By: Ashleigh VanHouten

I recently had the good fortune to stay at the Drake Devonshire hotel in Prince Edward County, Ontario—despite the fact that it’s been almost solidly booked since it soft-opened in September, and will remain so on the weekends through at least August. This “country cousin” to the very popular Drake hotel in Toronto is situated on Lake Ontario, in the middle of a small but beautiful wine country area that somehow has not yet become a huge destination spot – perhaps because of its lack of a destination-worthy boutique hotel. Until now, anyway.

Drake Devonshire, designed by Toronto-based +tongtong, is an 11-room, two-suite old house with some decidedly modern additions. While the space carries on the quirky tradition of the original Drake, where everything–from the artwork to the décor to the risqué hotel amenities—is a “little off”, it is unique and impressive in its own right. The boutique hotel accomplishes the tough balance of being extremely thoughtful while not appearing too polished.

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At first glance, the space gives off a cool, effortless hipster air, although a deeper look uncovers perfectly executed details that might tell a different story. From the curated art by Mia Nelson (including many different takes on collages, hand-made dolls with tattoos on each bed, and custom paintings like the lovely cyborg girl, below) to the gorgeously vibrant wallpaper to the mix-matched tile flooring, it comes together cozily but a little haphazardly, which is the point. The overall effect is one that is comfortable and charming: a place you don’t mind hanging out in, having a drink while you play ping pong in the glass-enclosed games room or reading a book in front of the fireplace, because it’s warm and inviting and not too perfect. It’s a place you can see yourself living in, rather than visiting for a night.

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What I learned from my short but refreshing stay at the Drake Devonshire: If your space is a mélange of thrift store and flea market finds, or mismatched items from throughout your travels and your life, it will always look good if it’s filled with things you love. So many folks try to perfect the “thrown together” look by emulating what they see in magazines or on Pinterest, but if the items and the design are meaningless, it will look meaningless and thus won’t evoke a feeling or a reaction from you or your guests. In a memorable space, everything should have its story and everything should be loved.

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