“Without function, beauty is just like cotton candy — it won’t give you what you need and it won’t fulfill you.”
Everything that Sarah Morris McCauley does is to the extreme. How else can you take the blank canvas of a loft space, wide open and raw, and turn it into an uber chic boutique hotel room that comfortably sleeps 40 guests and makes you feel like you are floating in a sea of bourbon? It takes problem-solving, innovation, attention to detail, a healthy portion of good taste, and a dash of dogged stick-to-it-tive-ness — each of these skills Sarah has honed from her myriad of former professions.
A decade or so ago, she launched a professional poet-dog-walking company in New York City, where not only were her four-legged clients walked daily, but their parents received a witty poem about the experience on their countertops when they returned home. She’s run a speed-dating company, been a pilot, a woman-studies major at Columbia University, and dabbled in architecture. All of these skills led her to her current position as chief executive officer and visionary of the 17-unit Loft Reverie Hotel, the boutique hotel situated on the seventh and eighth floors of the Glassworks Building in downtown Louisville.
“My path has been circuitous. The women and gender studies and architectural work helped me develop my critical thinking skills, to see an issue from every possible angle and to problem solve,” Sarah says. And problem solving is a major asset when you are attempting to maximize space. “I’ll say to Jennifer [Monin, her beloved “number two” in command] that I think we can fit 17 people in here, and she’ll try to question why we would ever want to do that. But I’ll do it anyway because I’m completely unreasonable, and that is what has given us our niche — me being inflexible.”
Sarah McCauley is a master at understanding how to maximize and beautify any space. Photo by Melissa Donald
Each of Loft Reverie Hotel’s rooms features a wall of windows that overlook scenic downtown Louisville, exposed ductwork and concrete, a full kitchen, a bathroom or two, and a shared sleeping space. In the largest unit, the Palatial, a whopping 40 guests can sleep in the 28,000-square-foot loft. This room features two kitchens and holds up to 20 beds, five low-rise IKEA queens equipped with memory foam mattresses and up to 15 electronic mobile Murphy beds that can be wheeled away or moved around per the guests’ whim. The smallest loft sleeps up to 12 people with a combination of stationary and electronic Murphy beds, sectional leather sofas, and stackable, mobile tables that can be tucked away when not in use. Virtually every piece of furniture is convertible and/or on wheels, which allows the guests to configure the space for their needs.
Loft Reverie Hotel’s niche is with young, mobile clientele who are drawn to open spaces and are willing to give up a little privacy in order to maximize their time together. Wedding parties, bourbon trail guests, family reunions, friend getaways, and convention guests are drawn to the hotel. “What makes this work is how mobile we are as a culture. Close friends stay close while living in different cities through social media, and they all converge in Louisville for a few nights to be together in person because Louisville is a great meeting place. They don’t want to waste time going to separate rooms; they want to be together.”
Sarah’s philosophy of living beautifully can be seen throughout the hotel’s ode to mobility. “I believe that everything has to be functional to be beautiful. Without function, beauty is just like cotton candy — it won’t give you what you need and it won’t fulfill you. Like my kitchen tables. I liked IKEA’s foldable tables, but you couldn’t move them, so I put wheels on them. I made IKEA more functional!” she says with a laugh.
Sarah also believes in playing up the best features of a space, working with what is already there, and eliminating the clutter. Each loft marries the original raw industrial materials of the building (designed by architect Bill Weyland) with softer features such as two-part epoxy floors in a variety of striking colors. The floors look like a work of art. In the Palatial unit, inspired by bourbon, the floors mimic the fluidity and bronze hue of our local liquid treasure.
The low lying furniture draws the eye up to the floor-to-ceiling windows displaying the city outside, especially from bed. “The windows are our best feature, so I designed the space so that the eye is always drawn to the windows,.” Sarah says. “When I wake up here, I feel like I’m in the clouds, and I’m reminded of flying a plane, of popping in and out of the clouds. I wanted to give my guests that same experience, of waking up and feeling you are in the clouds.”