Culture / Travel

This Swanky New Boutique Hotel Has Been Named the No. 1 Hotel in Charleston — And For Good Reason

Exploring The Loutrel's Design-Minded Retreat in the Historic District

BY // 02.24.23
photography Courtesy of The Loutrel

The charms of Charleston, South Carolina are endless. The Southern port city’s cobblestone streets invite walking and savoring the sights—Spanish moss draped over historic homes filled with stories and secrets, architectural marvels, unique shops, and art galleries large and small. As you stroll, you might smell blooming azaleas or the enticing aromas of garlic, butter, and local seafood. Each night, during what locals call “The Finest Hour,” the city is washed with pink-tinged light that somehow feels as if the setting sun and its reflection on the nearby ocean create an only-in-Charleston glow.

When I read about the opening of The Loutrel, a chic retreat located in the heart of Charleston’s historic district that’s topped numerous Best Of lists since opening at the end of 2021, I knew it was the perfect place to reconnect with my best friend and fellow book-lover, Beth. We wanted to browse bookshops; cozy up and read in luxurious spaces; eat long, decadent meals; and talk for hours, the way we’d once done as kids.

Beth’s grandparents lived next door to my grandparents in Sea Pines on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, and though we’ve never lived in the same city, Beth and I have stayed in touch through handwritten letters, phone calls, and a constant stream of texts. We reserved a room at the Loutrel, planning to escape our lives for the weekend.

As it turned out, there was so much to savor in the hotel—so many surprises, artisan snacks, and treasures in every corner–that I would have been happy to stay indoors. But Beth is an adventurer, so we had a weekend filled with joy and connection (not to mention fabulous cuisine) both inside and outside the Loutrel’s design-minded and art-filled rooms.

 

The Loutrel hotel charleston
A corner king room in The Loutrel. (Photo by Courtesy of The Loutrel)

About The Loutrel Boutique Hotel in Charleston

A 50-room luxury hotel just minutes from bustling Charleston’s King Street, The Loutrel marries Art Deco architecture with Southern charm. Accommodations include a mix of California king rooms, corner kings with views of the Ravenel bridge or Charleston harbor, five suites, and a premier suite, with many of the rooms featuring balconies. All guest rooms feature Matouk linens and towels, locally crafted Deep Steep bath amenities, artisanal Lavazza coffee, live botanicals, and a soothing color palette of blues and grays. In addition, guests can enjoy a state-of-the-art fitness studio and a private dining room that can be reserved for special occasions and events.

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loutrel-charleston-boutique-hotel-lobby-detail-swing-211150-0455-HR (Photo by Courtesy of The Loutrel)
A swing seat in The Loutrel’s hotel lobby. (Photo by Courtesy of The Loutrel)

The Loutrel Design

Designed by architecture and design firm Michael Graves, The Loutrel draws inspiration from Charleston’s vibrant gardens and natural landscapes to create a lush, biophilic-inspired design featuring a palette of verdant greens, blues, and golds that capture the color and varied light of the Lowcountry and tactile materials that evoke nature, such as linen, wool, and wood.

 

Loutrel hotel charleston
The hotel lobby of The Loutrel. (Photo by Courtesy of The Loutrel) (Photo by Courtesy of The Loutrel)

A Warm Charleston Welcome 

Beth and I entered The Veranda Lounge, where an expansive bronze and wood-accented bar conjures the image of an old ship while beautiful greenery and live citrus trees bring the gardens of Charleston inside. Further tapping into the city’s heritage, a repurposed southern porch swing beckons guests to sit and relax, while an expansive painting capturing the region’s landscape, by local artist Linda Fantuzzo, anchors the room.

We were greeted upon arrival with The Loutrel’s signature “Nice to Meet You” Swizzle cocktail. Before we even went to our room, we were told about the “Finest Cocktail Hour,” which is complimentary and celebrated daily, featuring extensive canapé offerings and punch bowl cocktails (and mocktails). In the morning, we could enjoy a complimentary European-style breakfast service, featuring fresh local pastries, charcuterie, and cheeses. We were thrilled by all the free and thoughtful curated treats to look forward to, as well as the unique Charleston experiences available to book, such as oyster farm tours with Lowcountry Oyster Co. and walking tours of Charleston with the hotel’s private guide. We reserved pink hotel bicycles for morning adventures (Beth’s idea—I like to sleep late and lounge around).

A high level of service impressed us from the start, when the lovely Scarlett Moore welcomed us to the hotel and smart and knowledgeable Jonathan Hithe showed us to our room, stopping first on the hotel’s mezzanine level, where all guests have access to a private Clubroom offering complimentary culinary treats throughout the day. In the Clubroom, guests can also find a selection of locally made treats, such as Lowcountry Kettle Chips and nectars from Les Hesperides, all of which are offered courtesy of the hotel. A collection of books curated by Buxton Books, ranging from historical tomes on the city to cookbooks from some of the south’s best chefs, are also found throughout the Clubroom for guests to enjoy. I spent a long time exclaiming over books like a local birder’s diaries and literary novels set in Charleston.

 

Book a custom charm bar experience at Hart Jewelry on King Street.

Art Galleries and Shops in Charleston 

Beth and I loved the Gibbes Museum of Art, which houses art that spans four centuries, introducing visitors to the visual culture of America and American South from the colonial era to the present. We went nuts for the photography of Jorge de la Torriente at the DeLa Gallery, and a hosted charm bar experience at Hart Jewelry was one of the highlights of our trip—after fascinating conversations about dreams and talismans, we both bought meaningful charm necklaces to bring home.

 

loutrel-charleston-boutique-hotel-veranda-lounge-wide-night-211150-0694-HR (Photo by Courtesy of The Loutrel)
The Loutrel hotel’s Veranda Lounge at night. (Photo by Courtesy of The Loutrel)

Dining in and around The Loutrel in Charleston

The Loutrel’s Veranda Lounge brings the signature Charleston front porch experience inside with botanical cocktails and mocktails served by Worship Chaleka (whose sharp fashion, including a fedora, lent the lounge an elegant air) and Mediterranean shared plates. Nearby Gingerline was festive and Instragrammable. We biked to Bodega for a hip, fun atmosphere and breakfast “sammies” that could have come from a Brooklyn bodega.

The culinary highlight of our trip was the ten-course tasting menu at the brand-new Wild Common Chef’s Counter. Less fussy but just as sophisticated as some of the tasting menus I’ve enjoyed, Executive Chef Orlando Pagán hits an authentic, welcoming note that many high-end destination restaurants miss. There was zero snootiness: we loved dishes like “kfc”—a bite of Korean-spiced fried chicken–and duck raviolo with chestnut, miso, and blueberry (cleverly made vegetarian with a duxelles mushroom for Beth’s vegetarian menu). Combining a vibey soundtrack and local art projected on the wall, Wild Common is like the best meal ever at your low-key, witty, best friend’s house, if your best friend were a James Beard Award 2021 Semi-Finalist and had access to Regiis Ova Caviar.

 

loutrel-charleston-boutique-hotel-rooftop-wide-211150-0529-HR (Photo by Courtesy of The Loutrel)
The rooftop terrace at The Loutrel. (Photo by Courtesy of The Loutrel)

The Loutrel, Charleston’s ‘Finest Hour’

On The Loutrel’s rooftop terrace, we took in stunning views of The Ravenel Bridge and many of the historic steeples that give the Holy City its name while enjoying signature cocktails, mocktails, and shareable bites from the Veranda Lounge’s menu delivered right to the terrace. Open exclusively to hotel guests and their visitors, the rooftop offers perhaps the best spot in Charleston to take in the Finest Hour. I felt very lucky on that rooftop terrace, remembering my grandparents, now passed on, who had brought me to Beth’s grandparents’ house when we were newborns, to introduce us for the first time.

The sunset and the weather grew chilly, but the thoughtful staff lit outdoor fireplaces and brought us warm blankets so we could continue to spend the evening reading, gossiping, and laughing hard. I can only imagine that our grandparents were clinking their cocktail glasses as well, making more than one toast to the pleasure of lifelong friendship.

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