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Online Exclusive – The Graham Hotel, Washington, DC

May 7, 2014

A past filled with classic American characters naturally inspires the historic and quirky in Washington, DC’s Georgetown neighborhood. For the designer of the Graham, Domenic Giordano, principal of locally based BBGM, the aesthetic started with three different concepts and more than one famous name.

Formerly the Monticello, the hotel had some Jeffersonian detail that could have inspired the reimagining of the building. There was also a rumor that documentation had been found showing that Frank Sinatra had stayed in the hotel, according to Giordano. While the idea could have lent itself to a rat-pack cool, black and white theme, the design team doubted its authenticity in the possibly late-1950s or early-1960s build. “That date made me question the whole Frank Sinatra thing,” he adds.


“The owner eventually focused on essentially everyone’s idea of Georgetown,” Giordano says. Keeping with the hotel’s namesake, Alexander Graham Bell’s, who once lived in the area, the team began playing with a motif that reinterpreted that traditional Georgetown design. In the lobby, pieces like sink-in pincushion seating and a brown leather wingback chair tie together Art Deco design and modernism. A troublesome column was transformed into a “peek-a-boo wall for vases,” describes Giordano, referring to the framed holes housing funky pieces.


“Being a boutique, we stayed away from anything that looked brand or repetitive or that you could find in another city,” Giordano says. A crystal cut mirror, though framed in silver, picks up on themes popular in 19th-century furniture, finishes, and fabrics. “It’s being a little cheeky,” the designer explains. “It’s kind of cute but not overly cute.” A gas fireplace, gold-hued chandelier, and a gramophone connect back to the Georgetown look.

In the guestrooms, a more clean-lined, modern aesthetic takes over. “The rooms are carrying that whole Georgetown idea but are less referential than the lobby,” says Giordano. Most of the furniture has a neutral, contemporary appeal, with the exception of the bedside table—a traditional round antique style, which complements the pincushion headboards.


In the suites, a super-scaled graphic of a blue damask pattern contrasts the neutral walls. “Everything else is more monotone and tone-on-tone, without many striking colors,” Giordano describes. “It’s more in keeping with what you would see going on today with people’s interest in boutiques and how they go to get away from just the tan-on-tan or the harsh black and white.” A light blue suede couch and a brown and tan velour chair complete the look.


In the basement, the A.G.B. Restaurant and Lounge switches out the clean aesthetic for a darker appeal. “We stripped it all out and exposed the bricks as if was an old speakeasy, which is always in the basement,” says Giordano. Dark wood panels and brown leather furniture create a sleek look. “I love dark bars, so this is my favorite,” he comments. “But the favorite of everyone in town is probably the rooftop.”


As one of only a few rooftop spaces in the area, the Observatory overlooks DC highlights and has a simple, rustic look. Sky-blue cushion sofas are surrounded by rough wood, which is painted black so it disappears in the skyline at night. “It’s very clean and simple, but the views are spectacular,” Giordano says.

hdtalks: the interviews

During HD Expo 2014, Hospitality Design’s Michael Adams sat down with HBA’s Michael Bedner to talk about his half-century in the hospitality design industry. View the video.



Produced by: Emerald Expositions
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