One of Joie de Vivre’s newer hotels is one of Palo Alto’s older buildings. In April, JDV opened The Epiphany Hotel, whose structure was originally constructed in the 1970s. Now, under the design direction of Los Angeles-based Steinberg Architects and New York-based McCartan, the transformed building still pays homage to its former self: the new façade retains the original six-story-tall mosaic portrait of El Palo Alto, the 1,000-year-old coastal redwood that gave the city its name.
With the visual impression of wood, metal Reynobond panels engulf the seven-story exterior of the building and extend over the roof to create an overhang.
The overall design of the hotel was guided by five directional words, as Colum McCartan explained: curious, optimistic, vital, tapped-in and entrepreneurial. Naturally, it’s Silicon Valley, after all. “The brief was to connect and inspire curious minds. To create a personality that is innovative, connected, dialed-in, thoughtful, clever, artistic and extraverted,” McCartan, whose firm handled interior design, said.
Converting a building to a hotel has its obstacles, but sometimes the designer is presented a gift. In the case of The Epiphany, what the building was prior gave the designer not only inspiration, but the realistic ability to create his vision. “The building was originally a nursing facility, so it had extra wide corridors,” McCartan said. “This made guestroom planning much easier and allowed us to create corridors that feel like streetscapes.”
The uncommonly wide guestroom corridors are hung with maps and graphic patterns and feature light fixtures modeled after lampposts. Room numbers resemble street signs at each door and carpeting conjures the outdoors with tones of gravel and grass.
The hotel’s 86 rooms carry hues of soft powder blue, citrus and olive green. In a nod to unorthodoxy, no art is hung on the walls; rather, the spaces are artistic statements all on their own. Walls above the headboards portray the shadows of a tree with the opposite wall depicting birds on a wire—a subtle wink, but creative way of bringing the outdoors in.
The ground lobby level is a study in color and texture: dark, rich tones and textures of walnut-colored wood and natural stone with granite flooring in shades of slate, deep blue and green. Harkening back to the pioneering days of Palo Alto and subtly referencing the modest beginnings of most startups, the front desk takes the shape of an old vendor cart set underneath a large basket of glowing lampshades.
A spiral staircase in the center of the lobby winds its way to the mezzanine level with a steel railing that extends to the floor, evoking a birdcage effect and presenting a more artful alternative to the nearby elevators.
Art, with a technological bent, is also a hallmark of The Epiphany. Descending from the second-story ceiling into the lobby is “Edison,” a date-driven art installation that was installed by the design and innovation firm IDEO with the aim of visualizing the data flowing beneath the feet of hotel guests. Edison updates and infuses a seminal technical innovation—the light bulb—with new LED technology, hardware and networked information to create a 10x10 array of individually controllable lights. Bulbs move vertically through the two-story space and change in both brightness and position to create infinite possibilities.
Lighting and materials proved to reinforce the design concept. Of the former, McCartan said, “Light and shadow are as important to us as pattern, texture and color and we often use it to create pattern—absence of light allows great opportunities for shadow patterns.” On materials: “The goal was to use materials that delivered a relaxed unpretentious ambience, but where necessary, we blended in some luxury granite and some polished metal to give an understated sense of luxury,” he said.