Historic Renovations

Independent streak: Best Western President Hotel

23 Mar, 2010 By: Stephanie Ricca Hotel Design

Photography by Gregory Goode

Stonehill & Taylor Architects principal Mike Suomi calls himself a narrative designer. “I have to write a story,” he says. “It’s important for me to tie in history. For every project, I write a narrative.”

For the renovation of the Best Western President Hotel at Times Square, the story—America’s fascination with the latest presidential campaign and election—wrote itself, but it was Suomi’s interpretation of that story that resulted in a Best Western like no other in the world.

Suomi and his team wanted the design to reflect not only overt historical and political symbols (graphics of donkeys and elephants, antique costumes on display), but also the subtle tension conveyed by the notion of a two-party political system.

The Stonehill & Taylor team chose Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson—the first presidents to represent each party—as touchstones.

Throughout the property and most notably in the penthouse and lobby, guests see the juxtaposition of more rustic “Lincoln-style” elements, like ironwork and rough-hewn wood flooring and paneling, against more sophisticated

“Jefferson-style” touches, like lacquered custom casegoods, intricate patterns and button-upholstered white headboards and sofas.

The two-party theme also plays out in color. Suomi used a color he calls “centrist purple” as his accent. This mix of Republican red and Democrat blue comes out in wallcoverings, upholstery and even the day-to-evening lighting design of the lobby and lounge.

Suomi’s team also incorporated more archetypal political symbols. They worked with collectors to acquire antique pieces, and deconstructed flag and eagle imagery is used in unexpected spaces in the lobby and lounge.

In addition to the interiors, the design team delivered graphic design, music design, lighting design and even custom videos.

“This should be overtly political, but healing,” Suomi said of the finished result. “It’s bipartisan. We’re not trying to pick on one party or another.”
—Stephanie Ricca

Project specs
Project: Best Western President Hotel at Times Square
Project cost: $15 million
Timeline: February 2008 -
September 2009
Design firm: Stonehill & Taylor Architects
Owner: Joint ownership between Hampshire Hotels and Investcorp. Operated by Hampshire Hotels
Design team principals:
Mike Suomi, principal
Laura Plasberg, senior designer
Steve Chew, senior project mgr.
Stonehill & Taylor Architects


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