Surf's Up

Trend-conscious owners and operators have only to look to the sizzling condo hotel market to spot fashion-forward hospitality design. With up to 93,000 units estimated in the U.S. development pipeline, there's a wealth of cutting-edge design on the drawing boards, if not in the throes of installation.

Las Vegas, New York, Chicago and Miami are leading hot spots for condo hotel development and design-driven concepts. In Miami alone, it's a challenge to keep abreast of all the new construction and renovation work — from the Art Deco classic Tides Hotel, in the process of conversion from pure hotel to condo hotel hybrid, to the high-profile Nicky O and Gansevoort projects. All feature condo components and take their design cues from the high-concept boutique hotels that dominate the South Beach coastline.

Other design-forward condo hotel projects in the development pipeline include offerings from Canyon Ranch, W, Viceroy and Trump.

Condo hotels present some specific challenges and opportunities to designers. Typically, the condo hotel is more upscale and residential in concept. Versatility in layout, space for kitchenettes and a lockout bedroom or owner's closet are common considerations. Designers talk breathlessly about experiential design and “aspirational living” when describing condo hotel concepts. Standard elements might include the latest in high-tech toys and appliances, sophisticated and residential fabrics and furnishings, and a clean-lined, modern sensibility. Ease of maintenance and commercial-grade, high performance materials will support a longer renovation lifecycle — an important consideration for those owners looking for a low-cost, high return investment vehicle — or for those novices unfamiliar with the operational realities of hotel ownership.

Here's a look at several design-forward projects that illustrate some of the hottest trends in hospitality, and condo hotel, design:

SAUCY SOUTH BEACH

The Residences at Gansevoort South Hotel, set to open in early '07, is the new southern outpost of New York City's iconic Hotel Gansevoort, and exemplifies these ideas. With 102 spacious beachfront condo hotel units fronting prime real estate at Collins Avenue between 23rd and 24th streets, guests and owners will be able to indulge in all the hotel's luxe amenities and conveniences. An expansive tri-level beach club features an infinity-edge, ocean-view pool nestled within a sprawling teak deck and dining area. A 24,000-square-foot rooftop deck is touted as the biggest rooftop playground in the country, with a 110-foot-long rooftop pool. And, a 40,000-square-foot DavidBartonGym + Spa will transform after hours into Gansevoort Spa & Lounge, an exclusive nightclub in the tradition of the VIP access-only Gansevoort Spa & Lounge at the New York City property.

The Residences at Gansevoort South include 102 studio and one- and two-bedroom suites, most with 18- by 6-foot balconies. Amenities include plush featherbeds, plasma-screen TVs and five-fixture bathrooms.

Designer Andi Pepper is heading up the interior design in partnership with her husband/architect Stephen Jacobs.

“We wanted to make this hotel very contemporary, cutting-edge, young and sexy,” says Pepper. “The Gansevoort, as a brand, is an icon for fashion, style and high design. Also, I feel it's important to have a regional feel. When I'm in Miami I want palm trees and mojitos and design should reflect that sense of place.”

Interiors and fashion go hand in hand with high-end design, believes Pepper. “That's the challenge. I have to think of something that's going to be relevant today and tomorrow but timeless, too. A lot of my design comes from light and color and I like to have a mix of materials — combining woods and metals, combining feminine and masculine elements.

“The lobby is key,” continues Pepper. “It's become a lounge area for people-watching. We're going to generate some excitement at the Gansevoort South with a large lobby shark tank — 80 feet long and seamless; it almost feels like you're in the water.”

In the guestrooms, “we custom-designed a sofa bed that's more comfortable without that awful bar that you feel in your back,” she enthuses. “In the bedroom is a wall of upholstered mohair and either a pink or blue tweed headboard, so it's quiet and lush,” says Pepper. “The bedding is white, of course. I think bedding should be the whitest white — it should exude clean. My furniture is neutral overall, and then the cocktail tables are back-painted in pink, for a shot of unexpected color.”

The Gansevoort bathrooms are large with a glass shower stall, and a tub and “always extra counter space with slots and cubbies and drawers,” says Pepper.

Rounding out the guestroom design is a compact kitchenette area, with a built-in, custom-designed look with granite counters and extra closet space with a lockout.

Pepper is firm in her preferences: “I like a classic modernism; nothing trendy, it's got to be something I and the guest can live with. I like to pull from contemporary European lines; I think they're just so much farther ahead of us here in America.”

Wearability is a concern in a hotel, period, maintains Pepper. “Condo or hotel, it's the same issue. Product specifications are just as important as what color you pick, of what your visual design is. Durability in design is a very important factor. So everything must be stain-proof, fire- proof, code-proof.”

FEELING BLUE

In nearby Doral, FL, construction is under way at The Blue, a luxury resort condo hotel being built adjacent to the Blue Monster golf course at the Doral Resort & Spa.

Conceptually, each one of the 15 buildings at The Blue will reflect grand old Floridian style with 16 five-star condo hotels in each, and garden corridors facing the golf course.

Amenities for the 240 units, scheduled for completion in two years by developer The Kaufman Organization, include streamlined interiors, hardwood floors, solid-core doors and a contemporary décor designed with light hues and natural undertones. Kitchens will showcase granite countertops and Italian-styled cabinets. Bathrooms will boast marble floors, granite countertops and oversized marble showers with frameless glass doors.

Tech and other sweet touches: 42-inch plasma TVs with surround sound, DVD and CD player, high-speed Internet access, a computerized lighting/air conditioning and heat system and private storage for the owner. Unit prices range from the $500,000s to $1.5 million.

Evelyn Wagner, senior designer, TKO-GMG, is helping bring The Blue vision to fruition, and spoke to some of the factors that must be taken into consideration when designing a condo hotel. “The condo hotel must be highly detailed and appointed. It needs to be treated as a residence but with all the amenities of a conventional hotel,” says Wagner. “The layout of the units should be comfortable for long stays (six months) or a couple of days. Typically, condo hotel units average 400-500 square feet, but The Blue's residences will start at 705 square feet and go up to 2,100.”

Owners at The Blue will be able to purchase, at cost, a complete package of bedding, linens, accessories, artwork, kitchen supplies and bathroom amenities.

VEGAS STYLE, RECONSIDERED

One of the earliest condo hotels out of the gate in the rocking Las Vegas market is The Platinum Hotel and Spa, a 255-suite non-gaming (and non-smoking) full-service property which opened last month just off the Strip and minutes from a multitude of attractions. The new development features one- and two-bedroom suites, casually elegant dining at the Restaurant at Platinum, STIR café and lounge and the WELL Spa. A member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts, The Platinum is managed by Marcus Hotels & Resorts.

Suites are furnished with living rooms, fully stocked kitchens and private terraces. Plasma TVs, electric fireplaces, Bose radios and whirlpool baths are among the amenities and many suites are equipped with washers and dryers.

Business travelers have access to flexible and functional event and strategy rooms, a 24-hour business center, health and fitness studio, and Wi-Fi capabilities throughout the property.

“Our guests can work when they need to and play when they want to,” says Peter Rockwood, vice president and general manager of The Platinum. “Being that we are non-gaming, non-smoking and full-service, there is nothing else like our hotel in the city, and we are excited to demonstrate what makes The Platinum special and such a wonderful alternative for Las Vegas business and vacation travelers.”

CHICAGO CHIC

In Chicago, The Elysian Hotel and Private Residences, flagship for a new ultra-luxury brand, is on the rise in the heart of the city's prestigious Gold Coast neighborhood.

“The Elysian blends the features of an ultra-luxury hotel with the comforts of exclusive, private homes,” says David Pisor, founding partner and CEO of Elysian Worldwide. “Every aspect of the Elysian is designed to combine the Old World elegance, meticulous personalized service and richly detailed interior to which our buyers are accustomed.”

The 60-story tower offers 188 hotel suites, on floors seven through 26, with studios from $480,000 and one-bedroom suites from $640,000. Chicago's Lucien Lagrange Architects is designing the core and shell, while Simeone Dreary Design Group creates the interiors.

The units are appealing mainly to “those who want a one- or two-bedroom in-town with all a hotel's services or amenities that they aren't getting with their current in-town,” says Pisor.

“To look at them, no one would know the suites are individually owned,” says Pisor. “We've designed these gorgeous mahogany armoires for owners' belongings that we'll roll into one's suite if the owner calls and wants to stay in their room or ends up staying in a different room because their unit is already let.”

Architect Lucien Lagrange, who typifies the kind of client the Elysian might appeal to, with his busy, successful architecture practice, active social life and elegant demeanor, understands what the condo hotel client desires. “Wealthy people of taste are looking for elegance and more classical design, not anything over the top or too trendy,” he declares. “But no matter the design, the most successful project must provide service, service, service.”


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