, to the fancy treats in the minibar.
Art Deco vibes can also be found in the Ash—Bar, an all-day café and bistro with a Continental menu, which is inspired by 1920s and 1930s ocean liners and steam train cars. Clad in glossy burled wood panelling, and furnished with rattan chairs and banquette seating with daintily embroidered red upholstery, the space feels like you are languorously cruising down the Nile as much as spending a lazy afternoon in a European café.
Taking its name from Joyce’s seminal protagonist, Bloom’s is a sexy cocktail lounge inspired by 1920s cabarets and 1970s and early 1980s discos in reflection of Baltimore’s nightlife. Bedecked in mirrors, including the central bar counter, ceiling and walls, the space is seductively furnished with channel-tufted pink banquettes, voluptuous fringed stools in purple velvet and blood-red curtains hand-beaded in India. The result is an immersive, overtly campy space that could have easily served as a John Waters film set.
Less colourful yet as characterful, The Coral Wig is a tropical cocktail bar that channels the clubs and bars of 1980s-era Manila with green velvet banquettes, hand-painted checkered flooring, amber stained glass and a black walnut bar. Featuring its own separate entrance, the bar is the handiwork of bartender and entrepreneur Lane Harlan and her partner musician Matthew Pierce who for the past decade have been redefining what it means to have proper drink in Baltimore. Harlan was born in the Philippines, while Pierce lived in St. Kitts for a time, hence the tropical theme menu which includes cocktails such as the “Banana Hammock,” “Manila Daquiri” and “Pray for Rain” as well as classics like daiquiri, margarita, and painkiller. John Waters is a regular at Harlan and Pierce’s Baltimore drinking venues – one more reason why Ash reached out to the talented duo – which means that Ulysses’ guests may even run into the man himself.