Hot Opening: Atlanta W becomes Hotel Colee

In December, Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood got its first Autograph Collection hotel. The Hotel Colee had previously been one of three W hotels in Atlanta, but owner Woodbine Development Corp. wanted to bring the property into Marriott International’s soft-brand portfolio and make it more distinctive.

“The physical layout of the property also made a little bit more sense as an Autograph Collection than as a W,” said Kate Buska, VP of brand development at Practice Hospitality, which was brought on to manage the property as it rebranded. “The way that the spaces are laid out [is] a little more intimate, a little bit more creative.”

While W hotels have a “very distinct, specific” look, she said, hotels in the soft brand can be more flexible in terms of design. At the same time, other soft brands were opening around the area, and an Autograph was overdue. 

Looking to fully evoke the Buckhead neighborhood, the Practice Hospitality team recruited a local branding company that was familiar with the market and could help the management company identify what would make the property truly reflective of the community. “We looked at ‘Why do people come to Buckhead? What are they looking for?’and developed a brand positioning that spoke to the area,” Buska said. The affluent neighborhood is famous for its shopping and its social scene, so the team decided to market the property as a place to party. “We really had the opportunity to be the hotel that was about causing celebration,” she said, and reflect the contemporary Southern spirit and the “diverse, artistic, creative, stylish, confident place that Atlanta is.” The less-restrictive nature of a soft brand gave the team more freedom to focus on what was fun and playful, she added. 

New Look

The conversion began in the second half of 2020 and was completed by the end of the first quarter of 2021. The team anticipated an uptick in travel in the second quarter and wanted the property to be ready before the peak summer season. “This was not a project where we took the hotel down to the studs,” Buska said. “This was really more about taking the spaces as they laid and making them speak to the brand.” The public spaces were revamped and all spaces got new furniture and wallcoverings. 

The team selected interior designer Andrew Alford to oversee the property’s aesthetics and partnered with local artists and a print shop to create a sense of authenticity, including a rotating gallery of local artists. The perimeter of the lobby is a solid lavender hue while the middle of the space will include reupholstered vintage barber chairs in front of custom lavender millwork that converts into mirrored shelving. Similarly, the seating in the lobby bar also is lavender. 

The guestroom walls have prints from Georgian artist Lela Brunet that feature women with elaborate hairdos and head-wraps—the inspiration for the lobby’s homage to beauty parlors and barber shops.

Buska describes Alford as being like a DJ as he mixed patterns and colors within the spaces. “The brilliance of his design is that it is sort of organic, and it not does not hinge on one particular pattern," she said. "It's the interplay of the patterns.”  

Since the hotel opened, the leadership team has continued the community outreach, hosting a fashion event in which local fashion bloggers could get early access to the latest pieces from local designers. “That's perfect for Buckhead because it's a place where people really shop,” Buska said.

Hotel Colee

Hotel Colee is in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, within walking distance of the Lenox Square shopping mall and the Shops Around Lenox. The hotel is also close to luxury shops like Versace, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. A number of high-rise office buildings are in the area, and Mercedes Benz Stadium is less than 10 miles away.
December 2020
Moe Fahmy
Woodbine Development Corp.
Practice Hospitality
Converting a hotel during a pandemic presented some challenges, particularly with the supply chain. “It was harder to get products across the board, so it took a little longer [than planned],” said Buska. Designer Alford worked with the purchasing agents to be as flexible as possible, going through “many iterations” of concepts based on what he could get from the suppliers. The property remained open throughout the renovation—a decision facilitated by the travel downturn and subsequent reduced occupancy—leading to a reduced impact on the guest experience.