Make Me Over: How One Company Is Turning Historic Spaces Into Cool Boutique Hotels

Nashville-based Oliver Hospitality has transformed old buildings into some of the freshest, most design-friendly boutique hotels and restaurants around.

Photo By: Asher Moss/Oliver Hospitality

Photo By: Asher Moss/Oliver Hospitality

Photo By: Asher Moss

Photo By: Asher Moss/Oliver Hospitality

Photo By: Asher Moss

Photo By: Asher Moss

Photo By: Asher Moss/Oliver Hospitality

Photo By: Asher Moss

Photo By: Asher Moss

Photo By: Asher Moss

Photo By: Asher Moss

Photo By: Asher Moss

Photo By: Asher Moss

Photo By: BRAD WIEGMANN PHOTOGRAPHY/Oliver Hospitality

Photo By: Oliver Hospitality

Photo By: Oliver Hospitality

Photo By: Oliver Hospitality

Photo By: Fairlane Hotel

Photo By: Fairlane Hotel

Photo By: Fairlane Hotel

Photo By: Fairlane Hotel

Photo By: Tiffany Mitchell

Dive Do-Over

The historic, but slightly long-in-the-tooth Clermont Hotel (circa 1924) situated on Atlanta's busy Ponce de Leon Avenue had seen better days. But it had a lot going for it including a very popular terrace level Clermont Lounge, a one-of-a-kind strip club where celebrities including Bill Murray, Woody Harrelson and Robert De Niro had stopped by when filming in town. The historic preservation experts at Oliver Hospitality, based in Nashville, have made revitalizing beautiful old buildings and smart design part of their mantra. Hotels and restaurants have all been resuscitated by the group, in cities from Atlanta to Nashville to Knoxville. Leaving the beloved local dive the Clermont Lounge intact ("you don't mess with institutions," Oliver Hospitality co-founder Ethan Orley told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution), but re-doing the newflangled Hotel Clermont with an emphasis on retro style has transformed this space into a hipster locus.

Bunk Mate

Part of the appeal of the Oliver Hospitality spaces is how they tap into the history of the spaces they occupy. The circa 1924 Clermont Hotel, located on a busy Atlanta street was reconceptualized by New York-based design firm Reunion Goods & Services. Director of interiors Laura Flam says the firm was inspired by design from the Gilded Age through the present, the classic Hollywood musical An American in Paris and "a mix of art and antiques from the last century. We wanted the place to feel like it had been added to by proprietors over the years."

Blast From the Past

Olive green subway tile, Seventies-meets-Forties wallpaper and retro-style fixtures show the clever blend of old and new that define the Reunion Goods & Services and Oliver Hospitality embrace of the past married to a hip, modern sensibility.

Old Friend

Part of the charm of Oliver Hospitality's brand of urban renewal is their attention to detail and maintaining historic elements in their revamped properties. The iconic radio tower that for so long capped the Clermont Hotel rests in peace and offers a cheeky accent to the cool bar scene below. The Hotel Clermont's rooftop bar is now one of Atlanta's coolest late night bar scenes. The Hotel Clermont's rooftop bar is now one of Atlanta's coolest late night bar scenes. It's also one of Oliver Hospitality Philip Welker's favorite features of the hotel, "We think the whole thing came together so well. It feels like an elevated urban garden oasis where you want to lounge all evening." 

A Visual Wink

A blend of old and new, retro design and a cheeky nod to the present are all features of the Hotel Clermont and other boutique hotel properties in the Oliver Hospitality group.

Flossie Suite

A suite at the Hotel Clermont shows the Reunion Goods & Services design team's preference for juicy colors and curvaceous, retro furniture.

Friends of the Library

Several of the Oliver Hospitality properties play up the quaint, old-book smelling charm of the library. Knoxville's Oliver Hotel boasts the Peter Kern Library, a speakeasy with an emphasis on curated craft cocktails. The Hotel Clermont also features a reading room attached to its main level bar, where you can grab a book or a cocktail, or both.

Chill Zone

The Hotel Clermont's lobby bar features a 1970s scalloped mirror behind the bar that Reunion Goods & Services designer Laura Flam says is one of the special, secret details that makes this boutique hotel such an atmospheric treat for design fans. "The ground floor lobby bar and lounges take you on a journey through several color and pattern schemes, and present many nooks and crannies for people to settle into" says Flam. "It’s my favorite area we designed in the hotel because there is something for everyone, and it leaves moments to be discovered even after recurring visits."

Taste of the Tropics

With a blend of Forties style and a nod to the current Seventies'-surfing Jungalow look, the Hotel Clermont lobby immediately sets the terms of the boutique property's distinctly retro vibe. The design team responsible for the space, Reunion Goods & Services borrowed from design motifs spanning the Gilded Age to the present, but a specific historic source influenced the look says director of interiors Laura Flam. "We were also very inspired by a scene in the film An American in Paris that depicts Leslie Caron dancing through a series of very saturated rooms wearing a number of colorful dresses. It encouraged us to take risks with colors and patterns."

Stairway to Heaven

Oliver Hospitality principal Philip Welker calls the Hotel Clermont's staircase one of the features of the hotel he is most proud of. "We were able to find a fire code solution that allowed the staircase arches to be re-opened on each floor, as it was originally. And the restoration of the terrazzo steps, plaster walls, and wood handrail feels exceptional," says Welker.

Rec Room

A fun neon sign greets visitors to the Hotel Clermont's in-house restaurant Tiny Lou's, a French-themed bistro with a cocktail-forward program. The menu, as you would except from its French inspiration, is meat-centric, though there are vegetarian options too. Blue Ridge Trout Almondine and Duck Consomme are delicious but don't miss the Pommes Aligot. At $9 for a side, these are some pricey cheesy mashed potatoes, but probably worth the bank.

Hall of Mirrors

His and her bathrooms off the Hotel Clermont's main lobby feature cheeky two-way mirrors that allow guests to see out from the bathrooms but keep passerby from seeing in.

The Long View

Parisian bistro meets Seventies rec room, the in-house restaurant Tiny Lou's at the Hotel Clermont specializes in classic French fare with the occasional nod to the South.

Hip and Historic

Housed in the former 1876 Peter Kern Bakery, Knoxville's Oliver Hotel located on downtown's Market Square is at the center of a bustling revitalized urban city center. Eventually converted to the Hotel St. Oliver, the hotel once played host to distinguished guests like movie star Patricia Neal. In 2011 Oliver Hospitality purchased the property and converted it to its present iteration, a stylish boutique hotel that maintains a connection to history. 

Speakeasy Space

The Peter Kern Library at Knoxville's Oliver Hotel has a cozy, old-world ambiance and a solid craft cocktail program. 

The Suite Life

A suite at Knoxville's boutique hotel, the historic circa 1876 Oliver Hotel.

Pull Up a Chair

Like many of the Oliver Hospitality properties, Knoxville's Oliver Hotel features a balance of luxe and retro cool as in the lobby defined by velvet upholstered wingback chairs and a dramatic light fixture. Another feature of the Oliver group's properties: memorable customer service. The front desk staff at the Oliver Hotel are friendly, accommodating and on hand to fulfill almost any ask.

Nashville's Fairlane Hotel

Located in a 1973 bank and opened in March 2018, Oliver Hospitality's Fairlane Hotel has a retro design scheme courtesy of the  NYC-based design team Reunion Goods & Services which has worked with the Oliver group on a number of conversions of historic properties to boutique hotels. Beloved New York deli Mile End Delicatessen is in the house along with design that tips its hat to a Mad Men-meets-company man Seventies look. 

Fairlane Hotel Lobby

Design firm Reunion Goods & Services has worked on a number of properties with Oliver Hospitality including the recently opened Fairlane Hotel in Nashville. Director of interiors at Reunion Laura Flam describes the firm's retro style as entailing "a passion for history, both in architecture and art. We combine that knowledge with more contemporary sensibilities to create spaces that are layered with detail and feel both timeless and yet forward-thinking."

Fairlane Lobby Bar

Vestiges of the Fairlane Hotel's previous life as a 1973 bank are readily apparent in the chic lobby bar.

Down for the Count

The minibar in the Fairlane Hotel's rooms feature local delicacies like pork rinds and Tennessee whisky alongside its nod to Seventies design chic.

Coffee Break

Catering to the current requirement for an in-house coffee stop, Union Teller Coffee Counter, located in Nashville's Fairlane Hotel allows guests to get an immediate caffeine fix.

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