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    Inside Boston’s hottest hotels, from bleak to chic, and everything in between

    At the Studio Allston Hotel, the lobby pops with color.
    Christopher Muther/Globe staff
    At the Studio Allston Hotel, the lobby pops with color.

    Over the next two years, Boston and Cambridge will be flush with more than 2,000 new hotel rooms, some tiny (the micro rooms of the plucky Moxy hotel in the Theater District), others located in what will be the city’s tallest new building since 1976 (the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences). But as I write this, I’m not neatly tucked away for the night in a posh new building. I’m sitting under the watchful eye of a psychedelic owl in a hotel that was once a crusty Days Inn.

    This was my first night in the newly renovated Studio Allston Hotel. The concept behind the hotel is art, and lots of it. The lobby looks as if Roy Lichtenstein and Romero Britto hosted an art orgy and forgot to clean up when they were finished. It pops in ways that Orville Redenbacher could have only imagined. Based on the modern, chic lobby, I imagined that my night would be akin to sleeping in an art gallery.

    Studio Allston was one of the new and newly refreshed Boston hotels I stayed in this summer. I like to keep up with the changes in the city’s hospitality scene, and that requires a lot of sleeping around. Please elevate those minds out of the sewer system; I’m a married man.

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    As always, the hotels I visited did not know my identity, and the Globe received no special treatment, rates, or freebies.

    Of the half-dozen I reviewed, I’ll confess I was most excited to stay at Studio Allston because it was heavy on concept. Twelve contemporary artists created murals in each guest room. Five of the hotel’s 10 guest suites were designed as “unique, immersive works of art.”

    I didn’t stay in an immersive suite, but my room at Studio Allston was immersive in other ways. I opened the door and found several water-logged panels of the bathroom ceiling tile had fallen on the floor and around the sink.

    I explained the dilemma to the front desk and was given another room. The ceiling of this room was intact, but there was a brown water stain on what should have been a flawless and fresh ceiling. The hotel had been open just a month at the time of my stay. There were spots in the toilet that I think, and hope, were rust spots. I was like a latter-day Lady MacBeth flushing over and over yelling “Out, damned spots.”

    There was cool art in the room, but there was also a popcorn ceiling. According to young couples looking for houses on HGTV, a popcorn ceiling is about as desirable as owning a house cat with incontinence problems.

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    But before I get ahead of myself, let me take you on a full tour of some of Boston’s newest and newly refurbished hotels.

    A bedroom at the Studio Allston Hotel with art by Jay LaCouture
    Christopher Muther
    A bedroom at the Studio Allston Hotel with art by Jay LaCouture

    STUDIO ALLSTON HOTEL

    The lowdown: Once a sad, musty Days Inn, Studio Allston underwent a $21 million renovation this year to be reborn as a sprawling 117 room art-themed hotel. Twelve local artists created 28 distinct motifs for the rooms. The façade of the building even sports a large black frame. The Soldiers Field Road location isn’t ideal, but the hotel is priced accordingly for the neighborhood. The lobby is a show-stopper and lets you know that the hotel isn’t afraid to be colorful, but it’s also not the kind of lobby where guests would necessarily kick back and relax. A South American and Cuban restaurant is coming, and should help boost the communal social vibe.

    The experience: The art in my room was created by multimedia artist Jay LaCouture, and featured prints of a tiger, a giraffe, and a trio of owls over the bed. But despite the cool art, fresh paint, and new carpet, the first thing I wrote in my notebook after a quick look around the room was “lipstick on a pig.” The bathtub and shower was updated with an acrylic overlay. The drop ceiling in the bathroom didn’t feel ironically retro, it just felt dated. I think some old wallpaper in the room was simply painted over. I was hoping that the hotel would be completely gutted and refurbished. Was I being overly picky and detail obsessed? Yes, but that’s my job. The bed was comfortable, the room was spacious, and despite the hotel’s location on a fairly busy road, my room was quiet. The standard for new hotel rooms are in-wall USB ports, but I couldn’t find any.

    Coffee maker in room: No, but free coffee is available in the lobby.

    Breakfast included: Yes. There was a continental breakfast, and I consumed a pecan roll the size of my fist.

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    Room service: No.

    On-site dining options: None at the moment, but Casa Cana, a Latin kitchen, patio, and rum bar will open soon.

    Minibar: No minibar, and no refrigerator in the room.

    Gym: For a hotel with 117 rooms, the gym was shockingly small.

    Theft-worthy toiletries? Yes. They stocked Ben Sherman toiletries, which smell wonderful. Best of all, they’re not bolted to the wall.

    Parking: Parking is included in the $12 resort fee.

    Published nightly rate: Rooms start around $200 a night.

    What I paid: $232

    Worth the stay? If you can find a low rate, it may be worth it. But my suggestion would be to lower expectations before packing your suitcase, or hunt for a budget option in the city.

    1234 Soldiers Field Road, 617-206-1848, www.hotel
    studioallston.com.

    A cabin (otherwise known as a guest room) at the Yotel.
    Yotel
    A cabin (otherwise known as a guest room) at the Yotel.

    YOTEL

    The lowdown: Yotel, the city’s first microhotel, opened in the Seaport neighborhood last summer with rooms that are a well-designed 150 square feet. In Yotelspeak, the minimalist rooms are called cabins, and they look as if they’ve been plucked from a swanky spaceship and deposited in Boston. There are some unnecessary but fun features, such as lights that can change color to suit your mood. A sofa unfurls into a bed with the touch of a switch. Yotel is a good option for a solo traveler passing through town for a night or two. I wouldn’t recommend it for an extended stay or a couple with lots of luggage.

    The experience: Along with other microhotels, Yotel is big on technology and common areas. I entered the lobby (called Mission Control), sidled up to a screen, and checked myself into a room in about two minutes. I even made my own key. You can order a robot to bring drinks to you. There’s a rooftop bar and restaurant called the Sky Bar, which serves small bites and cocktails. Instead of sitting in my room, I headed up to the Sky Bar and sipped prosecco and people-watched. It’s a fun, bustling hotel. It was so bustling that there was a bit of hallway noise when I tried to sleep. Despite that, my bed was very comfortable and I slept well.

    Coffee maker in room: No.

    Breakfast included: No.

    Room service: No.

    On-site dining options: Food and drinks available at the Club Lounge during the day and the Sky Bar at night. Even if you’re not staying at the Yotel, I recommend going to the Sky Bar for a drink. It’s a much more relaxing experience compared to the mammoth, meat market roof deck at the nearby Envoy Hotel. You can also get the hotel’s robot, YO2D2 to deliver you a drink.

    Minibar: There’s no minibar, and no refrigerator in the room.

    Gym: Modern equipment, clean and compact.

    Theft-worthy toiletries? Sadly, no. There was no stealing these toiletries. They were in refillable dispensers affixed to the wall.

    Parking: Valet at $49 a night.

    Published nightly rate: Rooms start at $359, but can go over $500 a night during busy periods.

    What I paid: $154

    Worth the stay? At my $154 rate, I’d say absolutely yes. If the rate climbs over $500, I’d look for a hotel room with more space. It’s perfectly situated in the Seaport and is an all-around fun experience.

    65 Seaport Blvd., 617-377-4747, www.yotel.com/Boston.

    A very regal dog greats guests in the lobby of the Nine Zero Hotel.
    Nine Zero
    A very regal dog greats guests in the lobby of the Nine Zero Hotel.

    KIMPTON NINE ZERO

    The lowdown: The Kimpton Nine Zero has always been a solid Boston boutique offering, but this spring it unveiled a $10 million refresh that gives the hotel a warm, classic look. Can the adjective “buttery” be used to describe an emotion that one feels in a hotel? The decor is mid-century meets Brahmin. It’s dripping in rich chestnut-colored leather and wood accents. It’s undeniably masculine, but not overwhelmingly so. It’s like a tweedy hug from a man wearing nice cologne and a mustache. The $200 to $600 price point falls into a category that general manager Michal Penek calls “accessible luxury.” The hotel’s lobby — called the Living Room — is comfortable and ideal for people watching. It will get even better when the Nine Zero’s new cocktail bar, the Better Sorts Social Club, opens this fall.

    The experience: There’s a fantastic novelty when you self-check into a hotel filled with buzzers, robots, and LED crawls (see Yotel above). But I was reminded at Nine Zero that there is also something special about a front desk clerk named Court who enthusiastically asks if everything about my stay was enjoyable, and even apologizes that he didn’t have a chance to assist me when I checked in the night before. The world needs more Courts. My room was large with an honest-to-goodness Eames lounge chair. I plunked myself down with a book (it felt like the right thing to do) and relaxed. Complaints here were minimal. There was some hall noise, and I could hear the television in the room next to mine.

    Coffee maker in room: Yes.

    Breakfast included: Yes, grab and go style.

    Room service: Yes.

    On-site dining: The Nine Zero’s restaurant and bar are currently being renovated, so there is currently no dining at the hotel.

    Minibar: Yes

    Gym: Small, bright, and spotless

    Theft-worthy toiletries: Yes, good stuff from Atelier Bloem.

    Parking: Valet at $49 a night.

    Published nightly rate: Rooms start at $200 a night.

    What I paid: $455

    Worth the stay? Everything about the Nine Zero was relaxing, aside from a bit of extraneous hallway noise. I loved the marriage of classic and modern decor and the details that let patrons know that they’re in Boston, but not fussy old Boston. The price seemed a bit steep, but I stayed during a busy summer weekend when rates were high everywhere.

    90 Tremont St., 617-772-5800, www.ninezero.com

    An elegant room at the Ames Hotel
    Ames Hotel
    An elegant room at the Ames Hotel

    AMES BOSTON HOTEL

    The lowdown: After a $6 million makeover, the Ames, which is a Hilton property, feels born again. I was always a fan of this property, particularly its lounge and restaurant scene. After the hotel finished renovations last spring, it debuted Cultivar, a restaurant by acclaimed chef Mary Dumont. This is the kind of hotel restaurant you seek out even if you’re not staying in the hotel. Off the main lobby is an area called the Library, a communal work space that has a vague mid-century feel about it. It’s smartly designed with outlets everywhere. If you plan to get any work done here, bring your headphones. I came across many loud cellphone talkers. When will people learn that it’s not necessary to scream into cellphones?

    The experience: It was a beautiful day, so I decided to try something I seldom do. I borrowed a hotel bike and headed for the water. Like free Internet and complimentary bottled water, hotel bikes are quickly becoming a standard feature. When I returned, I jumped in the shower. You can tell a lot about the quality of a hotel by its bathroom. Even though it was small (as was my room), the bathroom was posh and elegant. My bed was comfortable, and this was one of the most restful nights sleep I experienced while hotel hopping.

    Coffee maker in room: Yes.

    Breakfast included: No.

    Room service: Yes.

    Minibar: Yes.

    Gym: Yes. Bright and clean.

    Theft-worthy toiletries? Yes, yes, a million times yes. They stock Molton Brown, which is one of my favorite brands. I asked housekeeping to bring up some extra tiny bottles, and they dropped off about 10.

    Parking: Valet at $49 a night.

    Published nightly rate: Rooms start at $349 a night.

    What I paid: $630.

    Worth the stay? The summer weekend price was very steep, but the downtown location is ideal for tourists. When the rate is more reasonable, this hotel comes highly recommended. It’s comfortable and the staff is top-notch. Did I mention the toiletries here are amazing?

    1 Court St., 617-979-8100, ameshotel.com.

    A guest room at the AC by Marriott in Boston
    2018 ©Joseph St.Pierre / JS Pho
    A guest room at the AC by Marriott in Boston

    AC by MARRIOTT BOSTON

    The lowdown: Welcome to Marriott for millennials. It’s marketed with all the proper buzz words (heritage, collaborative work space, craft cocktails). This sentence from the hotel’s website is like millennial catnip: “At AC Hotels’ aesthetically inspired spaces, entrepreneurs and mentors indulge in local craft beers, specialty Spanish wines on tap, and hand-crafted signature cocktails during meetings, brainstorms, and feedback sessions, creating roadmaps that turn dreams into companies.” All this time I’ve been going to hotels to sleep and steal toiletries, when I could have been creating companies? I wish I had discovered AC by Marriott back when I was young and ambitious enough to be starting new companies.

    The experience: AC is one of Marriott’s boutique brands. At its core it’s still a business hotel, the type people stay at to collect and cash-in points. But it’s also not a bad hotel for non-business travelers. A whole crop of these have sprung up in the area (there are now five). It’s modern, spacious, the staff is friendly, and the common spaces are comfortable in the event you’re feeling cramped in your room. I stayed at the AC in the Ink Block, which was great for going out in the South End. The design of the space is cool, but not so trend-driven that it would scare off Marriott regulars.

    Coffee maker in room: Yes

    Breakfast included: Not included, but from what I saw when I walked by on my way to Blackbird Donuts, it looked very European.

    Room service: “We replaced room service with the flexibility of a quick snack or evening tapas plates.” So that’s a no.

    On-site dining: Yes. There’s the AC Lounge and Kitchen, which serves the aforementioned craft cocktails and small plates.

    Minibar: There was no minibar, but there was a refrigerator in the room.

    Gym: A score for fitness-crazed millennials (please pardon the rampant stereotyping). The gym is large and well-equipped. I looked for an excuse not to work out, but couldn’t find one.

    Parking: Valet parking is $49 a night.

    Theft-worthy toiletries? Hotel brand toiletries, that I left behind at the hotel.

    Published rate: Rooms start at $299 a night.

    What I paid: $162.

    Worth the stay? If you’re looking for a solid, reliable place to sleep, this is it. I scored an insanely low rate through my favorite booking app (called Hotel Tonight), so I felt as if it was a tremendous value. My bed was comfortable, the hotel was quiet, and the room still had that lovely new hotel smell.

    225 Albany St., 617-646-9063, www.achotelsboston.com.

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    This is one story in our new series called Help Desk, in which Globe writers seek answers to some of the many questions life poses — especially life in this particular part of the world. Christopher Muther can be reached at muther@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.