Boston uncommon

There is an ‘on-off’ simplicity of design to The Whitney, Boston’s new 65-room luxury hotel, handily situated at the corner of Charles and Cambridge streets, where Beacon Hill brushes the Charles River.

Take the light switches:  They go on, they go off. No degree in electronics, no expertise in wiring needed. I love that. Ditto the drapes. You pull them this way, they close. Pull them the other way, they open. Design has always been a double-edged sword, where style and innovation are often at odds with ease and comfort, and design and technology are not always a partnership for good.

For my part, I have enough problems grasping the technology in my own, relatively tech-light home, where I have had years to absorb it (the TV remote, for instances,) so I certainly don’t want to have to learn new tech-tricks merely for an overnight stay.

Functionality in design can be a pleasurable thing and it becomes even more so when married with great aesthetics. It’s this combination at the end of the day, or even the beginning — as I check into the hotel on a mid-winter day, shimmering with glorious, electric blue Boston light — that The Whitney offers in spades. 

At the hotel entrance on Charles Street, where pulling up in a car or cab is always straightforward, my car is whisked away instantly by the valet. I will be happy not to see it again until my moment of departure, but I note the modest overnight parking fee includes in-and-out privileges. (Do you hear that, New York? In-and-out privileges. How very un-Manhattan.) The doorman, concierge and valet, working well as a team, all know my name within minutes of my arrival and nobody can do enough for me. 

In the hotel’s Peregrine restaurant, with its open layout straight out of HGTV and which makes it an integral part of the first floor, there is a laidback feel that is unmistakably Boston. Nobody cares what labels you wear here (although Newbury Street is a stone’s throw away) and lumberjack shirts for men and flats (or sneakers) rather than heels for women are the look du jour. The coat check is not a room or space but rather wall-hooks, since no one in Boston is too fancy to hang up their own North Face.

Outlets under the table for phones and laptops are a sensible, practical feature for Generation Z, which has more interest in photographing its food and staying connected in restaurants than actually eating or drinking anything. Except here at Peregrine, you’d be crazy to miss out on the food. Developed by Joshua Lewin and Katrina Jazayeri, the duo behind Somerville’s award-winning Juliet, the new restaurant offers locally sourced cuisine influenced by Sardinia and Sicily, as well as the neighboring influences of Corsica and Catalonia. “Barcelona is Spain’s answer to Sardinia,” our waitress informs us, when I inquire about the cross-culture, and she is not entirely wrong. Dishes I tried and would return for include hearty mussels and clams and roast chicken with saffron rosemary sauce, although a ‘Catalonian’  cheesecake lacked any real clout. Nevertheless, on a Monday night in winter when you would have thought most of Beacon Hill would have been nuzzled in beside a blazing fire with a copy of Henry James in their left hand and a hot toddy in their right, Peregrine was absolutely humming. 

A design theme — broadly Mediterranean — touches all aspects of this hotel. There are Spanish potato chips in the minibars and Moroccan, zellij-style tiles in the elevator, along with panels of deep blue paisley behind glass. The elevator is so big incidentally, you could throw a substantial cocktail party inside and still have room for half a dozen hotel guests and their bags. A small pantry on each floor provides light refreshments, free of charge.

Back in my guest room, I love the fresh cut flowers, the Frette linens and the gray herringbone throws, along with a clutch of interesting bedside books, including a copy of ‘Stolen.’ (The slim volume shows all the works of art taken in the notorious 1990 theft at the city’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, as well as the picture-less frames that have been famously left hanging empty on the walls.) In the bathroom, the white subway tiles are a counterpoint to the gloriously rich ones in the elevator, while the Grown Alchemist products — the hip new brand coming out of Australia — show that The Whitney, for all its old-money, Beacon Hill address, is definitely on-trend.

Outside the hotel, central Boston is on your doorstep, most landmarks and shops no more than a 15-minute walk away. Guests can also take a bike out for the day, while for the more adventurous, The Whitney on The Water program lets you rent a sailboat or yacht to cruise the Charles River. The Whitney being a pet-friendly place, you could even bring Rex to stay and have him sail with you — at the helm, naturally. 

In Beantown, a touch of style never goes amiss.

For more, visit whitneyhotelboston.com.

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