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The James is the small hotel chain that makes a big impact with local design.

When The James Chicago launched in 2006, it made a lot of noise with its modernist, residential-style energy seemingly built for a tech or entertainment executive with very attuned design taste.

That residential verve has been copied so many times by so many chains that Lisa Zandee, SVP brand management for The James Hotels, doesn’t really even want to talk about it.

“Sure, we own that, but I’m hesitant to say it because it’s so overused,” she says.

Her restraint sums up the culture at The James. Zandee says, “It’s all about form and function being equally important, and knowing the product, the brand and our customers, which are all pretty much the same thing, really.”

The brand doesn’t work with a lot of name designers because then the aesthetic becomes all about the name designers. Instead, the design vision focuses on tuning into the local neighborhood, which has challenged Zandee and her team in some ways, in terms of communicating a consistent brand voice. The new glass-and-steel building in Chicago, for example, is in stark contrast to the Art Deco heritage at The James Royal Palm Miami.

So what is that brand voice exactly, we asked. How do you describe the experience?

“It’s an artistically inspired hotel but not an art hotel,” says Zandee. ”It kind of just works, and it looks great and it feels really good.”
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Next up, The James Los Angeles opens in 2016. CIM Group, owner and developer of the two blocks that the property sits on, chose The James brand for its intelligent yet hip crossover appeal.

Well, yes but


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