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Hotel Cosmo
761 Post St.
San Francisco, CA 94109
Tel: 800-794-6011
Fax: 415-563-6793

Lavender Cosmos

by Kim Fay

A few years ago, the term "hip hotel" implied a cutting edge. These days, with self-described hip properties popping up all over the place, whimsy is becoming a kind of norm. That's why the Hotel Cosmo is so fantastic. It's the real thing.

Just three blocks from Union Square, this historic 1929 building was introduced to the boutique world in 1981, when then-budding hotelier Bill Kimpton launched his empire by turning it into the Hotel Bedford. The Bedford had a good, solid run, and in the fall of 2002—following the example of Kimpton's now substantial collection of cool, trend-setting hotels—it was given a fabulous lavender facelift, and its name was changed to the snazzy Hotel Cosmo.

Upon arrival, you will most likely be met by Joseph, the cheerful, informative and long-standing bellman/porter/concierge. He will guide you inside, to the black-tiled front desk, where the vibe is laid-back and old-school urban. Overall, the atmosphere in the high-ceilinged lobby is playful: the ornate molding is painted pale purple and strips of faux suede in the same candied hue are laced up the pillars. Yet the integrity of the original structure remains, and it is the fusion of old and new that makes the hotel a microcosm of the city in which it resides. Its eclecticism reflects its clientele, as well, from Jefferson Starship to hoards of Europeans to dog owners (since the Kimpton properties are pooch-friendly).

One of the Kimpton trademarks is the pairing of each of its unique hotels with an equally notable restaurant. At the Hotel Cosmo, this concept has been taken as far as a bar, which opened in the summer of 2003. While many hotels tout their bars as the ultimate hangout for both visitors and natives, Neo really is the kind of place where locals like to drop in for a drink. It's small, a cozy Cheers for the Post Street crowd, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in its happy hour (from 5 p.m.-8 p.m.) and nightly specials such as-what else?—the Neo Cosmo.

Beyond the lobby is a spacious reception room, where a pour-it-yourself wine hour is held each evening. This is also the site of on-going art exhibitions. Each Kimpton property has a theme, and the Cosmo's is dedicated to the local arts scene. The hotel has its own curators from ARTworkSF, who oversee the innovative exhibitions. The shows rotate every three months, and their opening night parties, complete with DJs, wine and poetry, attract as many as 400 people.

Carrying on the artsy theme in the reception hall, the seven one-bedroom suites are like private galleries. Each of these mini pied-à-terres is named after the artist whose paintings hang on its walls. They have been redone to reflect the hotel's new mood, with a striking coffee-and-baby-blue color scheme that runs throughout the carpet, draperies, wallpaper, bedding and retro furnishings. All of the suites are spacious sanctuaries; the most desirable is 1701 on the top floor, which offers a view of the Golden Gate Bridge on clear days. Along with the suites, there are 144 standard rooms, all of which have been renovated in the same cool style as the suites. The bathrooms are small, there isn't any air-con and the old dressers remain, but these drawbacks are overshadowed by the abundance of personal touches, from desk chairs draped in sateen lace-up covers to retro lamps with glass block stands.

Character is the Hotel Cosmo's signature trait. Poetry readings are held here every Thursday night. The front desk clerks treat you like a long-term resident after just a day. And attention to detail abounds. For example, on the phone in each guest room is a button that reads: "Anything you want." Both a pledge and a motto, this subtle message says it all about the Hotel Cosmo experience.

(Updated: 06/25/08 HC)

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