Nashville. It’s a place my husband, Laine, and I have been talking about for while. There’s its cache of cool of course, its southern charm, its place in music history - and then of course there’s the “Resting Brunch Face” magnet from Biscuit Love on our refrigerator (a delightful little joke gift courtesy of my sister) that’s been staring at me every day for the last year or two. We had to visit Nashville. We had to eat biscuits. So when the opportunity arose for a little work and play in the city, we were on the next flight.
With cranes and new buildings going up around virtually every corner, it’s easy to see that Nashville is a city undergoing immense transformation. Here’s what Music City has to offer…
WHERE TO STAY
Kimpton Aertson Hotel - For me, one of the things that makes great hotel design is when influences of the local city or neighborhood are highlighted. The Aertson does not skimp on these details. Each guest room has a luxe blue and yellow color scheme, which are the colors of Nashville. In the bathrooms there’s a playful wallpaper, featuring the blueprint of the Tennessee state Capitol. These are just a few of the ways that the Aertson’s clever design choices help bring Nashville inside its four walls. Also lemme just say blue rope. Yep, the hotel’s front desk is constructed of blue rope, a custom installation created by New York-based artist Orly Genger.
I couldn’t believe how large our hotel room was. We had a corner room, which also meant we had two floor-to-ceiling walls of windows (and a balcony) giving us a view onto midtown Nashville.
From a Saarinen style marble-top table to a yellow modern Shaker-style desk chair, and a chaise lounge, the room’s furniture was simple and stylish.
With complimentary coffee in the morning, hot apple cider throughout the day (we were visiting in chilly December), and wine and beer in the evening, the Aertson makes it easy to…. well, never leave.
WHERE TO EXPLORE
But leave we did, to explore the city, eat all the biscuits, and hopefully run into Dolly Parton (cuz obviously that’s what happens when you go to Nashville, right?).
Marathon Village - Surprisingly, when I asked around about sites to visit or neighborhoods to see no one mentioned Marathon Village. It’s surprising because Marathon Village has so much to offer. For design lovers, it’s a great example of adaptive re-use. These turn of the 20th century brick buildings were once home to automobile manufacturer, Marathon Motor Works. Today, the buildings house a creative community including retail, business, entertainment, and distilleries - meaning it’s got a lot to see and do for even non-design lovers too. Throughout the complex you can also find carefully curated relics from the building’s former life. Also, a cat saddling up to the bar for a shot of whiskey at Corsairs Distillery.
The Ryman - Built in 1885, The Ryman Auditorium is the birthplace of bluegrass music, home to the Grand Ole Opry, and basically the most distinguished venue any famous country musician - from Elvis Presley, to Johnny Cash, to Emmylou Harris - has played. With its gothic architectural touches, it’s no wonder the venue is nicknamed “The Mother Church of Country Music.” Check out Opry at The Ryman for a completely un-ironic, fantastic, old-timey musical variety show whether you’re a country music fan or not.
Germantown - Here townhouses with gaslights and shotgun-style homes are fronted by brick sidewalks. Dotted among the quaint homes find minimalist home decor store, Wilder, craftsman-bungalow-cum-boutique, Alexis + Bolt, as well as some of the city’s top restaurants.
12 South - The neighborhood is home to a large strip of restaurants, unique retailers like White’s Mercantile, Imogene + Willie, and Reese Witherspoon’s own, Draper James. In the alleyway alongside Draper James, find one of Nashville’s most iconic color walls: The blue and white stripe is Draper James’ signature. Even snow fall couldn’t keep people [like yours truly] from getting their pic.
While posing for your pic in front of the Draper James wall you’ll be facing another of Nashville’s famous murals. Take 5 steps and you’ll be in front of the “I believe in Nashville” mural. In the event 12 South is too overrun with with photo-takers, find this mural’s twin in Marathon Village.
WHERE TO EAT
When you’re not getting your fill of Edley’s Bar-B-Que or Hattie B’s hot chicken, try one of these aesthetically pleasing eateries.
Henley - Back at The Kimpton Aertson hotel you’ll find one of the biggest pieces of restaurant eye-candy in all of Nashville. In fact, Architectural Digest gave Henley the top nod when it came to naming Tennessee’s most beautiful bar. Art Deco and industrial touches mix perfectly among craft cocktails (including a custom manhattan cart) and the soulful southern food of this brasserie.
Barista Parlor - If you like industrial chic, you’ll love the Germantown location of this coffee purveyor. See how this former auto garage has been turned into an airy, upscale java joint. Also another great example of adaptive re-use (a theme that runs throughout the various Barista Parlor locations).
Le Sel - Conveniently located about 150 feet from the Aertson Hotel is Le Sel, where Sunday brunching happens all day long - and can come with a bowl of “brunch punch” should you choose. When it comes to design, it’s hard to top pale blue walls, millennial pink scalloped banquettes, and black-and-white-striped tile floors. The space was designed by Nashville’s Benjamin Vandiver. Come for the decor, stay for the food and friendly staff.
Posted in partnership with Kimpton Aertson Hotel; all views my own.
// All photos by Marni Epstein-Mervis of STRUKTR Studios