In 1852, merchant George W. Williams, eager to expand his grocery business, left Augusta, Georgia, for Charleston, South Carolina. There, he established a firm on Church Street, and in an unconventional move for the era, promoted five of his loyal clerks to partners.
Today, that storied downtown site is home to the 212-room hotel Emeline, and when Swoon, the Studio was tasked with designing the interiors, Williams’ entrepreneurial bravado was an inspiration for the multidisciplinary Dallas firm. (DLR Group’s Omaha office handled the architecture.)
Most recently operating as a DoubleTree by Hilton, “the building actually had an interesting history that helped inform our branding,” says Joslyn Taylor, partner and creative director at Swoon, noting how the “front was blown out” to accommodate a café fittingly named Clerks Coffee Company as well as a lobby that resembles a gracious Lowcountry parlor.
Emeline, following the restoration of the Adolphus in Dallas, is the second property that Swoon has collaborated on with both the developer Rockbridge and operator Makeready. Named for a mythical muse who embodies modern Southern hospitality, “we wanted the hotel to have a sense of timeless elegance but not be pretentious in any way,” says Taylor.
Given the simplicity of the original architecture, she continues, “we needed to add soul without it feeling fake or forced. We looked to simple elements like molding, millwork, paint, and picture rails to help create character.”
Dominated by blue and green, the color palette pays homage to Charleston’s landscape. It is bolstered by a mix of materials including walnut, polished concrete, glass, cane, tambour, and velvet. Inside the restaurant Frannie and the Fox, for example, charcoal brick flooring is paired with Moroccan tiles.
Deftly woven into the design are vintage furnishings, books, and an abundance of local art. In the lobby, a fiber installation by Hilton Head artist Suzanne Le Méhauté draws attention, as does the hallway vitrine filled with flora and fauna specimens curated by Sisal Creative and Whitney Stoddard’s custom botanical wallpaper behind the front desk. Framed posters from Charleston’s annual Spoleto Festival USA are also found in the guestrooms.
Artwork also lends a gallery vibe to “the Foxhole,” a wallpaper-swathed corridor linking the main building and garden courtyard that is spruced up by a speakeasy-like bar. On one side, a window overlooks the woodfired oven at Frannie and the Fox, while the other features “a tiny stone ledge and pop-down stools where guests can perch to request a cocktail by pressing an old-fashioned button,” explains Taylor.
Among Taylor’s most favorite aspects of Emeline is the spiral staircase leading up to the mezzanine crafted by local blacksmith Robert Thomas Iron Design because “it gave an otherwise unremarkable corner delight and surprise.”
From: Hospitality Design
✅ free Wi-Fi • size matters: 212 rooms & suites (19-49m2) (200-531 sq ft) • hotel opened: 2020 (previously Doubletree by Hilton) • interior design: Swoon the Studio (Dallas) • parking possible nearby (charged) • pets allowed • 24-hour front desk