Alex Calderwood, the Seattle co-founder of the hip Ace Hotel chain, has died in London at age 47.
His company, Atelier Ace, said on its website that he passed away Thursday but released no information about the cause. The statement calls Calderwood "our teacher, mentor, guru and most importantly our dear friend."
In 1999, he and two friends launched Seattle's Ace Hotel in a flophouse that formerly served maritime workers. It's renowned for its much-imitated style, with vintage and repurposed furniture, record players and guestroom art by Shepard Fairey — who later became famous for creating the "HOPE" poster that came to symbolize Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.
Ace Hotels later opened in Portland, Ore.; New York; Palm Springs, Calif.; and London, with others scheduled to open late this year or early next year in Panama City, Panama, and Los Angeles. Ace describes itself on its website as "a collection of individuals — multiple and inclusive, held together by an affinity for the soulful."
"We try to do unexpected things from a design standpoint," Calderwood told The New York Times in 2008. "We want to celebrate the everyday with utilitarian objects."
Calderwood grew up in Seattle's eastside suburbs. Just out of high school, he began managing a Seattle clothing store called International News. He used material from a Boeing Co. surplus store to create fixtures, desks and other parts of a showroom, Amit Shah, who hired him, told The Seattle Times.
"He saw what you could do with material that nobody else wanted," Shah said. "He always had a desire to come up with something new that gave consumers value for their money. He was an entrepreneur and knew how to entertain, but more than that, he was always willing to talk about what the new thing was."
In 1993, Calderwood and two partners started a Seattle chain of rock-themed barbershops called Rudy's. The stores were a hit, and there are now eight of them in Seattle and nine others spread through in Portland, New York and Los Angeles.
He went on to open a popular Seattle nightclub before becoming a hotelier.
Ryan Bukstein, Ace's director of public relations and marketing, said he had been working for the company for 14 years, since starting as an intern while in college. Calderwood was his friend and mentor, he said.
"His humility, spirit of collaboration and tireless work ethic has influenced our family at Atelier Ace and creatives across the globe," Bukstein wrote in an email Sunday. "We all plan to continue moving forward with the ideals Alex championed so naturally."
Calderwood is survived by his parents, Thomas and Kathleen Calderwood of Seattle; two sisters, Donna Roberts and Tahnee Ferry; and a brother, Tim Calderwood.