Boutique Chic

As the big chains move in, boutique-hotel brands reveal their secrets to staying eclectic

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Thirty years ago, investment banker Bill Kimpton corralled some investors and bought the threadbare remains of a 1929 hotel at 761 Post St. in San Francisco. Kimpton redecorated its 144 rooms in a whimsical style (no two were exactly the same) and, on the theory that travelers were depressed by the isolating sameness of the chain brands, instituted a social hour in the lobby each evening, where he served free Napa Valley wines.

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