G Is For Glam
Or for Galway—the Irish city where milliner Philip Treacy made his splashy interior design debut at the G Hotel, built by Douglas Wallace
Virginia Gardiner -- Interior Design, 1/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
The G Hotel experience begins in a black box: It's the reception area. The standout feature is a large fish tank set into the wall, and black light makes the reds, purples, and yellows of the resident spotted seahorses and spindly hermit crabs flicker with iridescence. The semidarkness affords a moment to get into character before the curtain lifts on the rest of the G's boldly lit and brightly colored public rooms.
Named for its location in Galway, on Ireland's Atlantic coast, the G is the first interiors project by Philip Treacy London, the millinery concern that provided Camilla Parker Bowles with her bridal hat. Philip Treacy himself grew up in a village 40 miles from Galway. And his local roots prompted him to accept the commission from Douglas Wallace Architects and Designers, the firm that built the 110,000-square-foot property for the Monogram Hotel Group, which also owns the equally posh but more subdued D Hotel in Drogheda.
"In the back of my mind, I was saying, 'I'm not sure about that,'" Treacy recalls of his initial hesitation to take on something so different from hat-making. "For me, though, design is about a point of view. The location became the inspiration."
Treacy has designed hats to resemble everything from a lobster to an 18th-century sailing ship, and his concept for the G draws on typically eclectic sources. He has happy memories of childhood visits to the nearby resort of Salthill, and his most important influence was the sea. It pops up throughout the hotel, whether in seashell-patterned chair upholstery, a nautilus-shape door handle, or a swooping bathtub fit for a mermaid.
A natural calm reigns in the 101 guest rooms, done in a neutral scheme reminiscent of the Galway fog, while the double-height Grand Salon is restfully pearlescent. But then Treacy mixes his ocean motifs with some Marlene Dietrich, Irving Penn, Bruce Weber, Ziegfeld Follies, and Alice in Wonderland.
Douglas Wallace laid out the G's enfilade of lounges as a series of stage sets—theatrical environments that could easily make guests forget they're in a place where it's usually drizzling and most of the buildings are gray stone cottages. "It's wonderful to see a decorator with the balls to use color. I mean, how much more white and wengé do we need?" asks Douglas Wallace cofounding director Hugh Wallace, who worked on the project with associate director Colin Jennings. The Pink Lounge's rug is a hypnotic black-and-white swirl, and the room's bergères are covered in Andy Warhol camouflage print. In the restaurant, candy-colored velvet upholstery gives way to indigo walls hung with kitschy gilt-framed mirrors.
Treacy says that even his more flamboyant touches resonate with the artsy side of Galway, which hosts annual art and film festivals and attracts bohemian backpackers en route to the Connemara wilderness. "The place is full of loonies," he says, evidently pleased.
For such a fantasia of a hotel, the G has a rather prosaic site in Wellpark, a Douglas Wallace– designed shopping complex 15 minutes' walk from the narrow, cobbled streets of the city center. A taxi ride means bumping along in the asphalt parking lot, past workaday Maplin Electronics and Carpet Rite. None of this, however, has put off the G clientele, who have enthusiastically embraced Treacy's fabulous vision.
When the designer visited in December to decorate the hotel's Christmas trees, he was happy to see the place buzzing with revelers. "I noticed that they were dressed up, which I thought was sweet," he says. No word on what he thought of their hats.