Travel

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Unscripted Chill Meets Albino Squirrels

Homefront checks in to a hip new hotel on Bloor with a playful attitude and distinct sense of place.

By Kylie Mackenzie

Fittingly located within the “cultural corridor,” the recently opened Kimpton Saint George is easy to miss. Until, that is, my eye is drawn up onto the west wall where BirdO’s hand-painted owl mural is nesting. I pay closer attention and find the oh-so-subtle side entrance.

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The early boutique

Kimpton Hotels came to life in the 1980s on the US west coast. Founder Bill Kimpton thought his hotels should be unique places to stay that felt like beautiful, livable, stylish homes where you could make heartfelt connections.

I remember staying at one of his first funky “boutique” hotels in San Francisco, with its friendly laid-back service, house dog and bold leopard bathrobes. It was definitely ridiculously chill and undeniably “meet people comfortable.” Today, the group has amassed a remarkable 60 one-of-a-kind hotels worldwide and, finally, Toronto’s made the list.

The un-hotel

Avoiding a simple remake of the tired Holiday Inn on Bloor, the Kimpton team has mindfully curated its own subtle sense of place amidst the Annex’s highbrow heritage homes and businesses.
During my introductory walkabout, I find comfy spaces that flaunt rich wood and stone surfaces throughout the hotel, giving it both warmth and depth. Every artfully selected finish, every piece of Canadian art and every colour selection or piece of locally designed furniture seems to have a story.

Fortunately, there’s a chef in the house at the independently owned gastro pub that serves up three square meals and room service. Likely a sensible food and beverage decision in this well-restauranted part of the city.

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Yes, albino squirrels

True to form, the Saint George carries the brand’s trademark “quirky closet surprise.” Here in TO it’s a small white squirrel that’s attached to the inside of each stand-alone wardrobe.

Worth noting: All 168 guest rooms in the 14-storey building have been re-done from top to bottom. The basic bedroom inventory has been reduced, with a serious upside. Book one of the 20 well-equipped suites, one of which is a multi-purpose Presidential suite, and check out the bright tech-enabled meeting spaces and a fitness centre that’s really the place to start off your day.

Cool, convenient, comfortable

Retro-style bikes parked inside the lobby balance artisanal chic with the eco-practicality of encouraging guests to bike-share. (When the hotel’s bike inventory is low, the St. G. concierge doles out city-bike share passes.)

The brand’s signature “living room vibe” is omnipresent, as laid-back guests share Toronto tips and stories about their day when they meet in the comfy lounge lobby. Everyone, it seems, feels at home.

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kimptonsaintgeorge.com