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Architecture and interior design firm Rowland + Broughton redesigned the Hotel Boulderado's lobby with contemporary furnishings arranged to encourage conversation. The original tile floors and cherry wood staircase and paneling remain. Courtesy of Hotel Boulderado

Boulder’s Oldest Hotel Gets A Fresh Look

More than a century after its completion, the historic Hotel Boulderado debuts an updated lobby and mezzanine with contemporary decor and amenities tailored to modern-day guests.

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When local architecture firm William Redding & Son designed a stately late-Victorian-style hotel in the heart of Boulder in the early 1900s, they couldn’t have imagined that the building would still be hosting guests more than a century later—or that those guests would arrive with laptops, cell phones, and espresso cravings in tow.

The Hotel Boulderado continues to thrive, and as managing partner Frank Day explains, the recent renovation of its lobby and meeting spaces was necessary to retain its status as a beloved Boulder gathering spot. “We enhanced the lobby to better accommodate the ways people gather these days,” he says. “There is more comfortable seating that invites conversation, Spruce Bar for coffee or cocktails, and even a computer bar to better serve people who work remotely.”

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Reimagined by the architecture and design firm Rowland+Broughton (the firm behind the redesign of Aspen’s historic Hotel Jerome), the updated lobby now offers more contemporary furnishings, a sycamore-wood-topped bar, a computer bar in the former front desk area, and a new, more accessible front desk located in the hotel’s former gift shop.

The second-floor mezzanine level was also reconfigured to better capture views of the mountains and downtown Boulder, and to accommodate larger meetings and events—with as many as 250 guests—with flexible spaces and full audio/visual capabilities.

“We’ve worked hard to preserve and honor the hotel’s historic feel while ensuring we offer the amenities and atmosphere that will keep us a relevant and celebrated part of Boulder’s scene moving forward,” Day says of the $2.5-million makeover. Here, he takes us on a tour of the new spaces, sharing some of the hotel’s fascinating history along the way.

5280 Home: Is this the first renovation of the lobby and mezzanine in the hotel’s history?

Frank Day: There have been previous “redecorations” of the lobby, which dates to 1909, when the hotel opened on New Year’s Eve, but those updates were limited to the replacement of furnishings and some rearrangement of the rooms surrounding the lobby. The basic structure of the lobby remains.

The room that was recently converted to the front desk was originally a “Music and Reception” room, where ladies played the piano, wrote letters, and relaxed. Since then, it has also served as a real estate office, a barbershop, a candy store, and a gift shop. The space that’s currently the Corner Bar has a history of retail, office, and other uses, including a hairdressing parlor in the 1920s, Nick Angelo’s Art Gallery in the ’70s, and Bugle fine clothing in the ’80s.

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The mezzanine has been redone before. It was originally all hotel rooms, similar to the third and fourth floors. When I acquired the hotel in 1980, “The Mezz” operated as a nightclub, with a second stairway leading up from the center of the lobby.

How would you describe the hotel’s decor today?

The decor of the upper three floors remains Victorian. The rooms, which have been continually renovated and upgraded, have a mixture of original Victorian antiques and reproductions, and the carpets and wallpaper have a floral Victorian theme.

Last year, all the rooms in the Boulderado Annex [facing Pine Street and Broadway] were renovated with new decor and furnishings that designer Jayna Kline describes as “classic,” with a warm and subdued color palette. This theme has now been carried into the meeting rooms and across the alley to the original hotel’s lobby and mezzanine.

What original details have been preserved?

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Many of the lobby’s original details remain, including the tile floors, the cherry wood staircase and wall paneling, the water fountain featuring pure mountain water from the Arapahoe Glacier, and the 1908 Otis elevator, which is billed as the oldest operating Otis in Colorado. The spectacular stained-glass canopy ceiling is not original, but was rebuilt as an almost-exact replica of the original. One winter in the 1950s, a massive snowfall collapsed the skylights above the ceiling, taking down pieces of the glass dome. It was replaced in the 1970s by a Boulder-based stained-glass artist who spent the better part of a year suspended above the lobby as he reconstructed the dome, piece by piece.

Why did now seem like the right time to update the hotel’s public spaces?

The “new” annex section of the hotel was constructed more than 30 years ago. When we opened it, we attempted to emulate the Victorian style of the original hotel, using similar carpet, wall coverings, draperies, and high-quality reproduction furnishings. Although we had maintained and replaced over the years, the “new” section seemed dated. We thought a more timeless, traditional look was needed; one that was not necessarily Victorian. [That renovation was completed last year, and this year], we carried that look over to the lobby, public spaces, and meeting rooms on the historic side of the hotel.

If you go: Hotel Boulderado is located at 2115 13th St., Boulder; 303-442-4344; boulderado.com

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