Bellhops dressed in Sixties-themed uniforms created by costume designer Janie Bryant from the Mad Men television series. Guest rooms that resemble cabins on a cruise ship, only filled with midcentury modern furniture. Guest room keys bearing a message that makes a not so subtle reference to the Nixon era: “No need to break in…”
Those are just a few of the design touches guests will find at the Watergate Hotel, on the banks of the Potomac River in Washington, D. C. Located at 2650 Virginia Avenue N. W. and closed since 2007, the hotel reopened today after a six-year, $125 million renovation. As part of the work, the number of rooms has increased from 251 to 336, including 32 suites. 17,000 square feet of meeting and event space have been added, including a 7,000 square foot ballroom.
The developer is Euro Capital Properties of New York, headed by Jacques and Rakel Cohena, a husband and wife team. The architects were BBGM of Washington and Ron Arad Architects of London. Room rates start at $435 per night.
Originally designed by Italian architect Luigi Moretti in 1961, the Watergate Hotel gained attention for its contemporary design, and it came to epitomize the lifestyle and sophistication of its time. In the latest renovations, the 1960s exterior was preserved, but the interior was gutted and rebuilt. The architects put emphasis on playing off the midcentury modern design and playing up the sense of retro luxury and swank that distinguishes this hotel from more traditional Washington hotels such as the Willard InterContinental on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Much of the furniture has been designed to look as if it dates from the 1960s. In a nod to the hotel’s Italian heritage and inspired by its curves and undulations, Arad looked to sculptural, modern furnishings by the Italian designer Moroso. Arad also designed a new whiskey bar that’s marked by a sculpture made of metal and whiskey bottles. The rooftop bar has a fire pit and sweeping views of the Potomac River, the Capitol, and the Washington Monument.
The designers and developers didn’t shy away from the Watergate’s link to the break-in that brought down a president. The hotel’s customer service phone number ends in 1972, and recordings of Richard Nixon’s speeches will play periodically in public restrooms.
“The Watergate is undoubtedly one of the most glamorous and illustrious hotels in the world,” said Rakel Cohen, senior vice president of design and development for Euro Capital Properties. “We have paid meticulous attention to every detail in its renovation…. Its intrigue is driven by evocative design, from the retro feel that we have infused to the mystique that lies behind every curve of the hotel’s architecture.”