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4 Home Design Ideas We're Stealing from the Durham Hotel

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For Mother’s Day (my first as a mom!) this year, my husband gifted me with a night alone at The Durham Hotel. This 53-room, mid-century modern hotel was recently renovated from its original 1969 incarnation as a bank, and a night alone there might be the best gift I have ever received.

I ate a leisurely dinner, sipped a cocktail at their rooftop bar, and awoke in the morning without having to immediately jump up and take care of anyone. Insert praise-hands emoji!

The lobby at the Durham Hotel.
The lobby at the Durham Hotel. Photo by Liz Johnson

Undisturbed sleep aside, the space is amazingly considered and cool, and I found myself inspired by some of the bold and smart design decisions they made. Here are four great design ideas that I'm stealing from the Durham Hotel.

Photo by Liz Johnson

Colorful Doesn’t Always Mean Childish

I’ll admit I’m fully on the minimal-color-in-the-home bandwagon—I love how clean and relaxing it makes my place feel. I’m wary of adding too much color; I’m afraid it might look too... young, maybe? I know that doesn’t totally make sense. Anyway.

Almost all of the rooms and public spaces at The Durham are decked out in fabulously-saturated mid-century color, and it works. It works because they’re confident with it (go big or go home!), and the color is balanced by natural elements like wood, or a well-placed neutral wall to let everything breathe, or even black-and-white patterned tiles (like on their infamous front entry).

Photo by Liz Johnson

Staying here reminded me that color is fun. It can give a room energy, and set the tone for how it wants to be enjoyed. And that, in my ongoing quest to cultivate a home that looks and feels like a minimal-cozy retreat, I might be missing out on some colorful fun.

Console Table + Bench = Desk

I love repurposing the furniture in my home. If I love a piece, but it’s not needed in its original capacity, figuring out some creative alternate uses for it is always worth my time. For example, right now I’m using a vintage desk as my son’s changing table. And I’m using a little stepping stool as my nightstand—until he needs it as an actual stepping stool.

Photo by Liz Johnson

So I loved seeing this long console table layered with a slat bench to create a kind of desk. The bench serves as simple storage, but can also be cleared off, pulled out and used as a bench again at a moment’s notice. Perfect for transitional or gathering spaces like entryways or living rooms.

More: How to use common pieces of furniture in creative ways.

The denim blankets custom-made for the hotel by Raleigh Denim.
The denim blankets custom-made for the hotel by Raleigh Denim. Photo by Liz Johnson

Denim Isn’t Just for Clothes

Blankets and pillows are a great, low-commitment way to try something new (material, color, texture, pattern, etc.) in your space. Raleigh Denim created one-of-a-kind mod patchwork denim blankets for each room at the Durham Hotel, and I loved the unexpected texture and heft they gave.

And you just know they’ll get better with age—like a perfectly worn pair of jeans.

Photo by Liz Johnson

Wall Space + Anything on Hooks = Art

At first I thought this large white wall next to the bed was kind of a missed opportunity; instead of a retro print or abstract painting or something, there were simply three wooden hooks. But by the end of my stay, I realized how genius they were.

Photo by Liz Johnson

Obviously, in a hotel room it’s great to have a place to hang bags or clothes. But I really loved how anything you hung up instantly became a focal point, a utilitarian alternative to art. I could imagine hanging a favorite sculptural dress, colorful scarves, or a cool bag. Anything well-made or interesting-looking that would elevate a bare wall to a gallery wall.

The Durham was renovated by Commune Design; you can see more photos of it here!

Tags: hotels, hotel design, Commune Design, The Durham Hotel