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Travel + Design: Hotel Julie Brings Shakespearian Style Into the 21st Century

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The Stratford, Ontario gem cues a showstopper stay with rooms inspired by the playwright’s works brimming with dramatic flourishes

Located on a leafy residential street just steps from the theatrical centre of town, Hotel Julie sets the stage for an inspired getaway. And its olive-green clad exterior emblazoned with a hand-painted burning heart mural (a nod to the Bard’s romantic tragedies) is just the start.

“We wanted to create an aesthetic that was classic and elegant, but also quirky,” says Paula McFarlane, who owns the property along with her husband Jake Tayler.

Hotel Julie - Stratford

Flat 01 features a fully equipped kitchen with sumptuous gold walls, marble counters, and a maroon fluted island complemented by subtle theatrical touches, such as the marquee-inspired lights on the veined slab wall.

The couple, former paramedics with a penchant for real estate, had acquired a few short-term rentals before taking the leap into large-scale hospitality and purchasing the property in 2022. The 1890s-built row house was in good order structurally, but its nine short-term apartments needed a significant style reboot. The couple envisioned a boutique-hotel vibe and enlisted designers Autumn Hachey of Stay Here and Jillian Smith-Moher of Twenty-Two Twelve, along with their teams, to elevate the scene (the designers came up with the name as a modern twist on Juliet of Romeo and Juliet).

Stratford Ontario Hotels

Flat 06, named Hot Tamale for its vibrant red walls, features a signature wall-to-wall wiggle headboard. Like all the accommodations, it boasts many local amenities, including exclusive, custom-crafted soap and fair trade organic java courtesy of Stratford’s To Bean or Not to Bean.

“We knew Hotel Julie would be a destination for people attending the famous Stratford Festival,” says Hachey. “We aimed to incorporate theatrical nuances and an experience that felt grand, luxurious and edgy.”

Hotel Julie, Designlines Magazine, Shoppe Clover - Stratford Ontario

In Flat 04, scaled-up shapes, such as a keyhole-shaped doorway, simplify the design and let the tactile furnishings take centre stage. Green velvet drapes mimic theatre curtains, while one-of-kind vintage chairs with raised velvet snake patterns lend the flat its Serpent Suite name.

A 10-month renovation of Hotel Julie netted nine individually designed flats (all of which feature kitchens) that are recast as characterful triumphs. Palettes go beyond polite neutrals with rooms laden in shades of moody aubergine, jewel-box gold, and spicy red. An imaginative deployment of marble finishes courtesy of Toronto’s own Shoppe Clover, from Italian Verde Luana and Rosso Levanto to Calacatta Viola, doubles-down on luxury.

Design, Architecture, Stratford

The hotel’s exterior heritage colour is enlivened by a burning heart mural hand-painted by artist Jules Mercanti. It lends a sense of drama, referencing Shakespeare’s lovelorn tragedies.

Interestingly, there is no lobby at Hotel Julie – instead, guests use keyless entry pads to directly access their flat. “In most hotels, a lot of design details and big elements go into making a grand entrance or lobby and the rooms tend to fall flat. It’s the opposite at Hotel Julie,” says McFarlane. “Guest can stay nine times, in nine different flats and get a slightly different experience each time.” In other words, get ready to repeat-book. HOTELJULIE.COM

Travel and Design, Designlines Magazine

LOCATION: 92 St Vincent St N, Stratford, ON

149 km from Toronto

IF YOU GO

Toronto Travel

Gallery Stratford

Located on Romeo Street (this is a theatre town after all), the gallery features a permanent collection of Canadian art, and diverse contemporary exhibits, many by local artists.

Stratford Festival 2024 Stratford Festival You can’t visit Stratford and not take in a performance. The 2024 season is a crowd-pleaser with everything from the heft of Romeo and Juliet to the fun of La Cage aux Folles.
Food Pazzo Pizzeria A Stratford staple for more than 20 years (and a favourite haunt of the late Timothy Findley), Pazzo serves up traditional Italian fare and is open late on weekends – a boon in a small town.
Stratford Ontario Shopping

Ontario Street

The town’s main street boasts independently owned businesses that make for a nice shopping and dining experience that feels anything but touristy.

Hotel Julie Ammenities

Bacon and Ale Trail

This self-guided tour is a fun way to discover the town’s pork and brewing traditions. Sixteen businesses take part, offering everything from bacon shortbread cookies to flights of craft beers.

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