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Online Exclusive - Hamilton Crowne Plaza Hotel, Washington, DC

Sep 4, 2013

By Erinn Waldo


With its notorious American namesake, the renovation of Washington, DC’s Hamilton Crowne Plaza Hotel was steeped in history. “It was paramount that the design provided a modern interpretation of the traditional, where the guest would experience the history and beauty of the hotel,” says Sandra Benitez, principal designer of San Francisco-based Design Atelier, who handled the redesign in tandem with project developer, the John Hardy Group. “[We wanted] to encourage the community to rediscover the hotel.”

The hotel’s story begins in 1851, when it was built as a private school before shortly becoming a small hotel. As a compliment to Eliza Hamilton Holly⎯⎯the daughter of Alexander Hamilton⎯⎯the hotel owners named the hotel the Hamilton. The Hamilton was then demolished and rebuilt in the 1920s, when it gained both 11 stories and a striking ceiling. 

                          

“The hotel is very proud of the vaulted Beaux Arts ceiling,” says Benitez. “No work was required for the renovation here, as the architecture is stunning as is.” Crafted by architect Jules Henri de Sibour, the ceiling’s focal point is a Pegasus image above the central doors, while its honeycomb pattern repeats subtly throughout the hotel on the elevator doors and fabrics.

                                             

Millwork details were added in the lobby to complement the existing millwork⎯⎯all of which was painted white. Feature walls and ceilings provide interest with a dark gray palette and white trim. Along with the burl wood veneers, leather, and granite, the lobby uses eggplant and saffron leather, mohair, and velvet in the seating and furnishings. “The rich history of the hotel is told the moment you walk into the building,” says Benitez. “The story is seen in the luxurious seating and art that invites guests to mingle and dine.”

                                                   

In backlit acrylic and wood-framed canvas prints, images of Hamilton, the Treasury Building, local maps, and 1920s imagery of the city pay homage to the hotel’s lineage. “The art presentation has a modern twist in acrylic and canvas,” comments Benitez. “The art tells the story of the hotel and Washington, DC from the moment you walk into the lobby, make your way through the corridors, and arrive at your guestroom.”

                                           

The guestroom artwork⎯⎯comprising of Hamilton’s quotes⎯⎯is a fresh interpretation of a classic silhouette painting and the swirling pattern on the euro shams refers to Hamilton’s signature. And for a “handsome, comfortable” feel, the rooms are decked out in a neutral palette accented with luxurious details such as burl wood veneers, walnut casegoods, and a dark crimson faux snake bolster. And to further bring back the past, the headboard is surrounded by prints of antique Washington, DC maps.

                         

Meanwhile, “the suites provide a different take on the hotel’s history,” continues Benitez. Paying tribute to Holly, the fabrics and finishes represent the lavishness of the times, while accessories are items that may have been found in her home.

                          

“It was vital that the design and renovation honor the architecture, location, and rich past of the hotel,” says Benitez. “We as designers realize the value of this and are ecstatic that as a result we had the opportunity to design and implement this elegant, functional space.”

                          





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