Gone are the days when thread counts, turndown service, and a well-designed lobby were enough to drive a tourist to a hotel. Now, there’s an ever evolving draw to sites like One Fine Stay and Airbnb for numerous a la carte reasons. Whether it’s the desire for full kitchen, more privacy, or a curated experience, there’s a change in the hospitality landscape that’s pushing travelers toward touch screens instead of concierges.
But what about the traveler that wants it all: the beautiful luxury of a well-designed hotel and the Airbnb adventure of experiencing a city as temporary resident in an upcoming neighborhood?
Enter the invisible hotel service, where every need is fulfilled by the touch of a button. One of the first in on this hospitality trend is the six-suite Lokal in the historic Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia.
After mulling the idea of opening a hotel for a decade, co-founders Chad and Courtney Ludeman, owners of the Philadelphia-based Postgreen Homes architecture firm, drew from their own his-and-her preferences for traveling as a framework to bring their plan to life: Chad enjoys the home-away-from-home vibes of staying in an Airbnb, but Courtney gets uncomfortable at the thought of breaking someone’s personal things or getting stuck in an awkward conversation with a host. She also prefers the inspiring design elements that boutique hotels offer.
Lokal combines the two ethos. There is no front desk, so visitors key in a trip-specific code to gain entrance, but once inside, guests experience classic hotel amenities, from a claw foot tub to a furniture made by local designers to Pinterest-worthy design details like the blue-hued kitchen in each room.
Each room also comes equipped with an iPad connected to Lokal’s accounts for popular apps. So if a faux-staycation is in order after a long day of exploring, that Seamless delivery and iTunes movie rental ends up on the hotel bill. That said, a hotel staff member is always there to guide a guest, be it digitally or in person by request.
That’s not to say Lokal is without personality. Embracing the community was of utmost importance for the Ludemans. Since this was their first experience with hospitality, they wanted to stay close to home. So when they found a former printing shop in the heart of Old City, they jumped at the chance to create their dream hotel.
Their ideology behind the space is evident in everything from with the hotel’s name—“Lokal” comes from the Danish word meaning just as it sounds—to neighborhood guides by local luminaries (no need to use Yelp) to their exclusive use of local craftsman.
They knew of a solid roster of local vendors to employ for salvaging the reclaimed wood floors and building the countertops, but hadn’t yet met the right designers. Through word of mouth alone, they met Tara Mangini and Percy Bright, behind Jersey Ice Cream Company, to collaborate on the interior design details.
While these two are lifelong aesthetic enthusiasts, they had an unconventional approach to interior design, as their firm name might suggest. Mangini’s background is in advertising and photography while Bright has a degree in Greek and Latin literature. The duo initially bonded over a love of vintage objects and design, so it’s not hard to believe that their business began over a conversation at Brimfield Antique Fair about a shared dream.
While this is their first hotel, they immediately understood the need for elements that can take a bit of wear and tear. It was still essential to them that the rooms felt warm and inviting. Thus they began with a natural plaster process to all of walls that frame each room beautifully, while simultaneously giving the space a much needed face lift and honoring its historical roots.
Next was the question of layout. Embracing the large windows on either side of the building, the duo decided to keep an open floor plan to maximize the natural light. Finishing off each space with interesting details like lush vintage rugs and custom (locally) created side tables, the design of the room successfully bridges old and new—much like the invisible hotel concept itself.
And coming soon: The Ludemans plan to open a future location in Fishtown that will reflect the feel of that neighborhood but utilize the same modern conveniences and thoughtful details.
Lokal Hotel, 139 North 3rd Street, Philadelphia. Rooms from $195.