I had first read about Hotel Ylem (pronounced eye-lum) through various social media sources, and it was unfortunate that they opened AFTER I had moved to Phoenix (LOL). However, I was in Houston last month, and was able to enjoy a night at the hotel, and got a feel for what the locals were buzzing about.
The 79-room, three story hotel was once a Holiday Inn Express, but this past February, the Dalwadi family decided to reinvent it into something more cozy, artsy, and with an effort of giving back. They renamed it- Hotel Ylem. Ylem– which means, “The substance that was the first of the universe…The beginning of everything…” According to the article written by the Houston Chronicle on the hotel, one of the siblings- Manisha, went on to explain, “For us, that’s water and mother. Our mother is our glue; she keeps our family strong … and mothers are the source of life, right? And water, … nothing can go on without water. We felt that was the perfect name for the hotel.”
Let me back up some… the Dalwadi family originated from India. Jay (the patriarch of the family) was one of ten children that were raised by Maniben, a widow (his father passed away when he was nine). Maniben worked at a brick factory. While most of his siblings quit school and went to work to help support the family, it was then when they decided that Jay (who was the youngest) would go to school and make something of himself. He eventually went on to graduate from Texas A&M with a degree in chemical engineering. Fast forward to the present, Jay has since built a career in hospitality. The family owns a construction firm that has built their hotels, as well as a brick factory in India.
The goal of the Dalwadi family is to change the way they do hospitality. They have been really helpful in ways of giving back, in ALL aspects of the hotel. Along with several other charities, they have specifically chosen to highlight Charity:Water. Are you guys starting to notice the water theme? Nine percent of sales from Bar Esperanto goes to Charity:Water. They will eventually install minibars, which 100% of the sales will go to Charity:Water. The hotel also showcases various pieces of artwork that can be seen around the public spaces that are from local artists. Eighteen percent of those sales go to Charity:Water, while the rest goes to the artist. They’ve chosen numerous vendors that are also like-minded in their business models, as far as giving back to various charities, or being eco-friendly. One of the vendors is Lather, whose products are in all guest bathrooms. Each bed is completed with a sweet, multicolor throw pillow from CB2– a furniture and home decor company that gives back to three different non-profits. Lastly, the hotel rents out the business lounge and bar space to local non-profits at no cost.
The significance of water and bricks…
The water droplet (and water in general) is a little fixture that is featured subtly throughout the hotel. The wave detail on the back of the shower is similar to the waves of the ocean. The bathroom floor tile is reminiscent of the ocean floor. The lights in the hallways are in the shape of water droplets, as well as the steel fixtures in the back of the bar (which also look like Hershey’s Kisses). The carpeting in the hallways has wave-like features.
You can also see various subtle hints of bricks throughout the hotel, such as the brick wallpaper in the guest rooms, and in the hallway on the third floor.
The guest rooms are fun and quirky. There is a mailbox right outside each door. Along with the usual necessities, each room (either a single king or double queen) has open concept closets, charging stations on both sides of the headboards (can never have too many outlets these days), Mid-Century inspired furniture, retro style mini fridges, and extra storage (including the microwave and ironing board) located in an upright large steamer trunk. The quote artwork that hangs over the bed(s), and the way the globe lamp wiring is arranged, are different in every room. Be sure to also request a complimentary leg massager. The folks at the front desk will bring it to the room. It’s basically like the leg massagers you see at Brookstone, with the different levels of massage and such. But it was really nice to use after a stressful day of wedding planning!
~In the morning, guests are treated to a lovely spread of assorted breakfast items, and ample seating in the bar area, or nearby business lounge.
~If I had more time, I would’ve spent more time hanging out in the main lobby, whose large (and original to the old hotel) chandelier and bright orange grand staircase are one of the main focal points (and highly photographed) of the property.
~The fitness center is small, but you can still get a good workout in….Just ask the Mr!
~Be sure to go up to the third floor. It has high ceilings and crown molding. It’s been a favorite spot for blogger and general photo shoots.
~Holly Thompson- the Director of Sales, recommends the ‘Feni Fix’ and the ‘Five Mile Hike’ as cocktails to try at Bar Esperanto, whose beverage program is spearheaded by Hal Brock.
~Free shuttle service within three miles of the hotel. You can get to the Medical Center or NRG Stadium in a matter of minutes!
~ There are two ottoman chairs in the main lobby that have been upholstered with wording that is all about what Hotel Ylem stands for.
~The mural on the side of the hotel was created by Janavi Mahimtura Folmsbee. The woman in the mural represents the elements of ‘water’ and ‘mother.’
~This hotel sure beats a corporate chain any day! Friendly staff, clean rooms, and a unique story behind the brand really make this place special!
NOTE: I was given a complimentary night’s stay at the hotel, however, all opinions are my own. I want to also thank Holly for giving me a tour of the property, as well as tell me a little about the history behind the Dalwadi family and the hotel.