At first glance, the new Opus Hotel in Vancouver seems to be for the beautiful people. Its hip elegance is already drawing an attractive local crowd of successful thirtysomethings to the lobby bar and adjoining restaurant.

But after a few hours there, I too am feeling young and chic, for the first time in about 20 years. The Opus, I realize, doesn't just cater to beautiful people, it opens the gates to their world. You're surrounded by cool things, treated like you belong there, so naturally you start feeling pretty cool yourself. All you have to do is stash your fanny pack and sneakers, and either put on the hippest outfit you've brought or walk down the street and buy something. Not something fancy, mind you. Something stylish. I was even inspired to get a haircut.

The only problem with the place is that it stirred in me an acquisitive streak I didn't know I had. Ever had that terrible, ignoble desire to steal a hotel robe because it's thicker and softer than any you've ever longingly felt in an upscale store where you can't afford to shop? I not only want to take home the robe, I want to take the original art on the walls, the bed, the deep down pillows and the duvet. In fact I want the entire bathroom, including the blinds, the sliding door of opaque glass and the Italian shower head that delivers a "rain bath."

Have you ever seen at Home Expo those luxurious bathrooms that have what appear to be free-floating washbasins instead of sinks? My room in the Opus had something like that, only higher quality, and I want one for my very own. But then I visit the ladies' room in the hotel restaurant, and I want those sinks instead: silver basins set in a translucent, brilliantly blue counter, with lights shining through.

My 10-year-old wants the chairs in bright primary colors from the lobby -- chairs I can describe only as what good beanbag chairs might become if they could mature gracefully.

No detail is overlooked. For example, the phone next to the bed is cordless. The mattresses are the same as those used in the Ritz, the manager points out at the end of my visit when I praise them.

Bright, bold colors are the hallmark of the hotel, which opened mid-September and was designed by the architectural firm responsible for the Vancouver airport. Our room is a deep cranberry. I peek into doorways and find one room the color of iris, another chartreuse. The furniture and accessories are in colors you'd never think of placing against these walls, and yet they work.

The Opus is a boutique hotel in the full and original sense of the phrase. There are fewer than 100 rooms -- 97 to be exact. The hotel was once a warehouse, and the designers have taken advantage of large windows and odd shapes to make each room unique. Personal service extends from the mundane -- umbrellas at the door to borrow on rainy days -- to the exquisite -- a chauffeur will drop you off downtown in the hotel's Mercedes when it is available, by appointment (but gratis).

Of course, you may be tempted not to leave the comfort of the room. But the neighborhood around it -- Yaletown, a renovated warehouse district -- offers its own temptations, including interesting shops and restaurants. The Yaletown business association is fighting to keep out chain stores.

One thing is sure: You'd never mistake the Opus for a chain. And you could stroll around the neighborhood in which it sits and never once be reminded that a handful of companies have taken over the world.

-- Cindy Loose

The Opus (322 Davie St., Vancouver, B.C., 866-642-6787, www.opushotel.com) is offering great introductory rates -- doubles begin at $94 and an executive suite with breakfast is as low as $270. By February, rates will likely start at about $115, and by May, $180.

In Vancouver, the Opus Hotel is as hip as its guests, with sleek furnishings in bold colors and a Mercedes that shuttles shoppers downtown.