CONCEPT: Fresh from a $20-million renovation that included the transformation of three presidential suites, The Madison is as welcome a presence in DC as the annual burst of cherry blossoms for long-time Washingtonians and visitors alike. Much of the redesign was calculated to transform it from very formal surroundings to an ambiance of relevant and understated luxury. In addition, ownership group Jamestown Properties, which acquired the 356-room property last year for $123 million, and manager, Destination Hotels & Resorts, wanted to celebrate the hotel’s upcoming Golden Anniversary in 2013 with a new, distinctive look.
“In creating the aesthetic design for The Madison, our overall goal was to create a sense of relaxed refinement in the tradition of the great American country house hotels, but in the midst of Washington, DC,” said James J. Horsman, managing director and VP/operations for Destination Hotels & Resorts. “Through the design elements, the guests experience a sense of place unique to our nation’s capital and in balance with the service culture The Madison is famous for.”
Tasked with helping bring the vision to fruition was Dominick P. Coyne, interior designer at Patrick Coyne, Ltd. “In creating the design for the hotel, I was trying to create an environment that has a strong link to historic Washington, DC. I also took into account the age, architecture and the hotel’s storied past of famous guests from all walks of life who visited.”
The Madison, which played host on its opening day in February 1963 to then-President John F. Kennedy, in the past five decades has seen its fair share of celebrities, diplomats and politicians come through its doors at 15th St. and M St. NW, and in its heyday welcomed Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and the Dalai Lama.
At the time of its purchase, Jamestown Properties COO Michael Philips stated: “Our vision is to restore The Madison to its rightful place among the best-in-class hotels in the nation’s capital.”
While it is important to create a design statement, the space has to work, according to Horsman. “Every aspect of The Madison redesign embraced both form and function with an acute awareness of our customer’s needs. For our corporate meetings customers, we took advantage of the large expanse of windows in most of our function rooms by enhancing their design. We also incorporated ergonomically designed chairs, state-of-the-art LCD lighting, built-in Bose speakers, a dedicated break station, and 60-in. plasma monitors in order to address those things that our customers have told us are important to their attendees,” said Horsman, noting the hotel has 12,000 sq. ft. of function space. “All of this was wrapped in a design aesthetic that lends itself to both the sophisticated meeting attendee and social client, too.”
For his part, Coyne sought to bridge the gap between a modern exterior and a traditional interior. “Before renovation, the hotel had an excellent framework of classic-size rooms with great woodwork details and marble floors. [But] the soft furnishings were outdated as [were] the lighting and color palette. The hotel had no sense of place and a guest could feel they were in any city in the United States,” explained the designer.
The renovation became a complete overhaul that lasted more than a year.
Coyne used the local architecture as his inspiration, incorporating gray, brown and taupe in his color palette, adding octagonal shapes in many interior accents, including in the carpeting and lobby area rugs. In guestrooms, Coyne used gray and white toile wall coverings, replicas of wall furnishings that graced The White House several decades ago.
“There were not many design challenges, as the bones of the hotel and the scale of the public rooms were gracious and classically proportioned,” said Coyne. “As we basically started from scratch with the fabrics and furniture, the design was whatever we wanted. All the millwork and marble floors were done in the classic sense, which helped in creating a timeless design.”
The colors and textures of the design may also be found in the hotel’s PostScript Café and adjoining lobby bar, where the walls feature antique prints of historic figures, as well as two oil paintings of President and Mrs. James Madison.
In addition, The Federalist Restaurant, adjacent to The Madison, also was designed by Coyne, who used vintage oak and a blend of gray, taupe, black and splashes of red for the restaurant.
“The look we achieved is one of timeless classicism,” said Coyne. “We achieved this via a muted color palette of taupe and gray with warm neutrals. The color scheme was specifically chosen to reflect the limestone architecture and marble and bronze statuary of Washington, DC. We conveyed a different design message from the previous design in updating every inch of the hotel while bearing in mind the city we are in and the well-traveled clientele who visit us.”
The hotel expects to see impact from the renovation, Horsman indicated. “With the redesign of The Madison, we have been able to successfully address the needs and wishes of our clients, both in creating an environment of comfortable, understated elegance to keeping with their global lifestyle and technology where and when they want it,” he said. “The end result has been a customer that becomes an advocate, which, in turn, increases demand, drives a higher rate and, ultimately, is reflected in significant RevPAR gain.”