Sizzling in Scottsdale *
Arizona gets sexed up at the James Hotel, designed by Deborah Berke
Kathryn Harris -- Interior Design, 6/1/2004 12:00:00 AM
Lounge music plays 24-7—even in the pool, underwater. In the mini-bars, condoms nestle next to martini fixings. Vibrant reds, purples, and pinks pervade every conceivable space. Are we in Las Vegas? Or Los Angeles, perhaps? Actually, in terms of connotation, we couldn't be farther away.
A suburb of Phoenix, Scottsdale is an area of Arizona most often associated with retirees, golf courses, and old-fashioneds. At least it was until restaurateur Stephen Hanson and Equinox Fitness founder Danny Errico hit the scene. The first-time hoteliers bought the former Olde Town Inn on a 7-acre parcel, then turned to Deborah Berke & Partners Architects to take an irreverent stance.
"We had endless meetings with Hanson about sex," recalls senior designer Stephen Brockman. "After our initial shock, it became interesting discussing how to realize that in a design context." What materialized is an ongoing dialogue between seeing, being seen, and not being seen at all.
Having taken the sex talk in stride, Deborah Berke's team remained undaunted in the 'face of the existing hotel's faux Western remnants—think wagon wheels and coyote cutouts—plus a layout that made little sense. The architects simply abandoned themselves to Hanson and Errico's desires to fashion an unbelievably stylish, luxurious hotel on a shoestring budget.
In a single economical gesture, for example, giant red-painted "fins" repeat throughout the property, creating drama, defining scale, and concealing structural and lighting elements. The interlocked concrete volumes of the dining patio's original fireplace got nothing more than three coats of Luis Barragán– inspired paint in purple and shocking pink, colors with the verve to hold their own in the desert light.
Exterior work fell into the face-lift category. However, the main building's 34,000-square-foot interior underwent massive surgery. Berke removed ceilings to accommodate a triple-height lobby, now furnished with Deborah Berke & Partners's own cubelike lounge chairs upholstered in faux suede. The chairs are positioned to face either the outdoors, through an expanse of glass, or swaths of white wall sizable enough to serve as screens for James Cagney and James Dean movies, projected around the clock. "We worked toward making spaces figural," explains Berke.
The J Bar's ceiling falls to a more intimate 8 feet. At Fiamma Trattoria, a Hanson restaurant imported from New York, the 4,500-square-foot dining room centers on Berke's freestanding banquette, a modified diamond with concave sides and arabesque upholstery. A futuristic David Weeks chandelier hangs above, while semi-recessed down-lights set glass-drop diffusers asparkle. Booths are enclosed by checkerboard squares of backlit mica. '
Fiamma Trattoria's richness gives way to the guest rooms' restraint—a single notable exception being Berke's oversize chairs and ottomans, upholstered in red chenille. Housed in six different buildings accessed by outdoor walkways, the 195 rooms, all measuring 300 square feet, also feature the architect's oak-veneered platform bed, a wall-hung 42-inch flat-panel plasma TV, and multiple light sources on dimmers. Chic serenity reigns.
Standard bathrooms are small but efficient. Built into the bottom of each vanity mirror, a stainless-steel shelf holds toiletries. The sink is bracketed by a counter and backsplash of quartz and resin.
The hotel's two "ultra suites" feature larger bathrooms, plus a bedroom, a dining room, and a living room appointed with Berke's cowhide-covered oak benches, flanking her Parsons table clad in red plastic laminate. Windows overlook an angular red-painted stucco fountain that empties into a circular pool—adjacent to a 120-foot-long lap pool, once a sunken tennis court. "The combination is in keeping with the surrounding hard-scape," Ten Eyck Landscape Architects principal Christine Ten Eyck says of this symphony of geometry. "It's all about the 'rectangles and curves."
Speaking of curves, guests can work on their own at the 3,000-square-foot gym. State-of-the-art fitness machines feature white vinyl-covered seats and personal TVs. Equipment lines up to view the pool area, easily accessible through sliding glass doors.
After a dip in the pool—its bottom mosaic-tiled with the word play—guests can retreat to Berke-designed daybeds, bookended by teak slats and draped with diaphanous muslin curtains. Welcome to the new Scottsdale.
At the James Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona, Deborah Berke replaced a sunken tennis court with a 120-foot-long lap pool. Muslin drapes her teak-slatted daybeds.
Drywall "fins" march down the center of the double-height lobby, past a row of Berke's lounge chairs upholstered in faux suede. Painted fiberglass columns appear to support the lower ceiling of the reception area.
Recessed dimmable fluorescents illuminate the porte cochere.
In the business center, oak-veneered shelving surmounts a desktop of recycled teak, set on aluminum legs. The side chair is chrome and leather.
On the patio of Fiamma Trattoria, Berke painted the existing fireplace and paired mahogany tables with wicker chairs.
Inside the restaurant, a David Weeks chandelier in brushed aluminum and stainless steel illuminates Berke's banquette covered in outdoor fabric and leather. Backlit mica panels separate booths.
In one of the 195 guest rooms, oak veneers Berke's platform bed, and chenille covers her chair and ottoman. The furniture backs up to a decorative quartz wall treatment.
The dining room of an "ultra suite" features benches topped in cowhide and a 7-foot-long table clad in plastic laminate.
All standard guest rooms feature a wall-mounted 42-inch flat-panel plasma TV.
Christine Ten Eyck's 16-foot-tall stucco-finished concrete fountain empties into the circular pool.
Rubber tiles the floor of the 3,000-square-foot gym, which opens to the pool area.