20 January 2010

What IS the state of the art?

The brilliant and stunning Nancie Mills-Pipgras from Mosaic Art Now sent me a link yesterday. This isn't unusual, people send me links all the time.  As is usually the case, Nancie's link was designed to get a rise out of me. Well, a rise is precisely what she got.

Check this out. The image at the top of this post is the newly re-designed lobby of the President Hotel in Times Square. The link from Nancie took me to the website of Interior Design magazine and a profile of this hotel's renovation. The President Hotel is Best Western's flagship property and they spent 15 million dollars to have 334 rooms, a fitness center, a business center, a conference facility and a lobby redesigned by the New York firm Stonehill and Taylor.

Stonehill and Taylor chose the two party political system of the United States as its theme and in a lot of ways theirs is a successful design. Successful in the sense that they managed to celebrate US politics as an idea, rather than the acrimonious practice it is. It's also successful because I had an interior design magazine to explain the theme to me. If I found myself in the lobby of The President Hotel without knowing what I was looking at I'd probably turn around and walk out.

Clever is one thing, but when clever comes at the expense of a harmonious interior I have to draw the line.

I can appreciate the thought that went into this, really. But at the same time, really? Am I missing something?

I've been thinking a lot about echo chambers lately. By being in an echo chamber I mean that someone so afflicted spends all his time listening to his own voice and voices that sound just like his. It's an easy rut to fall into. Who wants to listen to criticism or dissent? But life in an echo chamber gives anyone who spends too much time in one a pretty skewed view of the world. I get it that the grillwork in the lobby is a deconstructed US flag, but that lobby is not somewhere I'd like to hang out. I mean, how could anyone sleep in those bedrooms?

What do you guys think? Too advanced for a simple man like me to understand? Or is this an example of too much time spent in an echo chamber? Would you spend $389 for a Saturday night in one of those rooms? Tell me things.


  1. Holy crap

    I think this epitomizes why the term 'designer' is used derisively by some.
    These rooms are charicatures.
    I think sometimes these high falutin design firms intimidate their clients to the point where they dare not question their 'vision' even if they have lost the plot.

    What is hotel room for? For reteating, relaxing; a landing zone between events or appointments in the place being visited. In NYC people want to visit MOMA not sleep in it.
    ...And those silhouette pillow covers are just plain creepy

  2. Styled, I believe, by someone who watched episodes of '60s cult series The Prisoner.
    Also, giants balls of wool scare me...

  3. Giant balls of wool will always remind me of "The Trouble with Tribbles" but I think that's a generational thing.

  4. I think it's frightful. Those presidential heads remind me of those silhouettes we did in the 70s and then your mom had the things hanging in the kitchen until 1984. The room with the white couch reminds me of a scene from A Clockwork Orange. I definitely don't want to spend that kind of money on a hotel room wondering if I'm going to be beaten to death with a giant penis scultpture while I sleep.

  5. A Clockwork Orange is perfect. Perfect!

  6. You know, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I think that lobby is hideous. Now I feel better.

  7. Oooh, I love that white couch! But can we put it somewhere else? The part that I really hate is the room with the two twin beds with that awful wallpaper up the wall and onto the ceiling... and those shiny white padded headboards.. ugh.

    Does putting all kinds of totally unrelated bits of furniture and design together in one room make it "edgy"?

  8. They feature some pretty impressive work on their website, however I am curious if the Interior Designer who headed this project is still employed. -Brenda-

  9. I get the appeal of the avant garde, I really do. But I think it has to be tempered a bit with some pragmatism. Avant garde in art is admirable, but commerce is another story all together.

  10. I love you! I'm a decorative painter and I can't tell you how often I think the Interior Designer is crazy. I'm listening to the client and the ID is listening and believe me, we are hearing completely different things!
    I'll often talk clients out of Faux Finishes (losing revenue for me) because Too Much really is TOO MUCH.
    I personally love Modern and Contemporary design but that Hotel is hideous. A case of the Emperor's Clothes, I think.

  11. Sleeping with presidents? No thanks!!

    The architectural artwork in the last picture is cool, but I don't see anything else that appeals to me.

    I'll take a pass on this place!!


  12. Whew! And I thought I was just being parochial in my response to the Hotel Hideous. Thanks, folks. If I'm going to spend $389 to be sleepless, I'll go to Mardi Gras. Much better aesthetics.

  13. Thank you Carmen. I always wonder if it's me when I miss something like this. Those rooms make me uncomfortable at best.

    Kelly and Nancie: It's nice to get some agreement sometimes, isn't it?



    yes, i could sleep in one of those bedrooms because it is a hotel not a home, and i'd only be staying there 3 nights. to me, hotels SHOULD be an experience, something outside of your daily life for that very reason- it's temporary and then you move on.

    that being said, these interiors are too self-conscious and seem to be trying waaaaaaay to hard to be zany, to the point where they just don't make sense. edgy, eclectic and unique can be accomplished while still providing some cohesive style and comfort. this hot mess looks like z-gallerie had a baby with forever-21, and that is a look few adults paying $400 bucks a night care to indulge in.

    when i look at things like this, i just feel sorry for the designer. working with a corporation means design by committee, and on that committee are folks whose only exposure to design is from the mall in their hometown (ie, z-gallerie and the interiors of forever-21). i feel certain this is a case of a designer merely giving a client what they've asked for, and trying to do so an a tight budget.

    (and no offense to the designers of forever-21- one of the creative team is a good friend, & they do an amazing job of capturing the look their 16 year-old target customer aspires to, and they do it on a budget. so kudos to them).

  15. Talk about Over Stimulated! You know, for the same money you can stay at the Westin, with it's beautiful greys and maroon sleeping rooms, completely kitted out for comfort, and wonderful open, airy lobby. They have a white leather sofa too. I stayed there a couple of years ago, there was a blackout on the east coast, and the Westin had reserve power. I had air conditioning and an elevator. Best Western should have spent the money putting in new beds and real coffee makers for their on the road hotels, because who the heck wants to see that purple ceiling and fuzz ball when they wake up in NYC. Yuck.

  16. Thanks Christian, I worry about "Get Offa My Lawn" syndrome when I have such a negative reaction to this stuff. I love your characterization of it as the love child of Z Gallerie and Forever 21 --brilliant!

    I feel for the designer, I really do and I can appreciate the effort and thought that went into it. However, I still think the finished product results in something counter productive. Hotels, even Best Westerns, ought to be welcoming at a minimum.

    Jane: Here here! Give me a little boutique hotel on Park Avenue over this any day.

  17. Now that my eyes have stopped burning I can write my thoughts.

    Those rooms look like someone took a bunch of design elements chosen at random using Google Images and Ouija board, put them in a hat, burned the hat, then smeared the charred remains on a white board, urinated on it, and folded it in half. Whatever these homemade Rorschach prints looked like, that is what they created.

    I am with Nim on the white sofa though - it is really great but next to that horrific version of the Ball Chair and the overgrown dust bunny, it is irrelevant. I actually like the white tufted headboards but my eyes cannot even venture a second look after that nauseating wallpaper reversed my Lasik and clouded my corneas.

  18. David you're killing me. I just spat Pellegrino all over my keyboard. Pellegrino? Who's not sophisticated?

  19. The purple wallpapered ceiling is my least favorite. You could play a giant cup-and-ball game in that 4th one. (No innuendo of any sort intended).
    I would love to know the target demographic for this decor - there must be one, I assume, apart from just the visually challenged.

  20. That's what mystifies me too Sarah. I mean, this is in a Best Western for crying out loud. Granted, it's their flagship but still. Best Western? If I want to stay in a cheesy hotel near Times Square I'll take the Milford Plaza. That's a joke, but at least the Milford Plaza is true to its mission and location.

  21. David, your comment reminded me of where the inspiration for this room came from. Any children of the 70s remember the game "Feelie Meelie?" Four players put a hand into a box via a felt "door." Inside are random objects - dice, a plastic mouse, a wedge of plastic cheese, a spyglass, marbles, shoes, pom poms, you name it. Whoever locates the item on the playing card first pulls it out and gets the point.

    I was fortunate to stay with my family in two very high-end rooms in a fabulous European city over Thanksgiving. Our hosts were magnificent, the location perfect. Service at the hotel was very attentive and friendly. The hotel shall remain nameless on account of the fact that (don't I sound like Beaver Cleaver?) the sales manager was a friend and we were generously comped for the entire visit by our hosts. Lowest rack rate was $550. They gave us and our kids separate rooms. Incredible. So not to be ungrateful, but...

    The kids' room was roomy and fine. Our room, which looked out a beautiful street with all the high-end designer boutiques, was so high concept that it was dysfunctional. Crazy, useless design elements. If the bellhop hadn't shown us the minibar, we would have thought it was the side of a built-in box screen for the tv. No handle on the fridge door. I broke my nails trying to pry it open. Key card lights that time out while you're sitting on the toilet at 3 a.m. A white lacquer cabinet with a big black seam down the center serving as a screen for the projector tv over the bed. No chance of watching tv with the drapes open, or anyplace BUT by propping yourself up on the bed. Hangers that had mysterious, um, anti-theft? poles screwed onto them so when you pulled them out, they knocked you in the head. A gigantic lampshade on a spindley base that ate up any useable vanity mirror and counter space. I could go on...

    But the best part, I save for last: the hotel group/chain publication, stating the designers' life philosophies (they actually declared that the hotel design was about the designers!) as the leading concept. Something about, "our hotel group is sooo exclusive, we have hotels which join our club two years before they even open their doors."

    You can imagine it: b & w photos of designer/poseurs lounging in their chic black garb on overstyled chairs; the I'm-contemptuously-aloof look on their faces. I have to wonder if any of the designers invited their mothers to stay, and whether they got feedback :-)

    Paul, expect an envelope - I saved the paper just for you.

  22. Brava Julie! Of course I remember Feelie Meelie although I don't think I've thought about it in 30 years. Now I'm dying to know which hotel it was.

    The attitude behind the hotel you're describing and the one profiled here are the same. Examples like this are provocative for the sake of being provocative, all thunder and no rain.

    It's designer as celebrity and it's of a piece with chef as celebrity or no discernible talent heiress as celebrity. All style, no substance and it's as if the absence of substance takes the style to the farthest extremes possible. Interior design, while an artistic discipline isn't art. It's not a painting. People have to live in the finished product and as unglamorous as it is, the form has to be dictated by the function. Grrr.

    I can't wait for the envelope to arrive Julie, thanks!

  23. If I squint my eyes 'til they blur (and not read your comments about what it actually is), I just see a bunch of purple and white rooms. I don't like purple much.... If I don't squint my eyes and read your comments), I'm thinking '70's yard sale --maybe what remained after they cleaned up on an episode of Hoarders. I lived through the 70's and I don't want to repeat it --especially not a purple and white version of it. BTW... a very large pompom fell off an ugly white round chair. Somebody should stuff it back in and take it away.

  24. Julie: Maybe they did use Feelie Meelie....I think that game should make a come back, maybe even in an adult form.

  25. Pam: I feel the same way about '70s revival stuff. I lived through it once and feel no need to go back there. Hip hugger jeans look as bad today as they did 35 years ago.

    David: A parlor game revival? An adult version of Feelie Meelie sounds like a good time to me!

  26. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  27. This makes my head hurt...and there was no Vodka last night!


Talk to me!