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Marriott's two new properties in San Diego

Bayfront SpringHill Suites & Residence Inn by Marriott open in Downtown San Diego

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Marriott International is celebrating the grand opening of the highly anticipated SpringHill Suites & Residence Inn San Diego Downtown Bayfront at BRIC. Adding to the expanding portfolio, the SpringHill Suites marked the 3,000th Select Service property for the Marriott Global Portfolio.

Marriott International’s end-to-end hotel management solution – Managed by Marriott (MxM) – will operate this new hotel. The John Portman & Associates designed hotels deliver an integrated guest experience for both of these Marriott brands within one shared footprint.

The hotel offers cutting-edge design with its striking yellow wall, spectacular bay and city skyline views, fifth-floor outdoor swimming pool, bay-front patio area and state of the art fitness centre.

Marriott's two new properties in San Diego
“The hotels in the first phase of BRIC are unlike any hotel property that has been built on the waterfront in San Diego’s recent history,” said Ambrish Baisiwala, CEO of Portman Holdings. “We, along with our partners at Lankford & Associates and Hensel Phelps, are so pleased we were able to work with Marriott to bring the vision to life on the San Diego Bay.”

This hotel encompasses not only lifestyle amenities with the SpringHill Suites, but also helps guests thrive on long trips with the leader in extended-stays, Residence Inn. The properties’ 11,000 square feet of meeting space can accommodate up to 225 people. This space includes the Ted Williams Room and Bayview Terrace and overlooks the USS Midway, while also presenting panoramic views of San Diego Bay from the Coronado Bridge to Point Loma.

US Embassy hotel project (Photo: qataridiar.com)

US embassy in Mayfair, London to become 5-star hotel

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According to sources, the building housing the US embassy in London is set to be redeveloped into a five-star hotel as part of a £1 billion renovation project.

With American diplomats moving to new premises in Nine Elms, the Grade II-listed building in Mayfair will be converted into a 137-bedroom, Qatari-owned hotel. As part of the redevelopment project there will also be six shops as well as five restaurants.

The plans for the whole project are set to be submitted to Westminster Council in May by building owners Qatari Diar who have touted British architect Sir David Chipperfield as the person they want to design the project.

The developers wish to keep the iconic square, stone frames on the building as well as the aluminum eagle which sits atop the building.

Diplomats will be moving to the new site in 2017, when work can commence on the hotel project.

Photo: Artist’s impression – qataridiar.com

Hotel Indigo Atlanta

Architect John Portman converting offices for Hotel Indigo Atlanta Downtown

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Architect and developer John C. Portman has converted an office block he once designed in Atlanta into a multi-use building which houses Hotel Indigo Atlanta Downtown as well as his fine-dining restaurant JP Atlanta.

“It is a unique experience to be able to revisit a building designed at the beginning of one’s career,” says architect and developer John C. Portman, Jr: “I feel quite fortunate to once again be able to contribute to the evolution of downtown Atlanta. This building with its revitalised plaza and one-of-a-kind connection to AmericasMart will serve so many people coming into the heart of our city.”

The Hotel Indigo Atlanta Downtown lobby welcomes guests with a spiral glass staircase accented with sleek, steel railings. The Portman style is incorporated into each element of the guestroom aesthetic, while area rugs are custom made from digitised images of Portman’s designs and murals depict the unique shape and structure of the overall building (230 Peachtree). The rooms are painted in a rich, clean Portman White hue.

Guest rooms feature plush bedding with contrasting hard-surface flooring and area rugs, whilst incorporating spa-inspired bathrooms. The hotel also offers two spacious suites. Guests have access to a 24-hour health club facility featuring state of the art equipment and 1,750ft² of meeting space.

The Atlanta hotel features the brand’s Neighbourhood Guide, an innovative touchscreen display that connects guests to each other, the locale and to Hotel Indigo locations around the world. Hotel team members, many of whom are locals themselves, will share recommendations with guests looking to explore and discover the neighbourhood.

230 Peachtree is connected to AmericasMart’s 7.1million ft² campus by a skylight corridor and adjacent to the Peachtree Center MARTA Station. It is the latest in the aesthetic continuum from Portman, who also designed and built Hyatt Regency Atlanta, the Westin Peachtree Plaza and the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, over a 48-year span.

The Liberty Boston

Iconic Boston hotel The Liberty completes multi-million dollar renovation

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The Liberty, an icon of the Boston hospitality scene, has completed its $11 million (£7.8 million) guest room renovation. The former jail and now architectural gem features 298 newly-designed accommodations, reimagined by acclaimed interior designer Bill Rooney.

Rooted in history and fortified with contemporary design, the completely transformed guestrooms evoke a quintessential Boston atmosphere. Custom furniture and fixtures, tailor-made accents and artwork, herringbone wall coverings, wide-plank hardwood floors, library-style club chairs, and leather headboards create a warm and luxurious New England feel. Bathrooms offer four-fixture floating granite vanities, sleek glass showers and large soaking tubs. Many of the newly-appointed guestrooms offer spectacular views of Beacon Hill and the sailboat strewn waters of the Charles River.

In addition to the refurbished guestrooms, The Liberty’s renovation project included the redesign of some of Boston’s top suites, including the Ebersol Suite and the Charles River Suites. Floor-to-ceiling windows wrap the 2,220 square-foot Ebersol Suite, which includes an expansive living room, dining room and butler pantry, library, master bedroom and bathroom, and a 300 square-foot outdoor patio. The Charles River Suites also boast floor-to-ceiling windows, featuring sweeping views of the Boston skyline.

“The Liberty’s renovation project is a cornerstone in The Luxury Collection brand’s $300 million dollar investment effort to renovate and reopen some of the most iconic hotels in North America,” stated Hoyt H. Harper II, Global Brand Leader, The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts. “We are thrilled to deliver enhanced accommodations while still allowing guests to experience the authenticity of one of Boston’s most notable landmarks.”

Photos: libertyhotel.com

Renaissance New York Midtown

Miniview: Jeffrey Beers’ ‘Fearlessly Chic’ design at Renaissance New York Midtown

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Renaissance Hotels’ new US flagship property, the Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel, which opened in Manhattan on March 21, 2016, is leading the way for the brand in its ‘Fearlessly Chic’ global design philosophy and ‘Business Unusual’ outlook.

Award-winning design studio Jeffrey Beers International (JBI) has captured the authenticity and glamour of the city through innovative technology never before showcased in a New York hotel.

To bring the design to life, Beers himself collaborated with Roger Parent of interdisciplinary technology firm Réalisations Inc. The city’s first ‘living’ hotel is comprised of sensational, ever-changing digital experiences inspired by the fashion and artistic industries in the neighbourhood which are an integral and informative element of the design.

Renaissance New York Midtown
Specifically designed to interact with visitors from the moment they enter the hotel, the property features ambient intelligent corridors that respond to human movement, digitally enhanced elevator banks, and a never-before-seen Discovery Portal Powered by Time Out that showcases neighbourhood guides on a user-friendly digital alcove to be accessed with the point of a finger or tap of a toe. A four-story LED digital clock at the top of the building will also bring the hotel to life and will add a beacon of light to the city’s skyline for all to enjoy.
Renaissance New York Midtown
Using New York City as his muse, Beers’ vision was to capture the energy of the locale by juxtaposing high-low design components, such as smooth millwork and polished marble against the rough texture of exposed concrete walls, to create elegant yet edgy public spaces and guest rooms. The purposeful disparity of materials was new to Beers, known for his work at properties around the world including Miami’s Fontainebleau, Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne in New York and Singapore, and the One&Only Ocean Club in the Bahamas, making the Renaissance New York Midtown unlike any project he has worked on.
Renaissance New York Midtown
“Having grown up in New York, I thrive on the fast-paced rhythm of the lifestyle here. I wanted the design of this hotel to capture the vibrancy and creative energy of the city; to immerse visitors in the real New York,” said Beers. “There are a number of elements throughout the design that are meant to provide an unexpected moment of enjoyment and playfulness — inspired by Renaissance’s ‘look and look again’ philosophy. The artwork, for example, might appear to be a two-dimensional painting from afar, but as visitors get closer they will see that it is actually composed of pins or pencils.”
Renaissance New York Midtown
Surprising design elements are found throughout the hotel, from flirtatious graphics at the back of each guestroom closet, to inspiring quotes in the bathrooms. Life-size images are etched on the back walls of the elevator cabs and each time the elevator doors open on the ground floor, guests will be treated to specially-curated digital imagery showcasing local artists and neighbourhood experiences. Timed to mirror the opening and closing of the elevators, the projected digital displays will always be evolving and the hotel will be visually different on each and every visit.

Renaissance New York Midtown
Located on 35th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, the hotel boasts 348 guest rooms, including seven Executive Suites and one Empire Suite. Each guest room offers a sophisticated neutral palette with pops of purple or grey throughout the bedding and upholstery. With floor-to-ceiling windows, the spacious rooms use pale finishes, maximise natural light, and adhere to an uncluttered aesthetic. A gradient frosted-glass shower wall separates the all-white Italian marble en-suite bathroom from the sleeping area.
Renaissance New York Midtown
On the sixth floor guests will find a sleek Lobby Bar, Library Lounge, a clandestine DJ booth and Club Lounge for Elite Marriott Rewards members and preferred guests. The hotel offers 4,500 square-feet of meeting space which can be separated into smaller conference rooms with glass air walls. Floor-to-ceiling windows will offer magnificent views of the city, while stylised inspirational quotes from fashion greats such as Coco Chanel and Oscar de la Renta painted onto the raw concrete back wall, pay homage to the surroundings.

Photos: newyorkrenaissance.com

Hilton's newest hotel in Downtown Houston

Hilton opens dual-branded property in Downtown Houston

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Hilton’s newest hotel opened last week as the dual-branded Hampton Inn & Suites and Homewood Suites by Hilton Houston Downtown started welcoming guests through the doors. The opening brings 300 rooms to the heart of the Texan city and further establishes Hilton Worldwide’s presence in the market.

“This latest opening adds to the growing Hilton Worldwide portfolio and continues to provide unique lodging options for travelers,” said Phil Cordell, global head, Focused Service and Hampton Brand Management, Hilton Worldwide.

“Opening in one of America’s largest cities, the dual-branded Hampton Inn & Suites and Homewood Suites welcomes business and leisure travelers alike,” he added.

Both properties are located at 710 Crawford Street, offering guests a central location and convenient access to local attractions like the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Minute Maid Park, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Space Center Houston, just a short drive away.

The dual-brand concept creates enhanced and larger communal areas than what would be standard at a stand-alone property, benefitting both business and leisure travelers. The hotel has two distinct lobbies and dining areas – each catering to the needs of their respective guests – while sharing one registration desk, fitness center, and roof-top pool. The hotel also offers 5,000 square feet of flexible meeting space that can accommodate up to 225 people.

ME Miami

ME Miami opening in April

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ME by Meliá is set to launch its first luxury lifestyle hotel in the United States in vibrant Downtown Miami in April 2016.

ME Miami will be located in the epicentre of the city’s cultural hotspots, such as Pérez Art Museum, Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center and the highly anticipated Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, which will open in summer 2016. It will also be within close proximity to the thriving Miami Design District, Midtown and the Arts & Entertainment community.

The luxury lifestyle hotel will boast 129 rooms across 14 floors, including three ME+ suites, many of which feature their own private balcony with views overlooking Biscayne Bay and Downtown Miami. Situated on the 11th floor, the signature Suite ME will offer guests tropical floor-to-ceiling vistas, as well as a private bar. Additionally, a luxurious Personality Suite and Style Suite will be located on the 14th floor.

ME Miami

ME Miami’s interiors will be a fusion of contemporary and innovative design with cream and grey hues, accompanied by bursts of gold and silver to reflect the city’s energy and vibrant personality. Upcoming global fashion photographer, Alberto Van Stokkum, has been commissioned by the brand to create a bespoke collection of artworks exclusively for ME Miami that will be showcased throughout the hotel.

ME by Meliá hotels are renowned for their breathtaking rooftop spaces, with the brand’s flagship hotel ME London and ME Milan Il Duca featuring rooftop bars with impressive, panoramic skyline views. Located on the 14th floor terrace, ME Miami will feature two swimming pools; a main pool and infinity pool. It will also offer a bar and lounge area, surrounded by sunbeds and cabanas, so that guests can take in the views of Miami’s skyline, whilst relaxing to laidback beats from the hottest DJs.

ME Miami

ME Miami is a key addition to Meliá Hotels International’s expanding hotel portfolio and the company, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, already has a strong presence in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The opening of ME Miami follows closely in the footsteps of ME Milan Il Duca, which opened in May 2015; ME Mallorca and ME Ibiza launched in 2014; and the flagship hotel, ME London, opened in 2013 and ME Madrid, the first ME by Meliá hotel, launched in 2006. The brand will continue to expand with openings in key markets including ME Caracas in 2016, ME Barcelona in 2017 and ME Dubai, which has been designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, is set to launch in 2018

Tru By Hilton ground breaking

Hilton breaks ground on very first Tru by Hilton property

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Hilton Worldwide last week broke ground on its very first Tru by Hilton property located in McDonough, Georgia. The celebration came just eight weeks after its public unveiling, which marks the fastest brand announcement to groundbreaking in Hilton history.

Demonstrating Tru’s promise to ‘break the mould’ at every occasion, the milestone event tossed traditional hard hats and shovels aside, treating guests to an unveiling of 3D chalk paintings created of the hotel’s exterior and guest room design that allowed attendees to feel as though they were part of the hotel.

In addition, attendees had some fun in an interactive photo booth that placed them right inside the lobby of the 98-room, 4-storey hotel. It is expected to be completed in summer of 2017.

The value proposition continues to drive developer interest. Hilton Worldwide announced today that it has 189 Tru hotel deals in process to date, up from 130 hotels in January when the brand launched at The Americas Lodging Investment Summit. When completed, the new Tru by Hilton McDonough will provide guests with smart and efficiently designed guest rooms and reimagined public spaces, including an open lobby with four distinct zones for lounging, working, eating or playing.

The Guest House at Graceland

Elvis-inspired The Guest House at Graceland taking reservations

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Design elements for the Guest House at Graceland, a 450-room hotel located a stone’s throw from Elvis Presley’s iconic mansion home, have been revealed by designers Hnedak Bobo Group (HBG) – who worked closely with Priscilla Presley on the project. It is set to open in October with interiors said to be inspired by Elvis’ personal style and his home.

Speaking to the media, HBG’s principal designer Mark Weaver said: “We all recognise Graceland almost as a time-capsule of 1970s design, but if Elvis was here today, he most likely wouldn’t design his new guest house to look like it was still 1975.

The Guest House at Graceland
“So, we took cues from his design style using contemporary pieces to pull it all together. We focused on creating a sense of intimacy between the guest and the property – creating a way for visitors to have an informal and personal experience as a true guest of Graceland that has previously not been possible – an experience that we think would make Elvis proud,” he added.

Reservations are now being taken for the October opening.

Caesars Palace

Caesars plans thousands of room enhancements in Vegas, regional locations

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Caesars Entertainment Corporation has announced plans to upgrade more than 4,800 of its hotel rooms this year at four of its Las Vegas resorts, and more than 900 rooms at three regional casinos – at Atlantic City, Biloxi and Tunica – totalling more than 5,700 owned or managed rooms across the enterprise.

This renovation effort represents approximately 20% of rooms in Las Vegas and 15% of total rooms throughout the company. At the end of 2016, following the completion of this series of room renovations, Caesars Entertainment will have updated more than 10,000 hotel rooms in the last three years.

These resort upgrades include the transformation of the original tower at Caesars Palace to create the 586-room Julius Tower as well as the refurbishment of the resort’s 948-room Augustus Tower. Additional room upgrades will include Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Paris Las Vegas and Harrah’s Las Vegas. In the regional markets Harrah’s Gulf Coast, Caesars Atlantic City and Horseshoe Tunica will complete room upgrades.

Caesars Palace
This year of room renovations and upgrades began with the already underway transformation of the roughly 586-room original tower at Caesars Palace, newly branded as the Julius Tower, and the planned full refresh of the approximately 948-room Augustus Tower. Planet Hollywood will reimagine more than 1,294 rooms and suites; Harrah’s Las Vegas plans to overhaul approximately 672 rooms of the hotel’s south tower and Paris Las Vegas plans to transform approximately 1,320 rooms and suites. Caesars Atlantic City is expected to renovate nearly 274 rooms; Harrah’s Gulf Coast plans to renovate 499 rooms and Horseshoe Tunica will refresh 193 rooms.

The room and suite upgrades at all four Las Vegas hotels will include modern room designs, enhanced in-room electronics, new furnishings, and soft goods. All rooms will feature large, 50″ TVs or more complete with fully refurbished bathrooms along with elevated in-room amenities and services. For example, the suites at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino will offer a fresh design complete with retro round sleeping beds and hanging daybeds.

At Harrah’s Gulf Coast and Horseshoe Tunica these room renovations will feature a fresh and new room design complete with modern wall coverings, lighting and wood finishes.

Vintro Hotel South Beach, Florida joins Hilton’s Curio collection

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Located on Miami’s historic Collins Canal, Vintro Hotel South Beach has joined Curio – A Collection by Hilton as the brand’s second hotel in Florida. The brand’s other Florida location is The Diplomat Resort & Spa Hollywood, which joined the Collection in 2014.

Welcoming guests to the Art Deco-styled hotel is a large mosaic wall in the lobby, which embodies the relaxed vintage personality of the area. Other unique features include a large rooftop sundeck with a jetted infinity pool, a library and pop-up art galleries.

The hotel’s deep history dates back to 1934 when it opened as The Park Avenue Hotel and housed approximately 50,000 troops training for the Air Corps Service during World War II. After the war, The Park Avenue Hotel added a restaurant and became one of the hot spots for Miami’s elite. The hotel later closed for many years until – exactly 80 years to the day from the original building’s debut – it reopened as the Vintro Hotel South Beach, bringing back its historic charm and quickly becoming one of the top hotel destinations in Miami Beach.

Today, Curio – along with the hotel’s ownership group, ENCOTEL, LLC – is proud to celebrate the hotel’s heritage as it joins the growing Collection. Guest rooms – emblematic of the hotel’s unique décor – feature original artwork, bright furnishings and a voyeur shower. Each of the 50 guest rooms and suites includes Wi-Fi, a 46-inch HDTV with media hub and two mini bars.

“Vintro Hotel South Beach truly captures the essence of the emerging cultural center of the ‘new’ South Beach, due in large part to its large rotating collection of local artwork,” said Enrique Colmenares, owner and president of Vintro Hotel.

Melia - ME Miami

Melia opening first ME, Innside properties in USA

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Melia Hotels International is opening its first ME and Innside-branded properties in the US in March.

The ME Miami will debut on March 3. The hotel, on the site of the old Casa Moderna on Miami’s Biscayne Boulevard, will have 129 rooms and more than 5,000 square feet of food and beverage space. Melia has three ME properties in Spain, two in Mexico and one each in Italy and the UK.

Additionally, Melia will debut its Innside brand the following week (March 7) in New York’s NoMad neighbourhood. The Innside New York NoMad, a newbuild property on West 27th Street between Avenue of the Americas and Seventh Avenue, will contain 313 rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows, free WiFi, flat-screen TVs and complimentary minibars. Melia has 11 Innside properties in Germany, three in Spain and one in the UK.

Melia - Innside, NoMad New York

Moxy Hotels

Moxy Hotels moving into US with New Orleans, Tempe openings

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Moxy Hotels, Marriott International‘s edgy new lifestyle brand, is shaking up traditional hospitality and making its mark in the USA with Moxy New Orleans, LA, and Moxy Tempe, Arizona – both set to open in Spring 2016.

Moxy New Orleans: Developed and owned by Noble Investment Group, the contemporary 108-room hotel is scheduled to be unveiled in April 2016.

Moxy Tempe: The hotel will feature 186 industrial chic, yet comfortable, bedrooms and an abundance of free-flowing indoor/outdoor space enabled by modern roll-up garage doors off the lobby.

Moxy Hotels
Moxy Hotels, which first launched in Milan in September 2014, is entering the US market in a bold way, with several identified projects slated for major metropolitan locations in addition to New Orleans and Tempe, including New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and Nashville.

Upcoming international openings include Munich, Frankfurt, Berlin, Oslo, Aberdeen, and London. The brand expects to offer a portfolio of nearly 150 hotels around the world within the next ten years.

Moxy Hotels

Photos from moxy-hotels.marriott.com

Hotel Zetta, San Francisco

Hotel Zetta, San Francisco (Patrick Goff)

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The building is an existing 116 bedroom hotel in San Francisco, built in 1913. It had been recently purchased by Pebblebrook Hotel Trust and the new ownership group’s directive was to convert the asset from a upper mid -level product to a upper–luxury product that would be attractive to the area’s dynamic ‘Tech Market’ who focussed on Facebook, Zynga and Twitter. The designers were to create a hotel that would cater to the unique tastes, needs and casual lifestyle of a successful ‘Tech Geek’.

To be operated by the Viceroy Hotels Group, the hotel needed to be socially engaging at a very high level. The designers were asked to provide an environment that would offer layers of wit and spontaneity, providing a warm inviting and luxurious environment. Art, technology and sustainability needed to be part of the hotels core DNA. the hotel was to have that boutique personal, individualistic, entertaining and ‘West Coast’ casual ambience. It should be the place for the target audience to go after work to plug in and hangout.

Working hand in hand with the client, Dawson Design Associates began exploring different ways to create the energy and attitude that would both capture and reflect San Francisco’s diversity and energy, and the “work hard, play hard” of the ‘Tech Geek’ who stays connected 24/7. Designed for innovators and artists, it needed the creation of a luxury venue that captured the spirit, needs and attitude of a demographic mostly comprised of the ‘Millennial Generation’ but a venue that would still attract people of all ages with independent, progressive and creative personalities.

Hotel Zetta, San Francisco
The entry level lobby is the social hub with its centralised bar. Guests can use it for impromptu meetings or hanging out with friends. The ambience is relaxed, enabling spontaneity. A two-story art piece designed as a “Plinko game” vertically ties the lobby and the overhanging mezzanine ‘Playroom’ together. Guests are drawn into the gaming spirit as the ball drops from the Playroom above and works its way down the lobby wall into points bins located besides the lobby bar. With a generation of ‘gamers’ the interactive and playful energy of the ‘game’ immediately breaks the ice and creates a fun and dynamic atmosphere. Guests can become playfully active participants in the lobby experience.

Art is integral to the identity of the hotel and as a part of the experience plays a significant rôle in how the hotel feels. One of the challenges was to find fresh and innovative ways to seamlessly fuse play zones and work zones within the lobby experience. Sustainability and re-purposing/ recycling were to be another core value. Fusing art and sustainability, in a natural, personalized and thus meaningful manner became the goal. Sustainable materials are used throughout the hotel, paired with dynamic and engaging art made from re-purposed ‘ junk’, that celebrated the ideas of recycling and reuse in an entertaining and surprising manner.

Hotel Zetta, San Francisco
Chandeliers are made from 1200 pairs of recycled eyeglasses while yet another is made from broken pieces of Murano glass chandeliers pulled from the waste bin. The lobby dog greeting newly arriving guests, is a life sized Great Dane made from old forks, tools and bolts. The art wall behind the bar is a two-story glass sculpture created from old wine bottles and iron. Area rugs are a series of used Persian rugs, gathered from villages in India, Turkey & Pakistan, that have been stitched together to create a single lobby carpet. The front desk is created from recycled hardwood timber scraps. Furniture was selected for its contemporary yet comfortable styling. Many of the pieces are mid-20thcentury modern classics designed in the 60’s.

Like the City itself, there are many surprising layers into the overall hotel experience, reflecting the duality of San Francisco, a city renowned for its beauty. The amber and sepia tones created by the back lit wall on the far side of the lobby provide a warm glowing ambience to the space. Upon close inspection guests will see that is actually comprised of hundreds of ‘mug shots’ from prisoners incarcerated in Alcatraz. Al Capone is one of the many faces represented, staring out of the crowd. The original version of ‘Facebook’, each mug shot has a number, and the hotel has a coffee table book as a guide to describe the prisoner’s names and their crimes. Guests can find a face and research the crime as they enjoy a cocktail with friends.

The mezzanine Playroom continues this discovery attitude where the history of the pool table, shuffleboard, along with wall paneling comprised of recycled doors all contribute to the social conversation and playful energy of the space. As a gaming space for guests, it is both a stylish ‘man-cave’, where the latest technology is being introduced to the market from the leading software companies in the world, and a play zone to hang out and relax. A British telephone booth connects guests to the bar below, to place orders for both food and drink. By attaching the Playroom to the adjacent meeting and conference spaces with rolling galvanized warehouse doors, the Playroom can act as a dynamic pre-function space that can also be sold as a private venue for events and team building parties.

Hotel Zetta, San Francisco
Guestrooms also reflect this fusion of art, technology and sustainability. Hotel Zetta’s newly restyled 116 guestrooms, which range from 250-750 square feet, are among the most modern of San Francisco offerings. The sleek, contemporary design combined with natural elements is meant to exude the feeling of being in an urban loft. Vinyl ‘wood plank’ floorsare softly layered with a smaller scale version of the repurposed ‘patchwork’ Persian area rug, rich in character and history. Comprised of hundreds of original worn out carpets (some 40 years old), cut apart and hand stitched back together, each room has its own variation. Desks in the rooms are commercial butcher block chef tables centered below a dynamic art piece made of recycled floppy discs.

A playful digital bookcase graphic in the guestroom bathrooms display regional books on the Bay Area arts, touring, recycling, IT and even Steve Jobs. The landings of each guestroom corridor feature floor to ceiling wall murals of different ‘land fill’ shots artistically and beautiful to encourage guests to understand that the world must begin to change its perception of junk and learn to revitalize used items instead of throwing them away. It stands as a vivid reminder of our carbon footprint, playfully conveyed.

The hotel features state of the art technology throughout, including an 8′ wide panoramic video monitor in the Boardroom overlooking the lobby.

Design: Dawson Design Associates. © for HotelDesigns by Renée Heron/Dawson Design

Skamania, Oregon USA

Skamania, Oregon USA (Patrick Goff)

1000 666 Daniel Fountain

Like many Brits, my images of America are part Hollywood, part romance,part television all tempered with the reality of numerous visits over the years. The big cars with their fins and chrome may be in the past, but Skamania showed me how much of my imaginings are still to be discovered, including that mournful train wail that features in so many ‘westerns’.

Standing in the Cascade Mountains (and while it is officially a Washington State lodge, you need to go into Oregon to get here) it may not be surrounded by the giant redwoods, but on the slopes of Mount Hood the hotel is in the midst of the National Scenic area of the Columbia River Gorge and surrounded by acres of beautiful pine forest.

The Columbia River Gorge is the main route through the Cascades here, and along it runs the railway as well as the freeway, Interstate 84. The drive to the hotel from Portland is all along the Oregon side of the Columbia River, crossing the ‘Bridge of the Gods’ to Stevenson. Romantic and fully in tune with my images of America, to give me what one of my childhood heroes, Mr Pastry, would have said were the ‘deep joys’.

Skamania, Oregon USA
A sister lodge to the lodge that is the Alderbrook Resort and Spa in the Olympic National Park, Skamania is being refurbished by Dawson Designs’ Seattle office, the same designers that worked on Alderbrook, now winning awards as one of the best hotels in the Pacific North West of the USA. I was privileged to be one of the first design writers to see the early results of the makeover given to the main public areas, and it was a chance to experience the hotel and the Cascades.

The cultural differences between the US and Europe are deep, and yet one is rooted in t’other. This similarity with dissonance is reflected in US interiors. Although the internationalism of design is growing along with increasing blandness, there are fortunately still enough differences of colour and texture to make trips like this worthwhile. The nature of interiors is such that unlike many other forms of design, they can truly reflect location , indeed in most interiors I would argue should reflect location. This was true at Alderbrook and certainly it looks as if it will be true here at Skamania too.

It can be a difficult balance to strike a local note without falling over a line into kitsch, but this is a line that Dawson tread very carefully and successfully. I suppose that I see Skamania, Alderbrook and Mohonk Mountain House as a kind of Yankee equivalent to the English Country House hotel, but without the snobbery. Deeply rooted in American traditions these are very relaxed establishments, child-friendly if not family centred. All have a tradition of providing conference and meeting facilities and award winning spas (in the case of Alderbrook and the Mohonk). Skamania, although only 20 years old, is upgrading its Spa and public areas as a first stage in reworking its offering perhaps with a view to winning awards and becoming a destination Spa as Mohonk and Alderbrook have done. It also has an 18 hole mountain golf course.

Skamania, Oregon USA
Like Alderbrook Resort and Spa , the reception lobby decants the guest into a superb triple height lounge with extensive use of timber in both structure and paneling. Dominated by the stone fireplace, this comfortable area with rocking chairs in front of the log fire has huge picture windows looking out to the lake behind the Bonneville dam. Currently the coffee stand that spoils the peace of the space will be replaced by a coffee shop using an adjoining space and providing an alternative route into the grounds in front, which no good American citizen seems able to enter without clutching a life-saving giant cardboard cup of coffee. The use of one side of the lounge as a corridor to outside breaks the contemplative tranquillity that would otherwise be the delight of this haven from the industrial world.

Whilst Skamania does not have the naturalist on the staff that Mohonk Mountain House does, it maybe goes one better by having a Forest Ranger office in the lobby, marked by an 8 foot high sculpture of a grizzly bear, still occasionally found in the surrounding forests I understand. Adjacent to the concierge desk the helpful Rangers supplement the information and services the concierge provides. On the opposite side of the entrance lobby is the tourist shop providing that source of postcards, local artefacts etc. that is otherwise not easily accessible without resorting to the car.

Huge car parking spaces, one adjacent to the golf course, make access easy as does having a separate conference entrance and reception area. The hotel offers twenty-three meeting rooms and over 22,000 square feet of meeting, exhibition and banquet space. In addition, Skamania Lodge offers over 40,000 square feet of seasonal outdoor venue space tucked within the forests.

Once in the hotel everything you might need is here. All the public areas open up onto the terrace with views across the Columbia river valley, including the fire pit, an idea spoiled for me by many of these installations using gas to fire them rather than burning real logs. Here real wood may be the fuel, and it is in the huge lounge fire, unlike the silly ceramic gas log used at Alderbrook. The two dining rooms offer plenty of menu variety and choice with the main restaurant, styled in a vaguely deco timber-work finish. The deco feel comes from the use of pale timber joinery plus the spacing and styling of the square lanterns throughout.

Skamania, Oregon USA
The main restaurant offering includes a menu based around the use of a wood fired oven. It also offers a choice of seating styles from booth to open table, with a large servery area in the centre. The space is flexible with one end being loose furniture, enabling parties to dine together whilst small groups can gain some privacy using the more private booth style seating area.

The bar and bistro, subject of the recent refurbishment, majors on locational keys, with again a huge stonework fireplace with the head of an unfortunate moose dominating. Antler and horn are used by the designer throughout, and tables offer varying seating locations, numbers, heights etc. making for an interesting space that divides itself into zones neatly and easily.

The bar has witty references to other areas – there is a small grizzly supporting shelves for example, echoing the entrance area sculpture, and the area behind the bar has a painting representing the surrounding woodland. Funky details abound – a hollow log, stools made from sections of tree trunk, a pair of moose antlers (seems as if the moose population in this part of the States is a favourite prey of the hunters) and patterning when used is indicative of native Americans traditions. The overall effect is very comfortable visually and physically, enhanced by fireplaces and typical high quality service. Both the refurbished bar and the new lounge area are proving very popular with guests.

The layout of the building plan separates off the conference area from the main areas, placing the potential for noise from gatherings at the opposite end in what is a very large building from the space occupied by the spa and pool. The pool hall itself is a handsome space, open into the roof timbers, and the skylight providing reflection in the water. Its glass doors open onto outside terraces, one of which is occupied by the outside area of the very cramped spa. The treatment rooms for the spa are conversions of bedrooms I suspect, and as such they lack panic buttons, soundproofing or any of the real luxury trappings expected in a European spa. As such they will need considerable lift if the spa is to operate in a way that will draw spa aficionados in from areas around, as happens at Mohonk, where the 1990’s spa addition has proved very successful.

Skamania, Oregon USA
Whilst effective as treatment rooms, there are only two spaces, alongside the small gym and the pool areas. The outside pool for the spa is a successful and slightly romantic piece of design, using large rocks to create an illusion of a river section for the whirlpool area. However again the outside relaxation area is quite small and the whole spa seems out of scale for such a large hotel.

The conference areas themselves have their own terraces and breakout zones, easily serviced from the hotel kitchens. With their own reception desk and lobby area, they offer clients the opportunity to create an event that can run quite separately from the hotel, with its own entrance etc., allowing conferences a feeling of some exclusivity. They are also placed at the same end of the hotel as the golf course allowing an easy interaction between the two.

The outdoor spaces also include an amphitheatre down the slope from the hotel, whilst the lawns in front lead onto forest walks and the wild beauty of the Columbia Gorge. Bedrooms are large and well laid out generally although the suites are a lot less convincing. The bedrooms take advantage of their width to have large desk areas, and all have spaces that are almost big enough for walk-in wardrobes. The arc of the building gives most views of the river gorge.

The suites often have open fireplaces in them – although unlike Mohonk where the guests are trusted to light their own log fires, here the fires are gas effect. Safer perhaps but certainly less romantic than going to sleep to the flickering light of burning logs. I find it curious that where the suite has a lounge with settees etc. the log fire is nonetheless placed in the bedroom, so the opportunity to have that romantic evening sitting in front of the fire is lost, but maybe that is just an English concept of cosiness.

Skamania, like Alderbrook, reaches into the heart of America – the heart that embraces wilderness and the natural world (not the one that then goes out and slaughters it with automatic weapons). With easy access for skiiing in the winter, walks and wild life in the summer, water sports on the Columbia and a large slice of the history of development and exploration that led to statehood for Oregon in 1859 and Washington State some 30 years later the hotel is well placed to provide a luxury escape for the urban populations from surrounding states.

From a visit in August 2012. © Words and Photographs Patrick Goff

Kimpton's Burnham, Chicago

Kimpton’s Hotel Burnham, Chicago (Patrick Goff)

1000 666 Daniel Fountain

We tend to think of the USA as a new country filled with new buildings. However the preservation of old buildings is as much an issue on their side of the Pond as it is on the European side. Chicago recently scandalised many in the American architectural profession by pulling down a series of Gropius buildings in Chicago, a city he settled in when finally forced to flee from Nazi tyranny in Dessau.

Despite the reputation of the Bauhaus, this was not the leading movement for which Chicago was known then or now. Whilst the name of Frank Lloyd Wright resonates, some of the names of architectural heroes in the city will be a little less familiar to Europeans. Despite the furore over the Gropius buildings the City of Chicago has shown remarkable determination to conserve its historic buildings and this determination led to Kimpton taking on the reputedly first steel framed glass walled skyscraper built for conversion into a boutique hotel.

Kimpton's Burnham, Chicago
The Reliance Building, to give it its formal appellation, was started in 1890 by the architectural practice Burnham and Root. Daniel Burnham played a large part in the replanning of Chicago, a city that became famous for innovative architecture after the disastrous fire of 1871 that destroyed four square miles of the city. The fire (reputedly started when Mrs O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern) burned through a city largely made of wood, only stopping when it reached the shores of the Lake Michigan. The basement and ground floor of the Reliance Building were constructed in 1890 while the upper three stories of the building previously on the site remained suspended above on jackscrews. The addition of the remaining floors in 1894–1895 completed the building.

The building was significant because of the area of glass in the walls, made possible by the use of a steel cage construction. The original owner made lifts (elevators), given pride of place in the entrance, and it was also the first office building to boast a telephone in every office. Its glass and terracotta exterior and lightness because of the steel frame set the tone for the beginning of the skyscraper revolution. Bought and preserved by the city in 1993 the building was developed as a hotel in 1999 at a cost of $27.5 million, with Kimpton as its operator.

As a conservation project it is marked both by the work done by the city to preserve the structure and external features but also the work undertaken to replicate and restore the original interiors. Much had been destroyed but authentic elements remained on the upper floors. Terrazzo floors and marble walls and ceilings were cleaned and honed. Plaster, mahogany and glass were all restored whist the cast iron work of the lift shafts was replicated and restored to modern standards.

Kimpton's Burnham, Chicago
Externally the delicacy and grace of its exterior is equally as delightful today as it was stunning on its original completion. It had much the same impact on Chicagoans as the construction of Arne Jacobsen’s Royal, had on the citizens of Copenhagen in the 1950’s, when it was Scandinavia’s first skyscraper. The Burnham’s signature ‘Chicago’ windows fill the interior with natural light and give spectacular views down State and Washington streets. Not far from the contemporary verson, theWit and inside the Loop, the hotel is very popular and brings the Kimpton style to the city.

The hotel has a small footprint which limits the size of its popular restaurant and guests have to book for their tables to be available, especially on Sunday when it fills with local residents. With its free drinks hour for guests the public areas are busy, although clever design has fitted in a bar, an effective reception area and guest lounge as well as the restaurant. The space never feels cramped, helped by the huge picture windows to the street.

Stylish use of colour and good accent lighting lighten the spaces which feel almost Parisian in their bustle. Where theWit up the street also has a very successful bar restaurant combination, its feel is very American whilst the Kimpton succeeds in feeling closer to Continental European café culture, more cosmopolitan with its mix of dark wood, white table cloths and yellow lighting. Many floors have the original door and corridor features of the original office fit-out, carefully re-used, but space has been found for a small gym and a meeting room.

Kimpton's Burnham, Chicago
Rooms are stylish and comfortable as one would expect from Kimpton (see also Monaco). With 122 rooms including 19 suites this is not a small hotel by European standards, although the days when hoteliers would pretend they had 99 rooms rather than over a hundred so guest felt more at home, are long gone.

Bedrooms follow the normal layout, with the bathroom providing an acoustic barrier to the corridor areas. Carpet has replaced terrazzo on the floor although patterns are in keeping with the period of the property. Bedrooms all benefit from the large windows, perfect for watching Boston street life, or the views through to Lake Michigan and the Gehry auditorium defacing the park. Rooms blackout effectively and are provided with sheers for privacy.

As a European visitor I was somewhat taken aback by the unselfconscious way in which apartment dwellers in the city undressed oblivious (?) to the fact that they were in full view of neighbouring blocks. There is an intimacy in this city which is a little surprising! Either that or Chicagoans are closet exhibitionists set on making voyeurs out of maybe not so innocent tourists…

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With the restoration concentrated on floor 7-14, where authentic part remained such as intact plaster ceilings, plate glass, interior store fronts, varnished mahogany doors and trim, one would expect considerable variation over the building. In fact the whole is in harmony and this historically important building has been treated with respect both by its designers, the builders and the operator alike.

Despite their mistake with the Gropius buildings full credit must go to the policies of the City of Chicago. Without their foresight in purchasing the building and ensuring that the major external features were restored and repaired prior to its purchase for commercial use an important corner of Chicago would have been that much poorer.

Kimpton's Burnham, Chicago
We think of ourselves in Europe as being sensitive to the preservation of the past. Chicago remains the inspiration it was to Vladimir Mayakovsky, Tatlin and other artists and poets of the Russian revolution who may well have had in mind the Reliance Building when they wrote of Chicago as a ‘shining city’. This is indeed a shining example of conservation as well as being a resounding advert for Kimpton as operator.

In this exciting cityscape it stands proud as forebear of all glass walled skyscrapers. It also stands as a quality building with a long life ahead of it.

Words and Images are © Patrick Goff

TheWit, Chicago (Patrick Goff)

1000 666 Daniel Fountain

Not a Trump Tower. A small building by Chicago’s standards, only 27 storeys high. Small but almost perfectly formed. Perhaps the ‘lightning streak’ of yellow down the outside is not the most successful feature I have seen on a building and the signage is definitely one sided. Location next to the El might seem odd, but as with the Marriott in London’s Docklands that nestles against the DLR, the train is not evident inside and its proximity is like a transfusion line from Chicago’s main blood stream. The life it promises is made good inside the hotel which is one of the most beautifully designed modern hotels I have seen in the US. I enjoyed Hotel 1000 in Seattle, and the Kimpton’s Alexis across the road but this one is better – its advantage being that it was purpose built. Here the building planning works a dream.

The location may not be on the so-called ‘Magnificent Mile’ which seems to me to only be magnificent if you are a shopping addict or aficionado of modern architecture. Here are the University campuses, the broadcast studio, the art school, the City Cultural Centre and library. It is a district once falling into dereliction, dominated by Macy’s and whose regeneration kicked off when the city fathers had the foresight to save the Burnham building.

A twin room at TheWit in Chicago

A twin room at TheWit in Chicago

A block away this is now the eponymous Kimpton (and shortly to be subject of one of our Reviews). With a youthful and media audience on its doorstep, theWit has been planned and designed in a way that draws this audience whilst having the design maturity to appeal to the older moneyed market that will provide the true spend and profitability longer term.

A clever balancing act has been struck between being fashionable and having a timeless quality to the design, a trick usually missed by so-called fashion hotels in my experience. This has been helped considerably by the good interior layout planning where lessons from other hotels have been learned. The bar and restaurant have a street frontage, named State Lake after a famous local café that used to be on the site, giving an historical validity to an eatery here. The speciality restaurant stair climbs from inside the street windows to the bar, pre dinner drinks being possible in a high visibility, high profile area. This is an area UK pub designers used to refer to (tongue in cheek) as a ‘Friday Night millionaire corner’ where someone could splash money around on a Friday night in high visibility as if they had more than they actually did. This is a parable for the cash-strapped years after bankers follies perhaps?

The restaurant sits on the floor above, approached either from the staircase in the bistro or from the mezzanine floor above reception. In reception a staircase leads to the Mezzanine from beside the concierge desk, allowing security to be maintained both through supervision and also because the integrity of the lift’s room card recognition system is not broken. External guests going to the nightclub bar operation on the top floor can only use the lift from bottom to top – without the key card intermediate stops at bedroom floors are not possible.

he library-like mezzanine space also provides for the informal business meetings that are such a normal part of lobby life and a queuing area for those wishing to gain access to the rooftop or waiting for seats in the Restaurant, such is the immediate popularity of this stylish hotel. One wall of the space is dominated by a mural of a phoenix, echoing the themes of the light fittings, symbolic of the rebirth of this area of Chicago. With a library feel, the height of the space is still large enough to create a grand sensation, a feel that carries through to the access and conference areas and to the spa.

Bar, restaurant area at TheWit Chicago

Bar, restaurant area at TheWit Chicago

The clever design of the restaurant plays with the space there. A chef’s table, intimate booths and a couple of classical private dining spaces create a busy and buzzing feel, yet allow privacy as well. At the top of the stairs from the bar side is a glazed private dining area and the foot of the same staircase has the lounge feeling pre-dinner drinks area. None of the spaces are overlarge and every part is used, creating a busy feel yet not feeling crammed. The bar itself does that difficult trick so often done well in America of creating a space that works well as a bar without creating an intimidating feel to the restaurant. Therefore, the restaurant remains a very comfortable and intimate area.

“library like Mezzanine space also provides for the informal business meetings that are such a normal part of lobby life”

The main restaurant offers flexible dining spaces yet it too manages to create intimate dining spaces. The show kitchen adjacent to the chef’s table enhances the intimacy of the space. Maitre’d desk faces the door from the mezzanine. With the addition of the barbeque and ‘grazing’ bar on the rooftop there is a multiplicity of eating areas done with style and offering a variety of different approaches to food – nor, unlike most US establishments, are portions intimidating. This is an hotel that has learned many of the lessons of the last 15 years in its execution, not just from interior design but other areas of the hospitality operation too.

The design surprises continue through into the bedroom areas. Each lift lobby has a small ‘library’ continuing the theme from the Mezzanine, with busts of famous thinkers, books and so forth arranged around a small bookshelf and display case.

However that is not the surprise, rather it is the sound of birdsong that fills the corridors -totally unexpected in urban Chicago. Not enough just to have birdsong either, for as dusk draws in so the sound changes to the sound of crickets and the hoot of owls. Indeed I noticed the far off ringing of church bells too, delightfully bucolic.

Standard bedrooms offer the choice of either a tub or a walk-in shower room type and all have floods of daylight from enormous picture windows filled with the skyline of Chicago. Colours are generally muted with accents being provided by touches of sharp secondary colours – turquoise or orange and lightened with strong patterns in wallpaper and carpets. Chromatically well balanced the result is visually as well as physically comfortable. The desks are generously sized enabling an easy working situation to be set up, enhanced by the free Wi-Fi.

TheWit, Chicago

Sockets are well placed and generous lighting ensures that there is never a gloomy corner to struggle with.

Desks are generously sized, enabling an easy working situation to be set up, enhanced by the free Wi-Fi.

Bathrooms are well designed with good contrasts in the materials used and excellent lighting levels. Unfortunately the wash hand basins are stupidly shallow and wide, making a wet shave laborious and a good wash difficult without using the shower.

In the suites large baths and walk-in showers complement the large vanity units. Suites also boast kitchens and dining areas, complete with microwaves, hobs and fridges, as well as wardrobes for outdoor gear separate from the wardrobe for indoor clothes. Useful coat hooks are provided, a thoughtful touch in many countries often missed in UK hotels, but which allows damp outdoor garments to be hung away from shirts dresses and so on.

Whilst theWit has echoes from many hotels nothing it does is incredibly innovative. But it is encouraging to me as a designer to see that the owner and designers have pulled together all the lessons of the last ten years advances in hotel design. Firstly in planning and layout, secondly in terms of food/hospitality operation and finally in terms of spa operation and business rooms.

Restaurant on the front to give a profile, a ‘Friday Night millionaires corner’ for the poseur to see and more importantly be seen, a screening room for the local arts and media market, plenty of facilities for local businessmen, good location, good staff and good bedrooms. On top of this nice operational and design touches such as birdsong in the corridors to give an individual personality to the hotel enabling guests to feel a loyalty and identify with the hotel.

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Too often hotel chains have innovative layouts and food operations such as Marriott’s Courtyard Paris, thought through staffing and economics, sourced and defined design solutions and then not had the mangement skills to carry through the work. Design management is rarely recognised nor reinforced as a positive management imperative.

Doubletree has produced a fine hotel, well planned, well designed and already popular. If they can manage the design and planning elements in the next hotel then maybe they will be able to create a chain of very successful properties. Clear brief, good planning and design, and quality throughout will always create winners.

TheWit is a winner.

Architecture: Jackie Koo
Interior Design: Cheryl Rowley
Restaurant Design: The Johnson Studios

All words & pictures copyright Patrick Goff