By Will Speros
Bristol, Virginia, might not seem like the first stop for the many history lovers visiting the Old Dominion, but the Southern locale boasts a significant musical legacy. The 1927 Bristol Sessions are considered by many to be the original country music recordings that ultimately earned Bristol its denomination as the birthplace of country music. This heritage is at the heart of a new concept from Marriott International: the aptly named Sessions Hotel. Florida- and Indiana-based studio Interior Image Group (IIG) was tasked with transforming three separate buildings—a grain mill, candy factory, and grocery building—into a cohesive 70-room boutique hotel accented in homage to the site’s varied heritage.
“We knew there would be a fair amount of historic preservation required for the project, so we embraced it and celebrated these jewels of history to help us tell the most authentic story possible,” says Leslie Schultz, senior vice president of design for IIG.
Upon entry, guests are introduced to the place’s musical roots with an installation of locally salvaged gramophones at reception. Eclectic seating perpetuates a retro-style flair beneath original ceilings and alongside original flooring, exposed brick, and beams. A sunny blue shade wraps each accommodation to offset industrial elements that recall the past lives of each revamped structure. Local craftsmanship is on display in each guestroom as furniture contextualizes the varied chamber layouts featured across the three buildings.
“With all of these existing elements, we had a large number of room types, making it difficult to standardize the furniture in the guestrooms,” Schultz explains. “To solve this issue, we had to have the casegood manufacturer field measure guestrooms onsite to account for all elements that could pose obstacles. We then worked to standardize as many types of units to make the production smoother.” Locally sourced artwork also punctuates guestrooms in whimsical, topical forms such as portraits of Bristol-born musicians and vintage microphones transformed into light pendants that illuminate a record player cabinet.
IIG’s myriad musical references not only instill a colorful sense of place but also shape an experience that asserts Bristol’s place in history. “This is not just another boutique hotel,” Schultz says. “There is a lot of thought and detail in this design that tells an unrepeatable story and allows guests to experience this hotel with all their senses.”
Photos by Kent Ervin