A s a kid growing up in California, I began to make up stories about the Golden State’s three major cities: San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Perhaps it was a way for me to understand the vast swath of land I was watching out of the car window during one of our frequent trips up and down the 101 and 5; maybe it helped me understand my own familial ties as one of three girls who couldn’t be more different.
Whatever the reason, the cities took on personalities of their own: San Francisco, the hardworking brunette who loves craft coffee and all-you-can-drink brunch; Los Angeles dyes her hair, gets insulted when people correctly guess her age, and despite no one being quite sure what she does for a living, is always busy and flushed with cash; San Diego is the free-spirited sister folks seem to forget while focusing on her constantly bickering and perpetually busy sisters (in the end, everyone admits she’s much happier lounging on the beach and spending her free time rock climbing and hiking than LA or SF ever are).
That habit of personifying cities never left me. While it’s perhaps unusual, I’ve found in the last few years that it’s helped me to quickly gain my bearings when I am traveling often but in brief spurts.
What’s more, it has helped me to better understand sports rivalries, or the personal offense felt by natives when stereotyped, bad mouthed, and belittled by outsiders. It’s ensured I’ve kept myself attune to my surroundings and constantly looking for little hidden gems tourists miss.
As the population of cities continue to grow across the board, with cost of living skyrocketing in San Francisco and New York, one thing I am hearing a lot is how mid-sized cities are continuing to come into their own. I believe that one factor is in the hipster, shabby-chic aesthetic that is popular with millennials. Concrete slab flooring and exposed walls decrease start-up costs while tying into the historical elements places like Austin and Charlotte are proud of, allowing indie breweries and mom-and-pop boutiques to gain their footing where it may have been cost inhibiting before.
The impact of the growth of cities that celebrate their own unique histories and aesthetics is probably most obvious in the hospitality industry. After witnessing a decrease in lodgers after 2008—particularly in the millennial generation—the heavy-hitting hotel brands had a change of heart, revealing their own take on the boutique experience. More and more, you see hotels offering social media- or app-driven city tours.
They’re no longer places to get away from the hustle and bustle of the outside world; the point is to become immersed in the city as a whole.
So, when we looked at our Urban Integration issue, we wanted to spread out across the United States as much as possible because we know so many of our readers don’t call New York or Los Angeles home. Each of you has a relationship with your city; you have favorite spots no one else knows about, and you have seen good design blossom around you. While I wish we could highlight more of these places and the products that fill them, the sample in these pages will surely spur the imagination and delight a few natives, whether you are living in Atlanta and watching the new airport Hilton grow; thinking about stopping by Teknion’s Boston showroom; or wondering how CF Stinson is able to combine its dual locales of Kennebunk, Maine, and Rochester Hills, Mich., we wanted to bring your attention to just a sampling of the types of places that make the United States a great country.
Kadie Yale | Editor in Chief