College towns don’t often conjure up images of chic, boutique hotels, but Graduate Hotels is looking to change that. They’ve recently put down roots in Berkeley, right across the street from the university (UC Berkeley). The 144-room property occupies what formerly was the iconic Hotel Durant. Though the property underwent quite a bit of renovations, it still respects the past. (After all, the college town is the birthplace of the 1960s free speech movement!) Every detail is a celebration of the city’s unique sense of style, UC Berkeley’s history and culture, and beloved Golden Bears.
The lobby feels less like a ‘hotel’ and more like your coolest friend’s living room. This was intentional. The hotel wanted it to feel collected, as if the space belonged to someone who had spent their life traveling and brought back souvenirs from all the far-flung destinations they’d been to. There are printed velvet walls with Persian motifs, a globe chandelier over a communal dining table, wicker peacock chairs, and colorful murals by local artist Chris Lux. Behind the reception desk is a feature wall of 8,500 National Geographic magazines. (The yellow spine of the magazines is California Gold, the same yellow the Golden Bears call their own.)
The guest rooms are thoughtfully designed as well, and have a very vintage feel. The art has a lot of meaning behind it and is curated from different eras — there are paintings of eucalyptus trees, UC Berkeley logos, and even a poster of the movie The Graduate. The rest of the decor is eccentric (the bedside lamps bring a bit of cheeky Berkeley humor) and historic (the desks are actually from the college’s anthropology department).
The longer you stay at Graduate Berkeley, the more fun details you discover. There’s the homage to Marshawn Lynch in the gym (the football star attended UC Berkeley and is now back to play in Oakland), the custom sofa featuring patterned portraits of William “Rocky” Rockwell (the school’s first mascot), even the keycards look like student ID cards and feature noteworthy alumni. It’s a fun experience and much different than the hotel chains you usually find near football stadiums. And if Berkeley is not your thing, check out Graduate’s other locations here.