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Portland’s Retro Fit Hotel

For Alex Calderwood, Wade Weigel, Doug Herrick and Jack Barron — whose 79-room Ace Hotel opened in Portland , Ore., last month — good design is about tapping into a city’s lifeblood. “We want guests to wake up in their rooms and feel immediately that they’re in Portland and couldn’t be anywhere else,” Calderwood says.

Like their first project, the Ace Seattle, which has spare interiors that grew out of sleek ’90s minimalism, the larger and more ambitious Portland hotel is grounded in both the specifics of place and the zeitgeist. Rooms refer to the city’s independent spirit and cultural scene with hand-painted murals (mostly by art students and street artists), tables made of stacked old books (from Portland’s secondhand “bins” shops) and record players (borrow vinyl from the front desk). To keep the ecological footprint small, materials salvaged from the formerly run-down building — from bathtubs to signs to doorknobs — were restored and reused. New items were largely sourced from local companies. And to ensure low costs, the team embraced utilitarian items like utility clip lights mounted as reading lights above beds.

Part of the Ace philosophy is to create an egalitarian atmosphere by bringing together creative types with tight budgets and more affluent travelers willing to trade down, as it were, in exchange for cool. (The hotel’s name is inspired by the card: the highest or lowest in the deck.) Rooms with a shared bath, including three “band rooms” with bunks for touring musicians, are $85, while luxe penthouse rooms top out at just $250. Service is “limited,” meaning you’ll schlep your own bag. And that seems fine with most guests. In a world dense with slick and sterile design hotels, the Ace aims to be a counterpoint. “Perfection can be intellectually stimulating,” Calderwood says. “But things that are slightly imperfect have soul.”

Ace Hotel Portland, 1022 Southwest Stark Street; (503) 228-2277;