Hotel Monaco comes with a colorful twist and a unique design
January 26, 2015 12:00 AM
A standard room in the Hotel Monaco at 620 William Penn Place, Downtown.
The living room inside the Hotel Monaco at 620 William Penn Place, Downtown.
The exterior of the Hotel Monaco at 620 William Penn Place, Downtown.
By Patricia Sheridan / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh’s newest hotel gets its name from the principality of Monaco, which attracts visitors from every corner of the planet to the French Riviera.
It’s located in the former Downtown home of the Reed Smith law firm, and before that, Duquesne Light.
“The history and bones of this building are just beautiful,” says Kimpton Hotels CEO Mike DeFrino.
He was in Pittsburgh for the ribbon cutting Wednesday. He is talking about the 1902 Beaux Arts exterior and stunning interior molding and columns that are featured in the hotel’s two ballrooms.
The Hotel Monaco is the 63rd property in the San Francisco-based hotel group, but its design is one of a kind.
“The way our brand works [is] there are core elements that weave their way through every hotel as well as a certain spirit,” says Mr. DeFrino. “But each hotel has its own unique design.”
Common elements include being pet-friendly and supplying bikes and yoga mats to clients. But visitors to other Kimpton Hotels won’t find the decorative elements of this one. From the water glasses to the wallpaper, it’s a custom interior.
That task falls to Ave Bradley, senior vice president of design. Her job is to subtly incorporate the concept of a world traveler’s home into the hotel’s overall look.
“We don’t want it to be scripted, so it’s playful and a little loud and boisterous,” Mr. DeFrino says, noting the bold color combinations and big floral printed wall coverings in the hallways.
“Basically it’s colorful, causal and a little bit international.”
Ms. Bradley hired an interior designer for the hotel and another one to create the look of the restaurant, The Commoner. Interior designer Mark Zeff gave the restaurant bar its industrial chic look, while Christian Schnyder of Los Angeles-based Beleco Design helped create the playful, sophisticated leitmotif of the hotel.
“We had so much fun bringing the vision to life,” said Mr. Schnyder.
The clean black-and-white lobby belies the fanciful chandelier, which most guests don’t notice until they walk up the multicolored striped stairs.
“We always wanted to bring some nature inside the hotel, and having a ‘garden’ hanging from the ceiling seemed a perfect way to do so,” Mr. Schnyder said. They worked with a custom lighting company and an artist to create the chandelier.
“We see it as an art installation that is also a light fixture.”
Kelly green armoires painted with owls and branches stand guard over a dining table surrounded by Made Good’s bronze metal chairs. But it’s the sunny yellow Victorian-style sofa that first catches your eye.
At the top of stairs is a grouping of bright blue birdcages. This bird theme extends to the guest rooms, which have bedside lamps inside bird cages and yellow penguin desk lamps.
Black-and-white houndstooth-patterned draperies frame guest room windows, while black lacquer case-goods accented with gold may be a nod to the city’s championship sports teams.
“We took the patterns and materials from classic men’s suits as inspiration for the room,” Mr. Schnyder said.
He kept the color palette of the walls and floors neutral, which allowed for bolder patterns and colors on furniture and accents. Bright green tufted velvet headboards wrap around the nightstands, enveloping the sleeping space. Oversized gray-and-white paisley prints on the carpet anchor the look.
“The dominant green headboard sets the tone,” says the designer. “And yellow is a perfect accent to green and obviously relates to Pittsburgh’s love for that color.”
Bathrooms feature bright yellow houndstooth wallpaper to brighten a guest’s morning. Custom wallpaper for the closet interiors feature Pittsburgh bridges and other themes. There is even Pennsylvania’s official state dog, the Great Dane. A framed light bulb recognizes the building’s previous tenant, Duquesne Light, and framed postcards addressed to a fictitious man named Reed Smith recalls the law firm that last occupied the building.
The first guests to be checked in, Tom and Maureen Larkin, actually met on the sixth floor when they worked as Duquesne Light employees in the 1960s. They came from Florida for the ribbon cutting.
“We can’t get over what they have done with the building and how great it looks,” said Mrs. Larkin.
A stature of a Great Dane will stand in front of the hotel. It had not arrived in time for the opening.
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