Shelfology Ambassador of Awesome Shannon Maldonado walks us through her design choices as she celebrates the opening of the YOWIE Hotel. South Street Philly’s eclectic energy gets a boost of style from small-brand artisans as Shannon curates each room with her unique modern aesthetic.
What’s the story behind the Yowie Hotel?
When I started YOWIE, I’d always hoped that I’d somehow be connected to a hotel. Originally, the hope was that I would be discovered by a large chain that I admired and become their gift shop curator. I kept building YOWIE quietly over the years, and a former client-turned-friend and I began talking about the idea of YOWIE becoming a mixed-use space that was grounded by a hotel. For over a year we worked through the numbers and started looking at buildings. There were many false starts before we found the building that would become the YOWIE Hotel, but it’s a stone's throw from my former location and placed on an iconic block that I have loved my whole life.
How did you make the design choices for each room?
I always start with a color palette. I don’t always know where the colors will land, but I try to figure out the harmony of the colors of the space. This starts with separating which could be larger pieces, like sofas, and which would be accents. Creating the seating areas in each suite was very important to me, and I fell in love with the sofas and dining tables first. I also wanted each room to have ceramic accents in the kitchens. Tabletop goods have been such a huge part of our brand DNA over the years, and those pieces provided key color continuity or pops of interest.
What were your favorite touches in the rooms?
I love all of the bold artwork and think the pieces really brought the rooms together. I tried to push the envelope on what art would be in the space, compared to artwork I’ve seen in other hospitality spaces. I really love the Shelfology Tromso shelves in the bathrooms. They added some unexpected pops against our bathroom tiles which are also in color. The terracotta Venetian plaster wall in Suite 202 is also a favorite.
Hiccups and delays? What went well and what didn’t?
There were lots of things! (laughs) We had to do two separate zoning hearings for the building during covid, there were supply chain issues that affected our construction, a plumbing issue, etc, etc, etc. One of our architects, Chris Stromberg, got us through some major problem-solving with these issues. I learned a lot about the construction and permitting process more than any project that I’ve done in the past.
Something that went well is that we love the floorplan that we were able to create through the two buildings with the help of our architect, Gabrielle Canno. I, of course, love the design that we landed on for the space and how bold it feels. I wish we had a bigger lobby, but since we’re “invisible service,” I still think that’s okay!
What can an overnight visitor expect to experience?
I designed the spaces to feel like an apartment, many of them have lots of natural light that really complements our colorful furniture and finishes. Eleven of the thirteen suites have kitchens, and the two that don’t are attached to bedroom suites that do. There are lots of windows, including bay windows which are a romantic Philadelphia staple. We worked on guides that we created to show you our insider view of the city, and downstairs there is a coffee shop and our gift shop to inspire you before or after your stay!
What aspects of the design were most important to you in crafting this experience?
Creating a sense of playfulness and joy through the palettes and the furniture selections [was most important].
We think it’s fair to say: Joy and playfulness level unlocked, Shannon! We love these inviting, homey spaces, and we’re thrilled to be part of your design journey. Time to book an overnight stay and soak in the good vibes!
Expert Advice: Installation tips for Tromso FM1 Steel floating shelves
We had very brittle tile that chipped easily, so, in hindsight, I would have pre-laid the tile so that the screws would be between the tiles. We were able to cover these issues with a thin bead of caulk.
Shelf-Geek Tips: When applying metal shelving over tile, use a glass or “diamond” bit to drill through the tile. Place a piece of painter's tape to mark the hole and drill through it. Create a buffer between the metal shelf and the tile by using a small plastic shim. This will keep the metal shelf from rubbing against the tile. Rock on!
GET THIS LOOK:
Shannon Maldonado of YOWIE and The YOWIE Hotel
Opened in 2016, YOWIE is a curated lifestyle shop and design studio, with a focus on work by independent labels, artists, and designers. After working in Fashion Design for over twelve years (Ralph Lauren, American Eagle Outfitters, and Urban Outfitters), its founder Shannon launched her inspiring storefront via a series of experimental pop-ups and a small but charming web shop of just twelve objects. She constantly looks to create an intersection between design and community in her work and to create spaces that invite discovery and have unexpected references and details. Named “The Coolest Shop in Philadelphia” by Bon Appétit in 2019, the YOWIE brand has extended its outreach to include interactive design workshops, creative/art direction, interior design consulting for hospitality clients, and most recently, a thirteen-room boutique hotel and cafe.