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The Manchester hotel opens in “horse and bourbon capital of the world”


American designer Jenny Bukovec has looked to Kentucky‘s heritage for the interiors of a hotel in Lexington, a city famed for bourbon production and horse racing.

Described by the hotel team as “the first high-end hotel in the horse and bourbon capital of the world,” The Manchester sits on the site of the historic Ashland Distillery – the city’s first registered bourbon producer, which was established in 1865.

Lobby bar with vaulted ceilings and eclectic furniture
The lobby bar at The Manchester hotel features vaulted ceilings and eclectic lounge furniture

Its location in the heart of Manchester Street’s historic Distillery District places guests within close proximity to a host of bourbon distilleries, breweries, bars, restaurants and event spaces.

Hoteliers Nik Feldman and Hank Morris tapped New York City-based Bukovec to design “soulful” interiors for the public areas and 125 guest rooms that draw upon the region’s heritage.

Restaurant with walnut wainscoting, green floor tiles and taupe furniture
The equestrian-themed main restaurant, Granddam, is designed with walnut wainscoting and green accents

In the lobby, a wall of hit-and-miss brickwork is modelled on the neighbourhood’s historic rickhouses – structures used for storing and distilling spirits.

Corbelled arches within the brick wall lead through to a bar with vaulted plaster ceilings, eclectic lounge furniture, and details that include handmade bejmat tiles and amber-toned fluted glass.

Art deco-influenced rooftop bar with geometric floor tiles
Geometric patterned tiles and wicker furniture decorate the Lost Palm rooftop bar

The hotel’s main restaurant is named Granddam “after a wise, figurative matriarch racing horse” and serves a contemporary take on traditional Appalachian cuisine.

Seating 140 covers, the space is encircled by square-panelled walnut wainscoting, huge floor-to-ceiling windows and teal-hued leather banquette seating.

Guest room with dark blue walls and green leather headboard
The rich hues in the guest rooms evoke those associated with Kentucky’s Bluegrass music ties

Green floor tiles and cushions match the ceiling colour and complement the taupe tones of the walls and furniture upholstery.

“The 140-seat dining room follows the hotel’s equestrian aesthetic and is designed as a modern reinterpretation of nearby stables, featuring rich walnut walls and horse saddle-inspired woven leather seating,” said the hotel team.

Room with four wooden bunk beds and two armchairs
Among the room categories are five with wooden bunk beds that sleep four guests

A very different aesthetic was chosen for Lost Palm, a rooftop bar and lounge that takes cues from art deco nostalgia while repeating the same arched forms found in the lobby.

Bukovec combined wicker furniture, rattan panels, geometric patterned floor tiles and tropical planting as a nod to 1960s South Florida and its horse racing culture – for which Lexington is also famed.

The dark woods and rich hues used in the guest rooms evoke those commonly associated with Bluegrass music, another regional specialty.

Room categories range from standard kings and double queens up to one- and two-bedroom penthouse suites with clawfoot tubs, as well as five bunk-bed rooms that each sleep four guests.

Gym with a tanned leather punching bag and benches
The 7th-floor gym is kitted out with tanned leather equipment

A gym located on the 7th floor features herringbone parquet flooring and tanned leather equipment.

The Manchester also offers a variety of guest experiences, including distillery tours, bourbon tastings, fly fishing, polo lessons and trail riding.

Exterior view of brick building with "The Manchester" sign in yellow
The hotel occupies a brick building on the site of a historic bourbon distillery

Many visitors to Kentucky come for its whisky heritage and industry, which has ties to several big-name architecture firms.

In 2018, Shigeru Ban unveiled a proposal to build a trio of mass timber pyramids for the Kentucky Owl distillery, and more recently, RSHP unveiled its design for Horse Soldier Bourbon’s new home in the state.

The photography is by Matt Kisiday.


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