Though my first real experience with being in the style of place I never knew I always loved was at Stone’s Throw Winery, one place became the ultimate, epic, installation and inspiration of Futurustic: Milwaukee’s The Iron Horse Hotel. Admittedly, above and beyond the design of the place, it appeals to my interests so I am a little biased, but it truly was the place that put into visual reference – and eventually words – futuristic style. Besides, I am not the only one who thinks it an exemplary place. For the second year in a row, in only three years of existence, The Iron Horse Hotel has been named the Boutique & Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA) Boutique Hotel of the Year.
My first visit to the hotel was prompted by two things, the previously stated interests: motorcycles and dogs. You see, first and foremost the hotel is designed with a style and amenities for bikers. There is plenty of exposed brick and utilities, leather and metal finishes, to make even the most testosterone filled man feel at home. When designers talk of man-caves, this hotel is the penultimate expression of an entire building as man-cave. The lobby itself features a rotating display of custom motorcycles.
They specialize in amenities for bikers, first and foremost is simply being adjacent to the Harley-Davidson Museum. But they also have Thursday bike nights not just for Hogs but for any and all makes of motorcycle with special nights for specific makes. They treat the biker well with biker pins, packed saddle bag lunches for jaunts into the Wisconsin countryside, even special features in rooms such as benches to remove boots and heavy duty hangers that can hold up your leathers. And for your bike they have special covered parking spots, on-sire bike washing, even on-call maintenance. Except for maybe Sturgis or Daytona there is no place more welcoming to bikers, but those aren’t as stylish or comfortable.
Back to that first visit, the second interest that brought me to the hotel was dogs. The hotel itself is dog-friendy. When you check in they out your dog’s name on the lobby welcome board and you can take your dog throughout the hotel as long as they are on-leach, the have a room service menu for dogs, and provide information on pet-friendly businesses nearby and the dog parks (that I happen to have help found). My wife and I had found out that in The Yard, their outdoor patio, they were having special Sunday dog times so we decided to take ours there to hang out for the afternoon. It was pretty amazing to have a place of such repute to allow dogs and they made everyone feel welcome. We have gone numerous times and enjoy not only the company but the service and quality of food and drink.
So as you can see as duly stated I am biased due to the hotel’s deference to two of my main interests, but there is no denying it is a perfect example of Futurustic style. Sure there are the boutique styling points such as velvet armed chairs. But there are far more rustic elements including rough hewn wooden beams, plenty of leather, plenty of metal including iron fixtures, even table decorations that include gears. They include folk features such as a gigantic American flag made out of blue jeans and leather chairs with the flag imprinted on the backs as seen below:
The rooms themselves add more of the modern, or future, style that the lobby and bar area, yet still carry over the rustic elements of distressed leather and exposed brick and utilities. There are modern finishes of wood and metal, clean lines, and spa-like bathrooms that make Iron Horse truly a boutique hotel despite its rough elements. Lofts in New York only wish they could be as cool as the Iron Horse Hotel, which leas us to a story that perfectly sums up the attitude of the hotel and Futurustic style.
You see, the Iron Horse Hotel simply has a swagger that really adds the rustic and the masculine to the boutique level of service and style that separates it from everyone else. Here is a perfect example: rumor has it that when the owner viewed a Jim Beam commercial with Willem Dafoe (who is from Wisconsin) where he chooses New York over Milwaukee – supposedly paralleling choosing Jim Beam over other spirits – they decided to never serve Jim Beam again and instead worked with local distiller Great Lakes Distillery to make their own bourbon whiskey to be the one served in the bar. Now THAT is futurustic – using a new and modern local distillery to make an old-fashioned manly spirit. Take that New York.
That first time at the hotel I came up with a word: rustchic. That was for a while my tentative term for the style that I now describe as futurustic. So cheers to you Iron Horse for being not only an inspiration to me, but to all of the boutique hotel business with tour consecutive awards.