Changing things up at a boutique Seattle hotel
Lori Ann Reinhall
The Norwegian American
Occasionally, everyone needs to change things up, and a change of scenery can help. But a long trip or vacation is not always an option because of work or other constraints.
Fortunately, one doesn’t have to travel so far or be away for so long for a refreshing reset. This is what I learned at my recent stay at Hotel Ändra, a Scandinavian-style boutique hotel in my hometown, Seattle. Only a 15-minute drive from where I live, I felt like I was worlds away once I arrived for my one-night staycation.
“Ändra” means “change” in Swedish, and the hotel pays tribute to Seattle’s Nordic heritage. The original building of efficiency unit apartments was built in 1926 and was restored and converted into a boutique hotel in the 1970s. In the early 2000s, it was again recreated to become the Hotel Ändra, undergoing a complete change to make it a luxury hotel, with its grand opening in 2004. In 2022, the hotel underwent yet another round of change, when it was upgraded with new decor and state-of-the art technology.
From the minute you walk through the main entrance with its artisan-crafted door handles reminiscent of birch tree trunks, it is an experience of Scandinavian modernism through and through. But it is not cold, stark modernism that greets you, rather more an atmosphere of Nordic-Northwest hygge. Light birch-like wood accents are interspersed with darker woods found in the Pacific Northwest to create a welcoming feeling of warmth. The focal point of the lobby is a large gas fireplace, and you immediately want to sit down to relax and soak in the ambience.
But the true test of any hotel are its guest rooms, and here the Hotel Ändra does not disappointment. I can truly say that these rooms offer more change in terms of both decor and comfort, with close attention to detail from beginning to end.
Because I was there to celebrate my birthday with my husband while working as a travel reviewer, I opted for a Superior room, which would offer us plenty of space at a good price. Inside our room, we were met with the same warm ambience of the lobby, with light woods creating the Nordic feel, complemented by beautiful designer carpets in colors of the Nordic palette. A soothing pale blue predominates with accents in taupe, black, gold, and red.
On the coffee table, we found a copy of the Nordic design book The Red Thread, and leafing through it, I cannot help to think that it must have served as a point of departure for the room’s decor. The book surveys major works of Scandinavian modernism, and I recognized how many had found a place in our room. There is first-rate Scandinavian artwork throughout the entire hotel, with many unique paintings to admire and learn from.
A custom corner sofa built into the room was one feature that made staying there particularly comfortable. It was a great place to sit down and enjoy a welcome drink. I reached for the bottle of Voss artesian water from Norway on top of the mini-bar and was most impressed that two gorgeous Finnish glasses in the classic Ultima Thule pattern from Iittala I found there. There was also a large selection of libations to indulge in, including premium Northwest wines. The minibar was well stocked, not entirely usual at any hotel these days. And for coffee drinkers, there is a Nespresso machine in every room, with designer ceramic cups for your morning cup of Joe.
Of particular note was the room’s lighting scheme. With Seattle’s winter gray, lighting is important, and here it seems that no expense has been spared. There was an effective mix of different types of lighting—ambient, task, and decorative—and much care had been taken in choosing fixtures representative of Scandinavian modernism. And for once, the designers got it right in the room’s bathroom. Standing at only 5’1”, I could access all the plugs and switches, see into the mirrors, and there was good enough lighting to make it all work. And I should add that my husband, who is over 6 feet tall, felt equally comfortable in the same environment.
There were other amenities in the room of note: fluffy white towels, designer bathrobes, FACE Stockholm toiletries, and of course, luxury-quality bedding and sheets to provide for a perfect night’s sleep. Someone had even thought to put a couple of packages of ear plugs in the nightstand for those evenings when the Seattle downtown scene can get a little lively.
Speaking of the Seattle scene, the Hotel Ändra is very well located for tourists who want to check it out. Located in the heart of downtown, it is within close walking distance to the famous Seattle Public Market and waterfront area, and the Space Needle and Seattle Center can be reached on foot or by taking the the Seattle Monorail from the nearby Westlake Center. The city’s premier retail shops, including the Nordstrom flagship store, the largest shoe store in North America built by Swedish immigrants, is only a few minutes away. The hotel is also in close proximity to the concert and theater area and the Seattle Art Museum. There is honestly no chance of running out of things to do, whether you are staying for two days or two weeks.
And for gourmets and gourmands, there is probably no better place to be than at the Hotel Ändra. It is home to local celebrity chef Tom Douglas’ Hot Stove Society cooking school (you can check out class offerings at hotstovesociety.com), and the hotel is adjacent to Lola, a Douglas restaurant known for its Mediterranean cuisine. Across the street are two other Douglas eating establishments, Serious Pie and the Dahlia Bakery, the latter known for its delectable Triple Coconut Cream Pie. (It’s worth a trip there to try that out alone.) And these are only a few of the restaurants in the area. For Italian food lovers, the Assagio restaurant is right next door, and the Warwick Hotel’s Brasserie Margaux at Hotel Warwick, offering more traditional fare, is at the end of the block.
I thoroughly enjoyed changing things up at the Hotel Ändra. As a native Seattleite and committed Scandi, I can recommend this destination to anyone.
For more information, visit the Hotel Ändra website at hotelandra.com.
All photos courtesy of Hotel Ändra
This article originally appeared in the February 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.