Extraordinary Renovations


Hotel properties that have undergone unique renovations

by Larry Olmsted

No guest enjoys checking into a hotel that feels tired or rundown. In these days of social media and crowd-sourced reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, and the like, torn upholstery, faded paint, or past-their-prime mattresses stand out like sore thumbs. Some hotels renovate just to keep things fresh, while others are in fast-growing markets with a lot of new openings and need to compete, especially in places like Austin or Nashville. At the luxury end, and especially in bigger tourist cities like New York and Las Vegas, there is a constant need for reinvention just to keep up. There are many different reasons owners choose to renovate and many levels to do it on – from a simple facelift to a top-to-bottom remodeling. Here are some examples of recent renovations across a variety of types of properties in different markets.

Hutton Hotel, Nashville, TN

Architect: Tuck Hinton Architects

Interior Designer: Studio 11 Design/GreenLight Media & Marketing

The Hutton Hotel jumpstarted Nashville’s trendy ascent a decade ago as the city’s first hip boutique hotel. But several others have since opened, and after 10 years, it was time for an update.


The Hutton wanted to stand out as a place to experience the local flavor unique to “Music City USA,” so the large-scale renovation (completed mid-2018) focused on a sense of place. They hired Studio 11 Design, which added several new thematic elements, including a vinyl record library, in the common areas, and most notably Analog, a new bar/theater that is part social club, part live-music performance venue. The 5,000-square-foot, 300-person venue was designed in partnership with Tuck Hinton Architects and immediately began drawing guests and non-guests alike. The main restaurant also was redesigned and rebranded as WestEnd Kitchen and Bar, with a contemporary inventive take on Southern cuisine, a focus on local spirits, and a bold design using elements such as metallic floor tiles and iron and brass finishing surrounding dining banquettes and tables.

Analog was the biggest new addition, but the property also added a feature that sets it apart from every other hotel in the country, The Writers Studios at Hutton Hotel. These two new spaces were co-designed by star performers Dierks Bentley and Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, and each is fully outfitted with state-of-the-art recording equipment including everything from isolation areas for instruments and a vocal booth to a slate of custom Gibson guitars. This has helped the Hutton attract many musicians who routinely visit, and also gives it more “Nashville cache” with tourists. All guest facilities were renovated, from the lobby and common areas to the 247 guest rooms, which got new furnishings and a residential design with a “rock and roll edge.” The rooms are highlighted by a new color palette of soft blue and gray tones accented by pops of color, like a cobalt blue pendant next to the bed and music-themed artwork on the walls.

Palms, Las Vegas, NV

Architects: Freidmutter Group Las Vegas, KGA Architecture, Klai Juba Wald Architects, YWS Design & Architecture, Moser Architecture Studio

Designers: Friedmutter Group Las Vegas, YWS Design & Architecture, Avenue Interior Design, Bentel & Bentel,
Studio Munge, Rockwell Group, Parts & Labor Design

The Palms was opened in 2001 by the owners of an NBA team, and was popular with pro athletes and celebrities. It was used as the set for a season of MTV’s “Real World,” and became famous for its fantasy suites, including the nation’s only hotel room with a private basketball court. But many new or remodeled properties have opened in Las Vegas in the 17 years since, and the new owners decided the most competitive solution was a top-to-bottom reimagining, from the Sky Villa suites, 700 regular guest rooms, and the common areas to the bars, restaurants and nightclubs, as well as the casino itself. The $690-million effort is the nation’s biggest hotel renovation completed in 2018 and remodeled practically every square inch of the property.

“The new vision for the property was bold, dramatic, and really broke its own iconic mold,” says Andrea DeRosa, principal designer for Avenue Interior Design. “The ownership team’s desire to continue to push the box aesthetically allowed us to create intriguing, one-of-a-kind interiors that you won’t find anywhere else in the city.”

Avenue Interior Design was one of several firms, including award-winning Bentel & Bentel Architects, that worked on the massive redo.

Such touches include private infinity pools in the Sky Villas cantilevered over the streets below with views of the Strip. The six Sky Villas also have spa bathrooms with walk-in steam showers, media/theater rooms, saunas, billiard rooms, and private gyms. Guest rooms also have great views from floor-to-ceiling windows, along with new custom furniture, and all-new marble bathrooms with walk-in showers. On the ground level, the remodeled casino showcases an expansive modern-art collection that includes Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Damien Hirst. Most of the restaurants and bars were replaced with new ones, including efforts by celebrity chefs Michael Symon (Mabel’s) and Marc Vetri (Vetri Cucina), a new eatery by superstar Bobby Flay (Shark), Vegas’ hottest new steakhouse, Scotch 80 Prime, and the city’s first outpost of Hong Kong’s Michelin-starred Tim Ho Wan, along with three new bars and cocktail lounges.

Melville Marriott, Long Island, NY

Architect: Columbia Sussex

Interior Designer: Tanja C. Wick, Design Director

Columbia Sussex is one of the largest Marriott franchisees in the country, and it is currently undertaking an aggressive renovation program at nine of its properties. Most recently, it completed a $10 million-plus renovation of Melville Marriott Long Island. The work included upgrades to the new Marriott brand standards of architectural aesthetic and design, while taking inspiration for colors and materials from Long Island’s vineyards, beaches, parks, and the sea.

All 371 guest rooms were redone in a new color palette and included dark woods, brushed metal, contemporary murals, and caramel-colored leather that evoke the professional yet relaxed vibe of Long Island. The guest rooms were furnished with new mattresses and bedding, mini-fridges, large desks with plug-in panels and high-speed Wi-Fi, and 44-inch flat-panel TVs with Enseo In-Room Entertainment.

A 10,000-square-foot ballroom was also renovated, representing more than half of the hotel’s 19,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor meeting space. Most visibly, the “Great Room” common area on the lobby level, 10,000 square feet of lounging space and a popular hub of activity for guests, was redone. This broke the space into different style areas, including new banquette seating with individual inlay plasma screens for small groups, plus more of the increasingly popular private deuce seating, ideal for one-on-one meetings. The entire Great Room is now equipped with all the necessary technology and plug-ins to keep guests productive. The work was planned by Tanja C. Wick, design director for Columbia Sussex.

The Oasis, Death Valley, CA

Architect: OZ Architecture

Interior Designer: Johnson David Interiors

Built in 1927, the historic mission-style inn is uniquely located next to the Visitor Center within Death Valley National Park. It is owned and operated by Xanterra Travel Collection, which has the concession for many national park lodging properties. After more than 90 years of continuous hotel operation, Xanterra decided to do a total renovation and expansion, a $100-million project completed in February 2018. All 66 rooms were redone down to the studs, with new electrical wiring, plumbing, drywall, and bathrooms.

The existing restaurant and cocktail lounge were renovated; they added a spa, a wedding/event facility, and a café alongside the outdoor pool patio. But the biggest addition was the construction of 22 one-bedroom freestanding casitas, increasing lodging capacity by 33 percent and adding a higher-priced room category. “Ultimately, the decision to renovate was based on our commitment to preserve and protect such an iconic experience,” Andrew Todd, president & CEO of Xanterra, says. “The Oasis at Death Valley is a unique American experience that is worthy of such an investment, so it can continue to provide legendary hospitality with a softer footprint in one of the great American national parks.”

SpringHill Suites Downtown/Medical Center, Miami, FL

Interior Designer: ID & Design International

Convenient to the University of Miami, Marlins Park stadium, the city’s downtown, and especially the medical center, this property just completed a $2.9-million refresh in October 2018. The work included a complete redesign of the public spaces and all 198 guest rooms, bringing the latter in line with the needs of the modern traveler by adding ergonomic workstations, complimentary Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and mini-refrigerators and microwaves. The budget property is all suites, and the renovated accommodations are 25-percent larger than traditional hotel rooms in the Miami market.

Sitting areas, including couches and coffee tables in addition to the main bedroom area, were redone in a contemporary color palette and custom furnishings. The lobby transformation focused on changing usage trends among today’s guests and the growing interest in open workspaces. It now features more comfortable seating where guests can gather with friends and colleagues or finish last-minute work before a meeting, with a mix of modern lounge chairs, couches, and tables. Contemporary lighting and artwork were added to give the city property an air of urban style.


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