The Dean Hotel: divine Providence

Hotel hip in Rhode Island

When one thinks of Providence, Rhode Island – the small coastal city between New York and Boston that’s home to Brown University – cool places to stay don’t spring to mind. Yet while it is a traditional New England town complete with Georgian buildings and picturesque church spires, the area has a hipster vibe thanks to an artsy crowd with a love for experimental cuisine and design-led architecture. And now, to match that in the hospitality stakes is The Dean Hotel – where I recently stayed.

What was once a religious refuge, and later a brothel, has been gloriously reimagined by Providence native Ari Heckman and Will Cooper, partners in the Brooklyn-based real-estate and design firm ASH NYC, who co-own and founded the hotel. The Dean “hopes to fill the void between the city’s vibrant arts world and the typical bland, corporate hotels that lack authenticity or a sense of place,” explains Heckman. And I think it succeeds rather well.

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The Dean brings together the best of contemporary design – locally made Matouk linens, artisanal leather chairs – with vintage accents sourced from abroad. The result is a stylish, laid-back vibe that mixes a corporate clientele with visiting parents and locals. Rooms (from around $100) have an airy feel, and beyond the usual suites (first picture) and standard doubles are double bunk-bedded rooms (very Ace Hotel). Taking over the entire fifth floor, The Heights is the spacious, luxe choice and includes four interconnected bedrooms. Chic flourishes include impossible-to-resist minibars with sweet and salty Rhode Island snacks (third picture), a selection of international magazines, Le Labo candles, up-cycled bikes to hire and a ZipCar service.

But it is the Bolt coffee bar, the Magdalenae “cocktail den”, Faust’s Hofbrauhaus complete with beer garden (which wasn’t open during my visit, but looks fun for summer) as well as the Boombox karaoke bar (very rare in these parts) that set a stay here apart. For a great schnitzel, a sip of cold sake and belting out a few tunes – preferably in that order – The Dean is a hip new game in town.

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