An Iconic Asheville Building Is Now a Beautiful Boutique Hotel — and We Got a First Look

The Flatiron Building in downtown Asheville has lived many lives before transforming into an Art Deco-inspired boutique hotel this month.

<p>Dony Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel</p>

Dony Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel

A fire escape housing a bar, a dance studio, and a barbershop that bobbed flappers’ hair — it's safe to say that the Flatiron Building in downtown Asheville, North Carolina, has lived many lives before its transformation into the Art Deco-inspired boutique hotel that opened this month.

After a full day of flying, handing my keys to the valet offered a welcome respite from running through airports. Reminiscent of New York City's iconic Flatiron Building, the 1925 grand dame loomed as I gathered my luggage and approached the elegant copper doors.

<p>Shane Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel</p>

Shane Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel

Albert Wirth designed the property — only the second skyscraper in Asheville and anchor to downtown development — and it made the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It housed offices until 2019 when Flatiron Preservation Group, LLC, led by local Asheville native Philip Woollcott, purchased the building to transform it into a boutique hotel.

Entering the lobby, hand-painted wallpaper filled with vignettes of Asheville life surrounds me: George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate shares space with bluegrass musicians, the facade of family-owned and operated Little Pigs BBQ, winding roads with classic cars, loblolly pine trees reaching between mountains and rivers, farmers, galloping horses, and historic landmarks. An original brass letterbox (plans are afoot for this relic) hangs between two original hand-crank elevators currently being restored to their former glory, complete with elevator attendants. Even the floors call to Asheville’s landscape with rosy rivers of original terrazzo, shale-reminiscent stone lines, and tile streams.

<p>Dony Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel</p>

Dony Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel

A 1939 red Steinway piano catches my eye as I approach the front desk, sitting opposite where a grand piano once lived. The lines of the piano mirror the architecture of the building, and Dony Dawson, the chief design officer for GarageCap, handpainted the gold florals that crawl across the crimson paint, replicas of the dogwood tree flowering down the street. Looking closely, I find one of the many homages to the building, a small flatiron embedded into the Steinway logo. Guest players, including GarageCap's engineer Stephen Savoie, have tickled its ivories since it found its home in the lobby.

<p>Dony Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel</p>

Dony Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel

Making my way to my third-floor corner room, I pass a series of door signs and plaques. These are the Flat Iron Folks. Shane Dawson, creative lead at GarageCap, spent months combing through historical documents of companies that operated in the Flat Iron Building and spoke to the descendants of those detectives, dancers, florists, and even Jimmie Rodgers, widely considered “the Father of Country Music,” to create the 29 vignettes sprinkled throughout the hotel. The handpainted window signage and biographical sketches, like the original doors and transom windows, honor the storied past of the building.

“They kept so much of the original glory of the property. The grand marble staircase, the terrazzo floors, the cozy lobby with the scent of firewood drifting from the restaurant — it’s transportive,” Olivia Terrell, the hotel's director of sales and longtime Asheville resident, told T+L.

Here is my review of Asheville's brand-new Flat Iron Hotel and how it’s adding to the tapestry of sustainability in the North Carolina destination.

Flat Iron Hotel

  • The adaptive reuse architecture celebrates the glory of the Art Deco period with modern amenities and incorporates homages to Asheville’s artistic legacy.

  • The Rooftop Bar offers a panoramic view of a bustling downtown against the backdrop of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • The rooms feature original doors, transom windows, and classic prewar bathrooms with grand marble vanities.

  • Centrally located, visitors can easily walk to the Wortham Performing Arts Center to catch a show; the iconic South Slope neighborhood to visit a brewery or grab a loaf of Mother’s legendary focaccia; or check out the weekly Friday night drum circle in Pritchard Park.

  • The Red Ribbon Society speakeasy pays homage to the Prohibition-era watering holes while offering a dynamic cocktail program built around ferments, carbonations, and foraged ingredients.

The Rooms

<p>Andrew Cebulka/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel</p>

Andrew Cebulka/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel

I stayed in the Ellington King suite with panoramic downtown views flanked by the Blue Ridge Mountains. The 380-square-foot space afforded me a living room with floor-to-ceiling windows, a jade velvet chaise longue, a sweet conversation nook with a swivel barrel chair and round wooden side table, and a closet armoire. The rooms and suites, of which there are 71, have either king or queen beds, except one unique bunkbed-outfitted suite waiting for a bachelorette weekend.

Each features design elements that call on the building’s original spirit, including the preserved doors and transom windows and classic prewar bathrooms with grand marble vanities and vintage tile. Jewel-toned custom furniture, polished brass fixtures, and hand-drawn wall coverings featuring broken pinstripes and sunbursts complete the look that reflects the rich textile history of the area (championed by Edith Vanderbilt) and Asheville’s moniker, “Land of the Sky.”

Rooms are named for 1920s icons and range from the Gatsby single queen ($229 per night) to the Wolfe King ($239 per night) to the suite options: the Zelda double queen ($289 per night) and the Ellington king suite ($299 per night). Rates fluctuate by season.

Related: “This North Carolina City Was Just Named the No. 1 Food Destination in the U.S.,” According to T + L

Food and Drink

<p>Dony Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel</p>

Dony Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel

Four concepts offer plenty of imbibing and dining options at the Flat Iron.

The Rooftop Bar has three separate patios with stunning views of Asheville; one even has two fire pits, a cozy addition as I settle in with a Siesta, a pretty pink cocktail served in a graceful coupe and garnished with a lemon twist — perfect for toasting the sunset.

Sounds of the Friday night drum circle fill the air as a light mist falls, and the moody mountains set the tone for my first night. Inside, a mix of tan leather and goldenrod-hued wall coverings mesh with blonde wood accents, penny tile made from wine corks, and framed vinyl on every wall.

Remember that fire escape where imbibers crowded around for the best view and drinks in town? It was called the Sky Bar, and E, my bartender for the evening, ushered me down to the eighth floor to give me a peek of the once-popular space where guests grabbed drinks, climbed out the window onto the fire escape, and gathered around the marble service bar left as an homage to the eclectic watering hole. “Sky Bar could always be counted on for great drinks and spectacular sunsets,” they said.

They also let me in on the other legend of the eighth floor: It once housed the Wonderful Western North Carolina (WWNC), the first radio station to broadcast bluegrass music in the U.S.

<p>Andrew Cebulka/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel</p>

Andrew Cebulka/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel

On the first floor, I settle in for dinner at Luminosa, where “modern Appalachia meets Italian classics.” Executive Chef Graham House and Chef de Cuisine Sean McMullen source hyperlocal ingredients and celebrate the area's rich culinary heritage. The dining room exudes elegance with dark wood and leather, original terrazzo floors, brass fixtures, and terracotta planters filled with ivy cascading down walls. Outside, stacks of oak await pizzas and wood-fired dishes.

Dramatic sepia-toned portraits in gilded frames (commissioned and curated by Erin Hutton) tell the stories of famed Ashevillians as they hang across the wood paneling, bridging the city’s past and present.

I put my evening’s dining fate in the hands of my server Kristin — she starts me with a glass of Marchesi di Barolo Gavi from Italy's Piedmont, and the crisp taste with delicate fruit set the tone for a delicious meal. Wild foraged chickweed, daylily shoots, and oxalis arrives dressed in a pickled bamboo vinaigrette made by McMullen, also known as “Pickle Daddy.”

Beef carpaccio comes next. The clever play on the Italian classic vitello tonnato showcases razor-thin beef, crispy capers for brininess and texture, and a gathering of chives atop a smoked trout sauce that replaces traditional veal and tuna with local delicacies, adding another layer to the story of honoring place.

The food keeps coming: campanelle dressed with locally foraged stinging nettles and paper-thin crispy country ham and a half-chicken, charred from wood fire and bathed in schmaltz.

House maintains strong connections to the local community of farmers and foragers, and foraged ingredients even make it to the dessert round with choices like the Sweet Cicely soft serve. But the star is the chocolate semifreddo.

I don't typically go for this style of dessert, but the server lets me in on the secret to enjoying it: Eat it like a s’more. The cinnamon tuille serves as the cookie base and lends campfire spice. A slather of the semifreddo with its decadent chocolate-sorghum-caramel flavor profile stands in for the chocolate bar. Finally, the smoked meringue, with a torched top and soft interior, creates the marshmallow effect. It brings me right back to Girl Scout campouts, roasting marshmallows to sandwich between melty chocolate and crunchy grahams. Pastry chef Mattie Grey is a master.

Luminosa far exceeds the concept of a hotel restaurant. Nothing mediocre or staid occupies the space or the menu. House and McMullen deliver bold flavors, strong ties to the local community, and a menu that lives up to its Italian-Apalachian claims.

“Growing up, I canned a lot, but that doesn't work in an elevated restaurant. Preserving that fresh produce into powders and vinegars allows us to sprinkle the essence of that season all year,” House said.

<p>Dony Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel</p>

Dony Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel

The Red Ribbon Speakeasy is my final stop of the night. Sarah Charles Hereford, bar and restaurant manager, seeks to continue McMullen and House’s work with zero waste in her cocktail program.

“There’s so much waste in the food industry; if I can take leftover citrus zest to make cellos, it maximizes every moment of that ingredient,” Hereford said.

Not yet open, the speakeasy's cocktail program will be a technical and tasty exploration of carbonation, ferments, and fresh ingredients. It occupies the former boiler room of the building and still has the original boiler room door embedded into one of the walls. The name is an homage to the Prohibition practice of tying a red ribbon on doors to designate speakeasies.

The dimly lit corridors feature signs bearing the mysterious moniker, "A. Williams Ribbon Supply Co.,"  another nod to the building’s history — Al Williams, the heating engineer, survived a terrifying fall during the building's construction. A hidden elevator will remain behind heavy velvet curtains for guests with mobility challenges, and black and white silent films will play on the Flat Iron Theater screen to provide more period ambiance.

Related: “Asheville, North Carolina, Is One of the Best Food Cities in the U.S. — Meet the 4 People Redefining Its Restaurants,” According to T + L

Activities and Amenities

The pet-friendly property has a coworking and event space on the second floor, with podcast booths, eclectic seating vignettes, and catering options. On the lobby level, a grab-and-go cafe provides a full coffee menu and homemade pastries, including the not-to-be-missed Flat iron Cronut.

Accessibility and Sustainability

There are four ADA-compliant rooms with roll-in showers and large bathrooms on each floor. Elevators, accessible entrances, and accessible food and beverage outlets can be found throughout the property, and service animals are welcome.

The sustainability narrative of this property centers on the adaptive reuse architecture and design work inherent in transforming a historical property rather than tearing it down. "I love that we are bringing an appreciation of what was built in the past to a new generation," Dawson said.

There are compostable water bottles in the rooms and water filling stations on each floor, but the Flat Iron team has taken sustainable practices to a deeper level with its food and beverage program. McMullen strives to eliminate waste in the kitchen. Growing up here, he sees it as an extension of the Appalachian mindset of taking advantage of seasonality.

Wild foraging represents a large part of the culinary program, and all pickling is done in-house. McMullen ferments all refuse to make vinegars, powders, and other vehicles to give it new life. The menu is printed in-house so that he can remain flexible about offerings. “If farmers don't sell all their cabbage at the market, I can buy it and incorporate that fresh ingredient into a dish,” he said. This keeps the food waste cycle small.

Hereford lends a hand with the zero-waste mission through the bar program. She uses the powders, ferments, and tinctures McMullen crafts to enhance the cocktails she creates. “I want to make sure every last bit of that ingredient that chefs are showing such care moves to the beverage program without waste,” Hereford said.


<p>Dony Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel</p>

Dony Dawson/Courtesy of The Flat Iron Hotel

A little over 14 miles from the Asheville Regional Airport and situated in the center of downtown, you could forego a car rental while here. Shuttles, taxis, and rideshare options are abundant to get you to and from the hotel. Once checked in, you can explore the bevy of shops, restaurants, breweries, and city landmarks within easy walking distance. But to fully explore Asheville, you will need a rental car.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, miles of hiking and biking trails, and a bursting art scene await. There’s the Biltmore Estate, the North Carolina Arboretum, the River and Arts District, and more — check out our Asheville Getaway Guide for all the rich experiences available just beyond walking distance from the hotel.

Related: “This North Carolina City Is Called the 'Sedona of the South' — Here's Why,” According to T + L.

How to Get the Most Value Out of Your Stay

Coming soon, the Flat Iron Hotel will be part of the Stash Loyalty Program, a points system designed for independent boutique hotels. They also plan to implement a welcome Flat Iron Italian Pilsner (in collaboration with local Asheville brewery Wedge Brewing Co.) or glass of prosecco at check-in.

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