A Personal Luxury Hotel
Story by Lyda Kay Ferree, The Southern Lifestyles Lady. Photography courtesy of THE TENNESSEAN Hotel.
THE TENNESSEAN Hotel, a personal luxury hotel that provides pampering amenities such as tailored concierge services and a personal butler for guests, opened its doors in downtown Knoxville in April 2017.
I was invited to be a guest at this hotel in early August, and I eagerly accepted the gracious offer.
“It does not take much to realize that this is a very special place to stay,” said Nicholas Cazana, Innkeeper of the hotel. THE TENNESSEAN Hotel is the first of its kind in the area and will be a one-of-a-kind destination for high-end travelers in the city for business or pleasure.”
The hotel, once an office building for the Knoxville World’s Fair in 1982 along with the Holiday Inn next door, boasts 82 guest rooms including 5 suites and the Governor’s Suite plus 12 luxury residences on the top floor.
“The building remained a government office building until we turned it from an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan,” said Mr. Cazana.
A huge advantage of this hotel is its location. It sits on the perimeter of the University of Tennessee campus, a strong partner of the new hotel and source of more than 40 percent of THE TENNESSEAN Hotel’s staff. In addition, the hotel is in close proximity to shops, entertainment venues like the Regal Cinema, the Knoxville Museum of Art, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, and the vibrant Market Square. Downtown Knoxville is busy 7 days a week! Its current tourism campaign is “Big City. Little Attitude.” It is a big town that treats everyone like a local. If you have not visited Knoxville in recent years, it may surprise you that Knoxville has a sophisticated mix of culture and cuisine served with genuine Southern hospitality.
Well Trained & Experienced Staff
The hotel has curated an elite staff with several members being trained internationally in concierge and guest services. Collectively, the staff speaks nine languages and boasts a cultivated blend of cultures and previous experience in the hotel, restaurant and tourism industries.
Personalized service from an internationally trained butler, Mohammed Kassem (Everyone calls him MK.), is extraordinary! MK, who was born in Egypt but moved to Knoxville from New York City, has been a butler for 11 years. A member of the prestigious Les Clef D’Ors, he has served as the head butler at THE TENNESSEAN Hotel since its opening in the spring. He does not know the meaning of the word “no.” There are many reasons to experience THE TENNESSEAN Hotel. But MK’s attention to detail and special treatment of hotel guests, is reason enough for me to return!
Design of the Hotel
The exterior of the hotel has a new white façade and elegant tuxedo striping that extends from the exterior of the building into the lobby, large glass windows on the south side of the building and beautifully landscaped gardens wrapping around the base of the hotel featuring unique martini glass-inspired sculptures.
The interior of the hotel features the elements of East Tennessee, such as a map of the Tennessee River on the walls and river reed bronze side tables, which are reflected in the design of all rooms and suites. Soothing hues of blues and grays are found in each room, and the furniture coincides with the hotel’s overall interior design theme.
Mr. Cazana, a Knoxville native, proudly talked about the river theme of the hotel and its locally sourced furniture. The architect, who is from Dallas, and engineers of the hotel were having dinner at Mr. Cazana’s home, which overlooks a river. The architect suggested using the Tennessee River as the background. It took off from that point. Each floor is named for a different river found in Tennessee. (I stayed on the Clinch River floor.) “We depict as much water as we can with the ripples in the lamps and carpeting,” said Cazana.” The bed’s headboard is a legitimate river map. We are proud that our furniture was made by H T Hackney Co. in nearby Sneedville, TN. In making this decision we supported Tennessee’s economy and ensured that a piece of Tennessee was integrated into every room.”
Cazana stated that it was vital that the hotel celebrate his home state and offer guests the utmost luxurious experience. “Knoxville is home for me,” he said. “It’s always been home. I wanted to capture the air of Southern hospitality and personal luxury and bring it to Knoxville.”
My Hotel Visit
Upon arrival at the hotel on a Friday afternoon, I was warmly greeted by the front desk staff. Then I was escorted to my attractive, spacious suite right away. After exploring my new “home” for the weekend (With my hotel management background, I am always eager to discover my hotel room or suite.) I was ready to move into the hotel. (For $1 million dollars I could do just that as the top floor of the hotel houses 12 residences, 11 of which are for sale.)
That evening I joined a friend in exploring Market Square, which was within easy walking distance of the hotel. Market Square was hopping! There were people observing a play in the center of the Square, others were dining and enjoying Italian custard, and still others were shopping, walking their dogs and listening to music.
A bit weary after my drive from West Tennessee, I returned to my hotel suite. While reading a good book and browsing magazines in the room as well as reading material from home, I heard a gentle rain that soothed me to sleep.
A New Day Dawns!
The next morning I slept a bit later than usual. What a luxury! My room was so peaceful and quiet. All of the guest rooms have been designed to dazzle all of the senses! An Illy espresso coffee maker in each room will kick start your day. Thanks to the Cuby radio, you may begin your morning listening to the local radio station or stream your favorite music through the Bluetooth technology compatible with all smart phones.
I ordered room service coffee and there I met MK for the first time.
He informed me that he would be giving me a tour of the hotel after breakfast. But first, I needed more cream. Back he came to my suite immediately with another pitcher of cream. I was a happy camper!
The Drawing Room
Located on the second floor of the hotel, The Drawing Room welcomes guests for daily continental breakfast and afternoon and evening cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and desserts. The intimate upscale space is the ideal backdrop to begin the day, enjoy afternoon cocktails and delicacies, and evening cordials and desserts.
A delicious breakfast buffet consisted of eggs, artisan bread served with house-made jam, muesli, locally-sourced pastries from Wild Love Bakery, farm-fresh fromage (cheese), smoked salmon and charcuterie, fresh-pressed juices plus a hearty cup of coffee. Guests may prefer a continental breakfast or a breakfast entrée. Breakfast is served from 7 a.m.-10 a.m. Monday-Friday and on Saturday, Sunday and Special Holidays/Weekends from 7 a.m.-11 a.m.
Tour of Hotel by MK
MK gave me an excellent tour of the hotel. It was obvious to me how much he loves this hotel and enjoys serving as head butler. He was extremely knowledgeable of the hotel’s amenities including the maker of a blue water glass I admired in my suite and the teas offered to guests in the board room (It is called Tea Forte and is very attractively packaged.) Side Note: The hotel business is all about attention to detail, and MK understands this better than many hotel employees I have met across the country.
We toured the property from bottom to top including the attractive board room that will accommodate from 16-19 people, a 24-7 business center on the second floor near the board room, and we concluded our tour in the lovely and spacious Governor’s Suite, the largest suite in the hotel with a commanding view of the city. Most recently Channing Tatum, an American actor, was a guest in this suite.
This 1,600-square-foot suite boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and a baby grand piano, which has a player mechanism. Because I have played the piano for many years and I miss it when I am on the road, MK permitted me to play the piano. (At first the piano would not convert from a player piano to a piano; but with determination MK used his iPhone to learn how I could play this piano), yet another example of his aim to please guests.). When I spoke to MK a few days ago, his parting words to me were “You must return and be our guest in the Governor’s Suite, where I will have the pleasure of serving you again!” What a jewel!!
An Afternoon and Evening of Pure Pleasure
As a light rain fell, a friend and I walked to the nearby Knoxville Museum of Art (What a pleasant surprise and there is no admission fee!) to see the touted art exhibit entitled American Impressionism: The Lure of the Artists’ Colony.
Note: The impressionistic period of art is my favorite, so I was in heaven! The museum and gift shop were bustling with guests. Next door is a decadent chocolate shop.
After dressing for the evening, I had drinks and dinner in The Drawing Room of the hotel, a place to relax, enjoy, converse and reminisce. Soothing classic music plays in the background. The evening menu is available from 3pm-1 am on weekends. I had read about their signature drink—a Smoked Old-Fashioned named for the nearby Smoky Mountains. It is served in an old-fashioned glass filled with smoke. The preparation is interesting to observe as the glass smolders over wood chips in a specially made box. Several guests ordered this beverage. Please see recipe and photograph in this article.
I was in the mood for an elegant cocktail, so I ordered a Kir Royale prepared by a highly trained mixologist followed by an appetizer of country pate served with pickled vegetables and crostini and a fig and prosciutto artisan flatbread topped with arugula, honey and sea salt. For dessert a friend and I shared Choconut Panna Cotta, an Italian custard with swirls of chocolate topped with roasted coconut shavings, and assorted macaroons served with a coquito mini milkshake.
Feeling very satisfied and pampered by experienced servers, I retired to my suite where I enjoyed a spacious shower in my private powder room with the finest local soaps and wash room amenities. I felt so pampered in the robe provided for me, and the luxury linens and warmth of my bed beckoned. I glanced one final time at the World’s Fair Park as memories flooded my heart of my visit to the Knoxville World’s Fair with my precious mother.
I departed THE TENNESSEAN Hotel quite early on Sunday morning as I had a 3:30 p.m. Central Time commitment. With eager anticipation I look forward to a future visit at this very special hotel.