Saturday, March 24, 2012

Poaching Design Secrets

I've never stolen so much as a wash cloth from a hotel, but I'm not past sneaking some design ideas into my mental valise.  I pocketed some tips last week, when Bill and I were in Miami for a medical conference.  We stayed at the Fontainebleau, a renovated mid-century hotel which, six decades since its opening, is still quite avant garde. Let me share my booty, the hotel's age-defying design secrets.
Amazingly, this landmark is not a past-her-prime grande dame; rather, the post-war edifice is still a debonaire gentleman whose eloquence could grace current pages of GQ magazine!  From the lobby through the corridors, to the guest rooms, and out to the ocean and pool-side oases, it is obvious:  the Fontainebleau has found the fountain of youth.

Just inside the front door, I was able to ferret out some design tips.  Take, for example, the gentleman's signature black marble bow-ties on the lobby floor; would you guess they are original, laid in the 1950's? Idea to steal:  classic white and black marble never goes out of style.

Then, the lighting in the lobby is noteworthy for its age-defying glow.  Each of the three enormous chandeliers reportedly cost a million dollars.

At the back of the lobby, the bar's blue lights are forever young.
This hip luminescent blue is repeated in LED screens behind the concierge desk.  Who says seniors aren't with-it?

Here's the design truism from the lobby: Lighting can produce an amazing face-lift!

Leaving the lobby, guests ride Art-Deco elevators to their floor.  The doors open to vestibules also decked out in up-to-the-minute style.

Look at the gorgeous silver and blue striped wallpaper.  The horizontal stripes are trendy, but the soft colors are classic.

Along the corridors, blown glass fixtures dot the ceiling in military precision.  They are unique, reminding me of mini-Chihuly installations. (If you aren't familiar with America's living national treasure, Dale Chihuly, the world renown glassblower, go to:

Idea to steal:  Details, such as light fixtures, matter.  Their color and form should match the overall design.

Once guests have located their room, they enter their own private upscale retreat.  Our room was an example of the Fontainebleau's up-to-the-minute design--a neutral backdrop with color in small splashes.
The headboard was faux-leather, an off-white tone.  In spite of the nondescript color, it had a presence, because of its height and gridded texture. Take aways: Tall headboards are quite in vogue, and texture prevents neutral-boredom!  The lamps, presumably to accommodate the headboard height, were gargantuan. Note to self:  Keep proportions in mind when choosing lamps. Finally, notice the restrained use of color.  The aqua throw and aqua/lime green pillows added zest, but can be changed out to accommodate the color trend of tomorrow, without a complete facelift.

Then, too, notice the guest bathroom.  It was gorgeous. Oversized, Carrerra marble, subway tiles covered the walls from floor to ceiling, while the flooring was 10 X10 inch marble squares. Using the two shapes was a clever way to defy age-detection.

But, the coolest feature was the frosted glass door leading to the commode cubicle.  The three-quarters of-an-inch-thick translucent glass allows light into the space, so you don't feel claustrophobic in the tiny privacy closet. I dare say this is an idea whose time has come and will become classic.
Another enduring feature of the hotel is the outdoor decor.  The Fontainebleau, when it opened in 1954,  boasted 250 cabanas around the 6,500 square foot pool. And here we thought outdoor rooms were our idea.  Not so, the senior statesman offered his guests these opulent oases as respite from the Miami heat from day one. Since copying is the highest form of a compliment, I don't think the hotel would mind if we decked our own backyards in white sail-cloth, installed a flat-screen tv, and laid out oversized cushions.
All other design tips aside, the singular feature of the hotel which never ages is the view!

Decorators can't put the Creator's amazing seascape in their suitcase, but they can take away mental images of his amazing sense of color, texture, and form.

(Photos, other than those marked, are from the Fontainebleau's website or ones I took myself.)


  1. Such a luxurious escape! I want to go there now! The decor is beautiful and definitely an inspiration! Hope all is well with you dear friend!

  2. Maurie- What a grand hotel! The marble bathrooms are so pretty. But I would never be in my hotel room with those gorgeous outdoor spaces...