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Western Travel | SLEEPOVER

Inside at least, the climate is bright

April 30, 2006|Robin Rauzi | Times Staff Writer

Seattle — CHECKING out the local art scene is one of my favorite ways to explore a city. At Hotel Max, I didn't have to go far. I didn't actually have to leave the queen-size bed.

Max, which got its new name and makeover last fall, distinguishes itself from Seattle's hotel-crowded downtown with its curatorial skills. The 163 rooms, as well as the lobby, are decorated with paintings commissioned from local artists. The guest room doors are covered by striking black-and-white photographs.

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Bunking down: Our one-queen room was, in a word, cozy. Cozy as in, don't leave the bathroom door ajar or you won't get the hallway door open. It had a shower closet separate from the water closet, which wasn't as claustrophobia inducing as it sounds. But one of our suitcases had to stay in the clothes closet.

Once we were in the pillow-top bed, however, the coziness was more appealing. Under the thick, bright-white duvet, for which many a goose gave its life, it was like being tucked into a cloud. Around us, the thunderhead-gray walls set off the artwork and made Seattle's real skies look bright, even in March.

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Hanging around: Low-slung sectionals carve out two seating areas in the lobby, one for lounging by a fireplace and the other perfect for watching for the valet to return with your car. Keeping with the theme, the coffee tables are loaded with art books, including a catalog of the artists who created the works for the hotel. The walls are dark-stained wood -- all the rage now, it seems. The hotel doesn't have a bar or restaurant, but a door into the adjacent Red Fin, an Asian-fusion restaurant, functions just as well. Happy hour started at 10 the night we arrived.

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Going out: This hunk of downtown is chockablock with hotels, so location is hardly Max's big advantage. But it is close to the downtown shopping district and a 15-minute walk from Belltown, Pike Place Market or the worth-touring Central Library designed by Rem Koolhaas. Pioneer Square is a bit more of a hike, but all Metro buses are free within downtown, so there's hardly reason to get the car out of valet parking.

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Perks & peeves: For $119 a night, when Seattle hotels are at their all-time highest rates, I'm not going to gripe about wanting more space. But how about two robes?

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Hotel Max, 620 Stewart St., Seattle; (206) 728-6299, www.hotelmaxseattle.com. Rooms $119 to $189 per night.

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