Model Makeover


 Hotel Derek.
A superior room at the Hotel Derek.


Renovation is a term that, in the hotel industry, can have a multitude of meanings. It can be anything from simply changing the carpets and bedspreads to tearing down walls and rebuilding from scratch. We put three hotels under the microscope that have recently undergone different kinds of renovations, all with different results.

Aloft Tucsonpatio area.

Hotel Derek, Houston

In Houston, Hotel Derek just emerged from a renovation that gave the property a decidedly Texan vibe—a deliberate contrast to the branded hotels in the city.

Shirli Sensenbrenner, VP, director of design and construction for owner/operator Destination Hotels & Resorts, said that during the acquisition phase of Hotel Derek, she analyzed the asset and developed a vision and budget to meet the financial goals. “Unlike many hotels we reposition that need a total overhaul, this one had some good bones that had just become broken,” she said. “Our goal was to go in and fix it instead of recreate it.”

Sofitel Paris’ Le Bar.
Sofitel Paris’ Le Bar.

Destination awarded the project to Dallas-based Flick Mars. Matt Mars of Flick Mars said that Destination concentrates on putting together teams for their hotels that “add to the authenticity and local flavor.” The hotel’s position had weakened over the years, he added, and was in “dire need of re-invigoration and strengthening.” The firm set out to transform the meeting and function spaces, “enliven” the existing public spaces and give the guestrooms a “21st century pop,” he added. “There needed to be high-design touchpoints throughout all areas of the property that referenced Houston and Texas in a contemporary and often quirky way.”

In the guestrooms, the carpets and casegoods were maintained, but the team added some touches of Houston through new upholstery, wallcoverings, art and lighting—most notably, snakeskin wallpaper.

Other unique features include the wood wall at the ballroom pre-function, which is a random pattern created on a large wall; the art behind the main desk, which references oil derricks and oil; the all-blue business center; and the fitness center corridor with a wall of inspirational quotes.

“While our colors reference energy-producing elements of earth, water, and fire, they do it in bold textures and bright colors of the oil industry,” Mars said. “It is bold and dynamic.” Elements such as bed cushion upholstery was inspired by a cross section of earth’s strata, while meeting space carpet patterns were inspired by the chemical compound symbols overlaid with red fire from refineries burn-off.  

Name of Project: Aloft Tucson Architecture: JN+A Interior Design: HVS Design Purchasing Company: HPG Structural Engineer: Cagley & Associates Interior Design Consultant: HVS Design General Contractor: Linthicum Lighting: OHM Lighting Mechanical/Electrical: HESMA Wallcoverings: Wolf Gordon, Koroseal, Cenveo, MDC Millwork/Casegoods: Sequoia Custom Furnishings: Skypad In-room Chairs: Global Allies, Skypad In-room Desks: Sequoia Drapery: VQC Blinds/Window treatments: VQC Lighting: Genesis Lighting, Illumination Lighting, Fabric Images Artwork: Farmboy, Museum Editions

Name of Project: Hotel Derek Design Firm: Flick Mars Owner/Operator: Destination Hotels & Resorts Purchasing Company: R.R. Williams and Associates Carpet: Tai Ping Tile: Concept Surfaces Wallcoverings: MDC, Newlon Collection, Symphony, Wolf Gordon, Maharam, Source One, Elitis Furnishings: Lily Jack Upholstery: Five Star Restorations In-room Chairs: Global Allies In-room Desks: Existing Meeting Rooms: Existing Blinds/Window Treatments: Hunter Douglas Lighting: Design Within Reach, Hallmark, Cutting Edge Artwork: Kevin Barry Fine Art

Name of Project: Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe Architecture: Igloo Architectures Interior Design: Studio Putman


Sensenbrenner added that, in looking to create an “edgy, young design style,” there is always a fear that the new look will turn off older guests. “It takes an ongoing conversation between the Hotel Derek operations team, DHR Design+Construction team and the consultants to make it a perfect balance,” she said.

Aloft Tucson University

In Tucson, Ariz., a Four Points by Sheraton Hotel was converted into the Aloft Tucson University by Jonathan Nehmer + Associates and HVS Design.

Nehmer, president of Jonathan Nehmer + Associates, said that JN+A had worked closely with Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide on the launch of the first five new-build Aloft Hotels in the country.

The project, Nehmer said, was a repositioning of an older full-service mid-price hotel into a lifestyle one.

JN+A and HVS Design created the Aloft by reorganizing the public areas to house the brand’s signature w xyz bar, re:fuel by Aloft, and re:mix lounge. The team created the brand-defining elements such as the Aloft canopy, and a new “backyard” courtyard/pool space on top of the existing basement parking garage. “We needed to be creative in order to include all the pieces and make it feel welcoming to the guest,” Nehmer said. “Our program started with a matrix of the existing facilities in relation to the brand-defining elements. Once we established the correct functional relationships, we went on to adapt the building to the feel and scale of the Aloft concept.”

The biggest challenge of the project, he said, was being limited by the ceiling heights on the first floor. “The Aloft prototype has an open-concept floor plan, which we had to create in a smaller envelope,” he said. We also had a second-floor pool that had to be demolished and rebuilt as part of the ‘backyard.’”

Hotel Derek lobby
Hotel Derek lobby.

Now that the work is complete, Nehmer called the final product a “huge success.” The conversion, he added, “proves that you can create a unique brand like an Aloft into a standard hotel box. This opens up limitless possibilities for adaptation of older hotels into contemporary lifestyle hotels.”

Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe

The renovation at the Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe is due to be completed in May, with architecture by Igloo Architectures and interior design from Studio Putman.

Igloo Architectures’ manager, Olivier Gibault, said that the project was a “total renovation” that would “optimize architecture and functionality in very strong existing conditions.”

Due to the hotel’s central location in Paris and the sense of history and heritage in the area, nothing changed on the building’s façade, while many aspects on the interior (“new windows, new marquise, new lighting system, etc.”) saw upgrades. “The new program inputs were very rigid,” Gibault said, adding that “the building structure, the existing staircases, lifts and all existing bedrooms doors” were all preserved. “Working on Studio Putman’s concept basis, we tried to develop a modern elegant [style of] architecture [that] works with the existing building.”

Sofitel Paris’ L’Initial dining room
Sofitel Paris’ L’Initial dining room.

To that end, the team worked to make the bedrooms “a very fluid and open space,” and in the common areas, the goal was to create an architectural link between all the different spaces.

Studio Putman Artistic Director Olivia Putman said that the Sofitel team reached out to her team to develop a flagship hotel for the brand. “They asked us to create a very comfortable and sophisticated hotel, a very Parisian place,” she said.

The easiest part of the designer’s job, Putman said, is the beginning, when all dreams are allowed. “The idea was to play with geometrical shapes, one of my favorite games.” she said. “I wanted the guest to enter the lobby and get a positive shock absorbing the quietness of the space in the middle of the city crowd.”

The lampshades in the restaurant are brown parcel paper, which Putman said casts a very soft light. “As for the walls, I chose a black mirror that resembles a glossy grand piano—but is much easier to look after.”

Putman was concerned that “too much technology” would be added in the bedroom, to the point that it could well become “more and more complicated to understand how to open a window.” To make sure that does not happen, she said, “a mix of old and new items will bring life and soul into the interior.”

Virtual Event

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Survival in these times is highly dependent on a hotel's ability to quickly adapt and pivot their business to meet the current needs of travelers and the surrounding community. Join us for Optimization Part 2 – a FREE virtual event – as we bring together top players in the industry to discuss alternative uses when occupancy is down, ways to boost F&B revenue, how to help your staff adjust to new challenges and more, in a series of panels focused on how you can regain profitability during this crisis.

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