I was eating an apple in the lobby of the Woodlark hotel, downtown Portland’s newest boutique 150-room offering, catching up on some work, when I got up to wander down the wallpapered hallway, past the fiddle-leaf fig and the amiable baristas working the marble coffee bar, to use the restroom. When I returned, my apple core was gone.
Ordinarily, I’d suspect a fast-acting janitor. But in this case, the culprit was a photographer, who needed my fruit detritus out of his shot. His subject? A young girl, maybe 18 or 19. The format? “My Instagram,” she admitted, a little sheepishly.
If you still needed proof that millennials are an economic force, look no further than the Woodlark, whose design candy lobby regularly lures the would-be Instafamous for less formal offerings than the one I accidentally obstructed. The space opened to guests just before Christmas 2018 after combining two hotels listed on the National Register of Historic Places, rescuing the dilapidated Cornelius building from doom. Now, it feels like it was created for the Instagram set, from the fencepost headboard above the beds to the mid-century modern furniture stocked in the rooms, to the verdant leaves on white backing wallpaper that just cries out for a selfie.
Decor — The interior can best be described as an airy-meets-cozy modern living room, thanks to tropical plants in the lobby, accented by brass inlay, warm wood, vintage-looking textiles and hand-blown glass light fixtures. The works of Portland artist Maja Dugolecki, some of which she created in a temporary studio across the street, can be found throughout the hotel. A long marble check-in desk greets guests before transitioning to a coffee counter and a room full of comfortable chairs and leather sofas.
Piece de Resistance — The hotel lobby is an overlooked space by guests, who all too often choose actual coffee shops as their hangouts. But coffee shops are generally terrible spaces. Even when there’s excellent coffee and food served, people still crowd their way onto standing stools and balance their laptops along narrow rectangular shelves with the door constantly blowing open and closed, whooshing frigid air (or sticky humidity) in every few seconds. When I’m on a trip or stuck in a city between interviews and appointments or looking for a restroom or a refill of my water bottle, I always seek out a hotel lobby. With the acknowledgment that it requires a certain amount of white privilege to waltz into a hotel in which you’re not a guest with no fear of being booted (or arrested), it’s really become one of my favorite travel hacks. Hotels want people in those spaces. It makes them feel full.
The Woodlark’s best accomplishment is its lobby, which feels much less like a lobby than a better version of a coffee shop, because it actually is a coffee shop, offering java from local roaster Good Coffee. This is certainly the hotel’s prized spot and my favorite place in the building (aside from the restaurant, which we’ll get to later.) The Woodlark, like many new hotels, joins the trend of pushing people out of their rooms and into the common spaces. Its lobby feels like the living room you’ve always wanted.
Rooms — The rooms are ample enough, but something about the layout and the furniture encourages you to sleep here and that’s about it. Still, the modest space is so well-appointed that it made me want to redesign my home bedroom in its likeness. Honor bars are stocked with Smith Tea matcha and Woodblock Chocolate, two Portland favorites. The art is a collection of photographs shot in the 1920s and 1930s from Imogen Cunningham, who was born in Portland. There’s also custom-designed wallpaper, patterned with flora found in the city’s iconic Forest Park, as a backdrop for two-toned blue velvet chairs and custom handmade wool rugs.
Restaurants — The Woodlark’s main restaurant is Bullard, inspired by Executive Chef Doug Adam’s roots in Texas and career in Oregon. Adams succeeds at infusing a little hometown charm into the otherwise hipper-than-thou downtown Portland dining scene. Bullard occupies 40 seats in Abigail Hall, whose walls are bedecked in hand-painted blooms. A collaboration with restaurateur Jennifer Quist, the food is sort of like what happens in a 90s rom-com, when a sweet and beautiful-but-for-the-bad-haircut-and-ill-fitting-clothing girl gets a makeover and everyone falls for her. Adams’ smoked meats and Tex-Mex flavors are dressed up in quintessentially Portland style: there is plating that’s purposeful but not too precious and technique that’s professional yet surprising. If you have to choose, focus on the smoker section of the menu, like the 12-hour smoked beef rib from local rancher Painted Hills, adorned with pickled jalapenos, homemade tortillas and a delicious concoction Adams modestly calls “green sauce.” The least helpful but truest recommendation I can offer: try everything.