The Contemporary and Cozy Woodlark Hotel

There’s a bit of history etched into the walls of the the Woodlark Hotel, one we’ve always wanted to retrace in person since previewing the hotel a few years back. One half originally operated as the Woodlark Building pharmacy; the other began as the Cornelius Hotel, a 1908 Baroque Revival design credited to Portland architect John Virginius Bennes – a sumptuously appointed interior that once welcomed the local gentry and visiting guests into its coffered ceiling lobby for nearly two decades before adopting its current namesake in 1920. The buildings and establishment would go onto merge into the Woodlark, earning the nickname as the “House of Welcome,” a hospitable spirit still palpable walking through its modernized incarnation styled to appeal to yet another generation.

In person, the 150-room hotel’s charms are defined by the Woodlark’s combination of stylish modernized historic detailing and staff’s intimate-friendliness. A doorman greets all who enter and exit, equally apt to offer an umbrella in regularly rain-prone Portland as they are to recommend a favorite spot to eat or shop. The front desk is patient even at the height of the day’s influx of arriving and departing guests; handwritten notes welcoming your stay await within your room’s desk.

Side by side beds with fluted green headboards, divided in the center by a small tiered bedside table topped with a small potted variegated houseplant, bedside analog clock and a small green pamphlet.

The hotel’s sophisticated public space design is credited to Smith Hanes, with R&A Architecture & Design, Inc. appointing the guest rooms and hallways with green textiles, marbled surfaces, dark leather, black lacquer, gleaming brass.

Guest room at Woodlark Hotel in Portland Oregon, with modern interior decor done in green, black, blue and brass detailing throughout. Bed with large green fluted headboard to the right, blue armchair in righthand back corner with buffet and globe floor lamp nearby. Center of photo is large window with sheer white curtain blocking out chill Portland light.

And those rooms within the Woodlark are as handsomely appointed as hoped, decorated with an eye for historic detailing reinterpreted by a modern lens: graphical fern wallpaper, queen channel headboards, globe sconces and lamps, and firmly modern Chesterfield sofas. Much of Portland may remain proudly bizarre, but the Woodlark is more tastefully welcoming than weird.

Guest room at Woodlark Hotel in Portland Oregon, with modern interior decor done in green, black, blue and brass detailing throughout. Bed with large green fluted headboard to the right, blue armchair in righthand back corner with buffet and globe floor lamp nearby. Center of photo is large window with sheer white curtain blocking out chill Portland light.

Bathroom with green and black wallpaper, long vertical mirror with brass circular sconces on each side, and black marble pedestal sink. A pile of folded white bath towels are underneath the sink on a small shelf.

Loft spiral staircase leading to a bed. Walls are covered in green and white flora-themed wallpaper, with framed black and white photography on the left wall.

There was no bath tub or dedicated closet in the corner room I stayed within (the most luxuriously appointed one bedroom Woodlark Suite offers a separate living space and a soaking tub), but the bathroom’s walk-in shower was spacious and hand shower head flowed with a satisfying cascade (especially welcome after a long day walking in the gentle rain). The only real criticism one could volley at the hotel is for their infirm wifi signal, one that made working from either the room or even within the lobby a test in patience. But hopefully any stay at the Woodlark is dedicated to leisurely pursuits where wifi is purely dedicated to mapping the day’s destinations.

Corner half-circle dining booth inside hotel's Abigail Hall, with historic-styled pendant glass lighting overhead circular table and floral wallpaper over wainscoting detail.

Abigail Hall’s booths are prime spots for a drink, nosh, and people watching. \ Photo: Gregory Han

Upon entering, guests can veer left into the Bullard Tavern for a bite and drink, or venture past the lobby toward the back into what was once known as the “Ladies Reception Hall” back in the building’s Cornelius Hotel heydays. Today that back room has been reimagined into a picturesque space where guests can nosh on breakfast, sip high-tea in the afternoon, and enjoy cocktails all within the same space known as Abigail Hall (named after the suffrage leader Abigail Scott Duniway, “the pioneer Woman Suffragist of the great Northwest”). Get there early in morning for the most snug booths and interesting vantage point to observe your fellow guests arising for their first sips of Good Coffee roast served by the hotel.

Large toasted slab of sourdough bread topped with slices of avocado, smoked salmon, pumpkin seeds, and garnished liberally with sprigs of dill.

A stay here is not complete without trying what this guest might consider the best – and largest – avocado toast he’s ever tasted. \ Photo: Gregory Han

The Woodlark Hotel’s somehow navigates feeling contemporary and comfortably cozy at once, embellished with modern flora+modern revivalist interior decor that says “cool” with staff and rooms that emote welcoming warmth (and some days in Portland, you really do want as much warmth as possible). The hotel’s central proximity to Portland’s many cultural landmarks, public institutions, eateries, and a long walk/short car ride to Washington Park make it the first place we’ll now think of staying when returning to Portland, noting this house is indeed welcoming as its repute.

What: Woodlark Hotel
Where: 813 SW Alder Street, Portland, Oregon 97205
How much: Standard rooms for 2 guests start at $219, Studio Suites sleeping 3 at $359, and Premium suites starting at $519.
Highlights: Wake up early and be one of the first to slip past the curtains and velvet rope into Abigail Hall’s penny tiled floor and elegantly appointed trad-modern decorated room for a very satisfying breakfast. By late afternoon the lobby and its adjoining coffee bar is a bustling nexus of guests and locals vying for a table or seat. Take care to note of the photography gracing the guest room walls, as they’re the work of Portland photographer Imogen Cunningham.
Design draw: It only requires the briefest of walks from hotel door over to the city block sized bibliophile mecca, Powell’s City of Books, where design lovers can spend hours immersed in the bookshop’s collection of design, art, and architecture titles. The Portland Art Museum is also a short walk away, with engaging exhibitions of local contemporary artists. A more significant distance, yet still doable jaunt by foot takes you to the stunningly poetic Portland Japanese Garden, eight lush gardens further elevated by the the architectural presence of Kengo Kuma’s Cultural Village expansion, just a short distance from the city’s popular Pearl District where shopping and dining options are many.
Book it: Woodlark Hotel

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Gregory Han is a Senior Editor at Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at

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