The lobby area takes us right back to the retro era with the mustard curtains and geometric furnishings. A staple of The Durham is its curated use of color. Photo by Spencer Lowell.

The Durham hotel is anything but typical. The North Carolina hotel is just as involved in its design as it is in its community. Not only does the hotel take inspiration from the state’s historical Black Mountain College, it also supports local artists and businesses through its locally based design. The building itself has been standing since 1968, and its architecture has made it an icon in Durham for decades.

The Durham Hotel
The hotel kept the original architecture of the Home Savings Building and simply refurbished the exterior. The building itself is an icon in Durham, North Carolina and remains a staple in the downtown area. Photo by Spencer Lowell.

The History

Architect Perry C. Langston built the Home Savings Bank in 1968 in downtown Durham, North Carolina. The city was up and coming and Langston’s building truly stood out among the rest. Its modern geometric siding and angled tower has kept the midcentury style alive in Durham. In 2015, The Durham hotel opened to the public with brand-new interiors and has been attracting visitors because of its curated retro design.

The Design

Preservation and environment is mainly what inspired the designers of The Durham. After the hotel was slightly renovated, the Durham partnered with the Los Angeles-based designers of Commune.

The Durham Hotel
The geometric shapes in the hotel and this carpet in the restaurant and guest rooms were inspired by Black Mountain College and Annie Albers. Photo by Travis Dove.
The Durham Hotel
Commune, the designers of The Durham, really let color decorate the space. They kept it simple with neutral furnishings and let the retro colors do the work. Photo by Spencer Lowell.
The Durham hotel
A room at The Durham has everything you need. With a bedspread made locally by Raleigh Denim and artwork by locally commissioned artists, every guest truly gets a taste of North Carolina. Photo by Spencer Lowell.

Keeping the staple elements of the architecture and combining them with elements surrounding North Carolina is what gives the hotel its unique Midcentury style. Craig Spitzer, the hotel’s general manager, says that, “The curvilinear mid-century modern architecture of the vaulted ground floor and mezzanine have been preserved and mixed with the arts and crafts feel of the Black Mountain College of that period.” The era of Black Mountain College went down in North Carolina’s history and inspired the geometric shapes and patterns throughout the hotel.

The guest rooms provide a very soft and relaxing vibe by using blue in the carpet and keeping the walls and furnishings very neutral. Photo by Spencer Lowell

Being connected to the community to foster the resurgence in Durham’s popularity became a priority when designing the hotel. The art and pottery throughout the hotel was commissioned by North Carolina based artists, while the bedspreads were made by Raleigh Denim. The minibars are also filled with products from North Carolina companies. “This combination provides a rich palette and the basis for a design narrative that is locally rooted,” Spitzer says.

What really stands out for this hotel is the rooftop. The Durham is known for its scenic views of the city and lively atmosphere on top of its Midcentury building. This element was a priority when redesigning the hotel. They even had to extend the elevators from the 5th floor to the 6th floor to build rooftop bar and penthouse suite. Spitzer says that, “This was quite an undertaking, but worthwhile as the roof has become a signature of the property.”

The Durham Hotel
When renovating the hotel, it was a priority for The Durham and Commune to maximize the rooftop space. This is an area with 360 degree views of downtown and includes a bar. Photo by Spencer Lowell.
The Durham Hotel bar
The Durham went for a sleek, modern look for the bar to contrast the bright colors in the rest of the hotel. The metal doors and siding create a relaxed intimate vibe for guests to get to know one another or relax from a long day in the city. Photo by Travis Dove.

The Experience

The Durham is full of surprises and the city is packed with hidden gems. This 53-room boutique hotel offers a luxury experience just minutes away from the lively downtown streets. Wake up and enjoy some yoga on the rooftop before exploring the city’s local treasures. Wind down in a room made for rest or meet some fellow vacationers at The Roof.

For more information on booking a trip, go to, or call (919) 768-8830.


This article is part of our 2017 Atomic Getaways series. For more of our favorite midcentury hotspots, restaurants and must-see travel destinations, check out the rest of our series.