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A hotel to enjoy the Dallas arts scene – inside and out

The hotel has double-barelled ambitions: becoming a main attraction for visitors and to reflect the city’s widening arts scene.

Eric Laignel


1530 Main St., Dallas, 214-748-1300; 160 rooms from $259 (U.S).

The neo-gothic Joule is a twin-towered luxury boutique-hotel that's undergone a $78-million (U.S.) reno developed by local oil billionaire and film producer Tim Headington (Argo, Hugo, The Tourist). The hotel has double-barrelled ambitions: becoming a main attraction for visitors and to reflect the city's widening arts scene. Apart from its own art collection, which includes Andy Warhol's set of screen prints Electric Chairs and restored local tile mosaics, it follows a literary trend among hotels by offering a bookstore with Teutonically cool art books from Taschen.

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On Main Street, the Joule is only a few doors down from the Neiman Marcus flagship store, preserved in its perfumy and brassy 1960s era glory. Perhaps more adventurously, you can book the hotel's complimentary car service and check out the (free) Dallas Museum of Art, a five-minute drive, stroll through the Arts District or the West End boutiques and have lunch at Savor, a glassed-in gastropub located in the new Klyde Warren Park. Opened last year, the two-hectare greenspace is Dallas's answer to New York's High Line. Here you'll find food trucks, family activities and a wee bit of weekend petanque. At night, head to Deep Ellum, the funkier and less official arts district where the cool kids are.


The rooftop pool that cantilevers two metres beyond the hotel's structure makes you think you're swimming off a precipice when you look through the plexiglass window in the deep end. If you want to keep living on the edge, the bar service goes until 10 p.m.


The lobby is narrow, but the Joule has tried to make it more than just a club-like connection between Main and Commerce Streets. Patterned rugs and dark wood panel its walls. In the centre of the lobby there are two massive cogged wheels. There are many funky seating areas, and near the in-house coffeehouse, Weekend, thirtysomethings in T-shirts sit around and discuss tech in solemn tones. My rooms was decorated in de riguer boutique style: a mix of colourfully embroidered upholstery and dark-walnut casegoods. There is also a PDA remote for curtains, lights and room temperature; unlike many other hotel rooms, the thermostat worked – and it didn't click on and off every three minutes.


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When I was there I saw Dan Rather, a guest in town covering the 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination, hanging out in the lobby. But Dallas is a huge convention destination that is challenging Atlanta and Las Vegas, and you get the feeling the Joule is the groovy group alternative to the more traditional uptown hotels.


The city's restaurant of the moment, a brasserie called CBD Provisions, is right off the lobby. While it offers all the requisite scenester accoutrements, it does more than go through the motions. The bar does the trendy dance of the $12 cocktail, but with a fetching Texas two-step: The Blue Star is a tasty blend of Waco's Balcones whisky, applejack and Angostura bitters. The nose-to-tail menu is a knockout, and even the non-anatomical bits on the menu such as the kale salad with cheddar, yogurt dressing and anchovies, as well as the homemade strozzapretti with wild mushrooms, soffritto, fresh cheese and farm eggs, were knockouts.


The deluxe rooms, located in the VIP tower, stare right across Main Street into the pupil of a nine-metre sculpture of an eyeball by Tony Tasset. While the room's other view was the elevator across the floor, I barely heard it.


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The big hope is that Main Street will one day be noisier with downtown bustle. In that case, the Joule may want to think about thickening the windows. It's already getting loud.

The writer was a guest of the hotel.

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