Charleston, SC has long been a tourist destination for history buffs, beach bums and culinary enthusiasts. And while the city could have always been described as quaint, cute and the idyllic Southern town, it would never have been described as hip, cool, modern or happening. But in the last few years, all that has started to change. It began with the culinary pioneers whose amazing food inspired by local fare caught the attention of the rest of the world. Then came the rapidly expanding bar scene on Upper King where divey college bars closed in favor of upscale lounges and cocktail bars (this area has since reverted and been replaced by Canonborough). But there wasn’t really a hotel to match the city’s unique take on the arts. Until now.
As luck would have it, I was visiting Charleston in late August when the Grand Bohemian (a 50-room luxury boutique hotel) opened its doors, so I quickly snagged an invite to the media preview. It made an impression the minute I walked in, as I believe a hotel is supposed to do. It was incredibly detailed, luxurious without being stiff and … hip. Finally!
The first thing you’ll notice is the art. During lunch, I had the immense pleasure of sitting next to Richard Kessler, owner of the hotel and CEO of the Kessler Collection. With hundreds of paintings in his private collection, he is an avid collector of art with an eye for emerging artists. This isn’t just business as usual – Kessler has an honest passion for artistic talent and supports this talent through commissioning paintings for his hotels. In Charleston, along with the one-of-a-kind artwork adorning the walls, they have a gallery on-site.
The rooms are decorated with the same impeccable detail and I think that if Louis XIV built Versailles today, he would have commissioned similar décor – it’s elegant but with whimsical embellishments that make it fun. My favorite details were the curtains and hallway carpet, often an afterthought in even the nicest hotels.
There’s a lot to do on-site. On the top floor, Élevé is a swanky restaurant featuring two bars, one for craft cocktails and the other for beer and wine – I would recommend trying the varieties from Kessler’s Napa Vineyards. And during the tasting luncheon, my sweet tooth could not get enough of the Apple Blossom with Grand Marnier Gelato (and I’m a chocolate person).
Down below, guests can sample small pours of wine in a cozy pub-like tasting room or take a wine blending class, where you can work with the on-site sommelier to customize your own blend using Cab Sav, Malbec, Petit Syrah and Merlot. And the coffee shop is also cute as can be, serving Intelligentsia, a brand that’s good enough for even the most discerning hipster.
So much to do and consume in one location, so during my short stay, I opted to return for evening cocktails on the rooftop lounge. I was even lucky enough to get a breeze on an unusually cool night in August.