Hotel Gritti Palace Renovation (Swoon!)

I had the wonderful opportunity to hear Chuck Chewning speak at the Boston Design Center about the complex renovation he supervised for the Gritti Palace.

Santa_Maria_del_Giglio_Square_EntranceThe Gritti Palace Entrance. Photo courtesy the hotel’s website.

Photo Courtesy Gritti Palace Website.Hotel Gritti Palace Entrance looking towards the canal. Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.

Chewning is a highly talented interior designer from Georgia who majored in Historic Preservation of Architecture and Interior Design at the Savannah College of Art and Design. He is the current creative director of Donghia and director of design at Studio Rubelli. Chewning offered an intelligent, beautifully articulated presentation (and I loved how accessible and down to earth he was) on an enormously complicated renovation of one of the most famous buildings of Venice. US based Save Venice Inc. helped fund the project and the renovation was launched shortly after the palace closed its doors in 2011, after having been flooded no less than 24 times in 2010!

Chuck Chewning. Photo courtesy Donghia.

Chuck Chewning. Photo courtesy Donghia.

The glamorous 16th Century Palace was in dire need of help. Chewning and his team dug 8 feet under the foundation to create concrete basins to capture the water excess and counterweight the foundation. Local artisans were brought in to create historically accurate terrazzo flooring. Marble waiscotting was used on the lower levels to conceal the concrete foundation. The original 91 rooms were reconfigured into 82 grander rooms offering proper bathrooms with modern amenities.

Once the building was structully habitable, the designer sifted through all the original furniture and realized only 50% of the original pieces were salvageable! Chewning and his team drew sketches in order to create replicas. Months were spent collecting art and accessories around Europe.

My favorite part about the building is that Chewning named the bedrooms in honor of past famous lodgers and worked tirelessly to re-create a bedroom they would have loved. My two favorites are the Peggy Guggenheim Bedroom Suite and the Somerset Maugham Suite.

Photo courtesy The Gritti Palace.The Peggy Guggenheim Bedroom Suite, named after the famous art collector and her epynomous museum across the Grand Canal. Beautiful 1930’s inspired furniture adorn the space, and the eclectic and highly original details (the cornices!) make for a stunning space. Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.

Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.The Peggy Guggenheim Bedroom Suite. Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.

Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.Bathroom in The Peggy Guggenheim Suite. Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.

Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.English novelist and playwright Somerset Maugham’s Suite. The 81-square-meter suite is adorned in luxurious 18th century inspired fabrics and antique furnishings, interesting curiosity objects and offers a scattering of the author’s novels. Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.

Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.The Punta della Dogana Patron Suite. Stucco and Murano glass fans, you are authorized to drool!

Another wonderful part of the renovation was the Redentore Terrace Suite with its private 250 square-meter terrace:

TheRedentoreSuiteTerrace2Gritti Palace Epicurian School. Photo courtesy Gritti Palace.The Gritti has its own Epicurian School where up to 12 students can learn the art of fine cuisine and then sit down to enjoy their hard work!

The Palace opened its doors in 2013 to great acclaim and Chewning is happy to share there have been no floods since the renovations!

A masterpiece!

 All photos of the hotel courtesy

Exclusive Interview with Julie Rogowski, VP of the Boston Design Center

I recently had the great pleasure of interviewing Julie Rogowski, Vice-President and General Manager of the Boston Design Center.

I thought it would be interesting to have a chat with Julie as everyone I encounter is always so intrigued by the Boston Design Center. What is it exactly? Where is it? I wanted to speak with Julie so to get a perspective from the inside. What is it like to work for this gigantic Eight Story Design Hub?

ImageThe Boston Design Center located in south Boston on the Waterfront

A few facts before I proceed with the interview:

-The Boston Design Center is part of the MMPI the world’s leading owner and operator of showroom buildings and trade show facilities.

-The Boston Design Center has been in activity for over 25 years.

-There are 87 wholesale design showrooms in the building including 13 contract and 15 kitchen, bath and building product showrooms..

-The Center is THE design destination for interior designers and architects and their clients. Major industry brands offering fabric, furniture, flooring, tile, accessories, lighting, rugs are represented.

-The Center publishes “Cybele” an official publication mailed out to 7000 design trade professionals 4 times a year.

-The Center offers “Tuesday Seminar Series” 8 times a year.

-The Boston Design Center has a wonderful website and its own blog. The center is also actively present on social media.

342, the BDC Designer’s Club, is a private, dedicated space for designers to use for quiet work, client meetings, conferences and even small events.

-the Boston Design center offers Designer on call services as well as the Plush membership for non-designers.

-The Boston Design Center will soon have a FARM (yes, a produce farm) on its rooftop. More on this fascinating news in the interview below.


Chez Elza: Tell me a little about you, Julie. How long have you been doing this job and what is your background?

Julie Rogowski:

I have been at the BDC for about 7 and 1/2 years now. I initially came as a consultant, then proceeded to Director of leasing and am now Vice President and General Manager.

I have no background in Design, I have a business degree and my background is in Business and Sales. I grew up in Colorado.

Chez Elza: What do your daily activities consist of? What is your favorite aspect of the job?

Julie Rogowski:

I have a different job every day! I am in charge of overseeing the Center’s marketing, leasing, facilities, windows, relationship with the tenants. My favorite part of the job is that it is never the same, each day brings on diverse and various responsibilities.

Julie Rogowski, photo via The Boston Home Show.

 Chez Elza: Tell me a little about the history of the BDC and design centers in general?

Julie Rogowski:

The Boston Design Center has 26 years of a long and rich history of design, offering exclusive and custom products to designers and their clients. The breadth and depth of these products is unique. There are design centers in New York, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, to name just a few. The BDC services Boston’s core design community. 25 of the 50 largest Boston based architectural firms are located within a 2.5 miles distance from the Center. We just opened in October the 342 Designer Club on the 3rd floor which is a great space for professionals, as it allows for cooperative design work.

Chez Elza: Are there design centers abroad? Do they operate in similar ways?

Julie Rogowski:

There are design centers abroad, absolutely. An example is the Chelsea Design Center in London. They operate on slightly different models. Some are open to the public for instance.

Chez Elza: How has the Boston design Center changed and evolved over the course of 10 years?

Julie Rogowski:

Design Centers are a constantly evolving industry. From a marketing standpoint, the Boston Design Center has evolved a lot over the past years. We have become active participants in Social Media, we have our own blog, we are present on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook. 70 % of our showrooms are locally owned. We are working on showing green initiative, such as the implementation of the Roof Top Farm.

Chez Elza: the Roof Top Farm is such exciting news. I read about it on your Facebook page and love the initiative. Can you tell me a bit more about that?

Julie Rogowski:

Higher Ground Farm did a survey of Boston and found we had one of the largest roof tops in the city. We have a 55,000 square foot space, and this will be the  second largest open-air roof farm in the world.The roof top farm is a great opportunity for us, we love that it is a way to give back to the community. Higher Ground Farm will be growing organic fruit and vegetable for the local restaurant community. Construction starts in February 2013.

Chez Elza: Will we be able to access the farm?

Julie Rogowski:

No, for liability reasons we cannot let people on the roof other than the Farm staff! We are hoping to have a Farm Stand in the Boston Design Center.

Founding Farmer, Courtney Hennessey admires the view from the Boston Design Center future farm. Photo via Higher Ground Farm.

Chez Elza: Do you think design centers will disappear? I hope not!

Julie Rogowski:

Some people say design centers are dinosaur models but I disagree. Design Centers offer designers and their clients with quality brands and products as well as custom solutions and personalized design. Interior designers and architects have a a core client base that appreciates investing in quality.

Thank You, Julie, for taking the time to interview with me!

As a designer, I find the Boston Design Center is a vital hub for my work and could not imagine working without. There is nothing like touching, seeing and appreciating fabrics, furniture and materials on site! Being able to bring samples to my clients when it comes time to select unique elements for the design of their space is vital.

Clearly, our local Boston Design Center is in the NOW and I am thrilled with the cutting edge marketing approach our center is embracing under the initiative of Julie Rogowski!

A bientôt, my friends!