December 7, 2020
This Nashville Hotel Invites You to Stay Longer
The Music City’s BentoLiving caters to a growing nomadic lifestyle among millennials—as long as the WiFi is strong and a brewery is a stone’s throw away.
After graduating from Pratt Institute with his M.Arch, Justin Koziol began searching for an alternative to practicing design, which merely “fulfill clients’ demands.” After establishing his New York–based interior design and product development firm BentoBuild, he realized the answer lay at the intersection of architecture and lifestyle.
“The small footprint living movement and how people manage the micro-apartment structure sparked my interest,” he says from the rooftop of his long-term stay hotel BentoLiving in Nashville’s up-and-coming neighborhood, Chestnut Hill. Overlooking the Tennessee capital’s neon-washed country music hub Downtown, the property provides the comfort of white linens and room service with the privacy of residential housing.
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Its 89 rooms range from micro studios to five-bedroom suites. On the rooftop deck, an orange arc sometimes frames Nashville’s similarly-hued sunset. The five-story building is surrounded by a booming subculture of young locals in search of alternatives to the city’s tourist attractions.
Koziol explains his target clientele’s ideology is “less about ownership and more invested in moving freely.” BentoLiving welcomes guests for short-term check-ins, a format that primarily caters to those disinterested in, as he puts it, “signing a lease while looking for a launching pad.” Like long-term apartments, the furnished rooms include a full kitchen and in-unit laundry, with access to a private balcony—and yet towels are changed, and the landline is connected to a front desk.
The Hawaii native’s prior experience in residential projects came in handy for crafting a unifying appliance and furniture configuration and departs from generic hotel interiors by including curated art and a grocery store among hospitality amenities such as a Hawaiian-themed restaurant, live music venue, gym, and conference room.
Before landing in Nashville, Koziol considered other mid-size cities including Detroit, Tulsa, and Columbus. Nashville stood out because of its emerging tech start-ups, in addition to established industries such as music and healthcare. Young professionals are charmed by the city’s hipster roots marked by the local music scene, Southern-style food, and a burgeoning creative scene. In this vein, the extended-stay format taps into a trend among millennials to take up a nomadic lifestyle in which computers act as the office, and Airbnb covers lodging. BentoLiving aims to fill gaps created by the unpredictability of features such as WiFi with a reliable home base and a hotel’s support.
Opening doors in February, just weeks before COVID-19 cases shut down the United States, has had its challenges, but Koziol sees opportunity in the unprecedented. In particular, he is interested in exploring how his company’s model can cater to the new work-from-home normal. Freed from cubicles, many young office professionals have the chance to test drive new cities for a few months before settling down or moving on.
Acutely aware of his clientele’s changing needs, Koziol is hoping to launch a Bento pass program that will allow new nomads to seamlessly check-in between a network of future Bento properties (Detroit, Austin, and Charlotte are among the potential cities) and settle until the next destination calls.
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