Vanguard 2017: Ruben Caldwell, Leigh Salem, Brian Smith, and Jou-Yie Chou, Partners at Studio Tack

The innovative team designs lodgings that tell their own stories and resonate with a creative-class clientele.

Vanguard 2017: Ruben Caldwell, Leigh Salem, Brian Smith, and Jou-Yie Chou, Partners at Studio Tack

Photo by Meritxell Arjalaguer

Scribner’s Catskill Lodge is one of the most stylish new arrivals in the bucolic Catskills of upstate New York.

But beyond the 38-room lodge’s sleek blond wood floors and handmade leather chairs, there are quirks that evoke the 1960s-era building’s hippies-and-gemstones past: a mirror on the ceiling of one of the bedrooms, an enormous deer head mounted on the wall in Prospect, the lodge’s restaurant.

Scribner’s is a prime example of what Studio Tack does so well. The Brooklyn-based design and development group’s nine hotels are the just-right retreats you want to keep in your back pocket for a weekend getaway. Many of them are repurposed buildings in cool destinations (Lake Tahoe; Jackson, Wyoming) and occasionally unexpected ones (Saratoga Springs, New York; the Delaware shore). They’re affordable and intimate, have handsome public spaces, and always tell a story about their locations.

“With all of our projects, there’s some sort of significance to them, whether it’s architectural, cultural, or geographic,” says Jou-Yie Chou, one of Studio Tack’s four partners. “It would be hard to produce anywhere else.”


Photo by Cheyenne Pearson

Chou first joined forces with Leigh Salem, Brian Smith, and Ruben Caldwell in 2012 to complete their first hotel project, the 16-room Dogfish Inn in Delaware, commissioned by the Dogfish Head brewery as a place for its visitors to sleep post-imbibing. Since then, the team has sharpened its approach with each new project, creating lodgings that appeal to a young and urban creative class.

“We’re always trying to dive into what the story is about the people who will be using the place, and how it fits with the local vibe,” says Caldwell.

At the base of South Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly Mountain, the spare but snappy Coachman, stocked with cozy Woolrich blankets and high-end Frette linens, is a nod to the resort’s midcentury roots. The Brentwood Hotel, a former motor lodge in Saratoga Springs, New York, is a 12-room retreat next to a famous horse-racing track. Countryside flourishes such as gilt antique mirrors and vintage oil paintings channel the town’s old-world charm. The Anvil Hotel in Jackson, Wyoming, with its rustic, Shaker-inspired interiors and iron bed frames, might best be labeled lumberjack chic.

The main idea, though, Chou explains, is that guests should feel inspired to escape into their surroundings. “We love for people to go to these properties and have an amazing time, enjoy being there, and use it as a place to go explore the area. That’s really what it’s all about.”

Jennifer Flowers is an award-winning journalist and the senior deputy editor of Afar.
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