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

Arizona : Experiencing Frank Lloyd Wright’s Genius and Cactus Glory

One of the only existing luxury hotels in the world with a Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced design, The Arizona Biltmore has been an Arizona landmark since its opening in 1929 when it was crowned “The Jewel of the Desert.” The resort was designed by Albert Chase McArthur, a Harvard graduate, who had studied under Frank Lloyd Wright from 1907 – 1909 in Chicago.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to stay in the resort for a seminar on Interior Design Business Practices. I was wowed by the distinguished hotel, which is stamped by the unique design touches of Wright and the geometrical fascination he applied to patterns and architecture. Nature is always a central element in his creations, and the building’s openness to the exterior is immediately evident.
The resort carries in its walls the quiet and invisible weight of famous past visitors and guests, extending a definite glamorous feel to one’s stay: Marilyn Monroe, Irving Berlin, JFK, Clark Gable, Liza Minnelli, Ronald Reagan are a few of the prestigious visitors who stayed at the Arizona Biltmore.
Below, outdoor and indoor views of the resort. Photo credits: Barbara Elza Hirsch.
Arizona Biltmore- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza
Arizona Biltmore Hotel- Photo Credit:  Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez Elza
Beautiful gardens and terraces surround the block like concrete pavilions of the Arizona Biltmore.
Arizona Biltmore Hotel-Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaArizona Biltmore Hotel Terrace-Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaAeizona Biltmore Hotel Lobby-Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaArizona Biltmore Door Detail- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaUnusual juxtapositions of glass and concrete, velvet and carpeting enhance the unusual spaces of the Wright-inspired Arizona Biltmore Hotel.
Gleaming ceilings-Arizona Biltmore Hotel- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaArizona Biltmore Hotel Sitting area- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaWright Glass Art Mural at the Arizona Biltmore- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaNote the repetitive palm leaf motif carved and repeated throughout the resort. This motif surrounds a stunning glass mural work by Frank Lloyd Wright entitled “Saguaro Forms and Cactus Flowers”
Arizona Biltmore Hotel Sitting area- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaStunning ceiling fixture in one of the Arizona Biltmore Hotel's restaurants. Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaGorgeous chandelier and ceiling detail bring the eye up in this Arizona Biltmore Hotel dining area.
I was in Phoenix mostly for work but was able to escape to the Desert Botanical Garden with my designer friend and colleague, Richard Rabel.
Cactus glory comes to mind and I was truly awed by the landscapes and local plants and fauna. I had never been out West so this was really a treat! The Chihuly exhibit was being installed while we were there so I was able to catch a few interesting exhibits in the making, with stunning glass sculptures arranged next to grandiose plants.
Chihuly-Blue thistle like glass sculpture at the Desert Botanical Garden- Photo credit Barbara  Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch
Chihuly-Yellow sculpture at the Desert Botanical Garden- Photo credit Barbara  Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch
Me in the garden- Chez ElzaRampant Cactus at the Desert Botanical Garden- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez elzaDesert Botanical Garden- Photo Barbara Elza Hirsch | Chez ElzaPhoto Credit : Barbara Elza Hirsch
Hope you enjoyed this slice of design and sun from Arizona!

This Interior Designer Catches Up, Phew! (Well, She Tries)

I have not fallen off the face of the earth. It may seem like it, but no! I took a little break from blogging here to resource and work on all the good things happening to me and my design firm.

After my wonderful trip to New York with Brizo, I was invited to guest post for New England Home Magazine. I was inspired to write about hotel design : and tile. I invite you to go read those posts and let me know what you think!

I prepared a post on Spring Fabrics for Houzz :


And then was given the most amazing news:
I had been selected to participate in a Show House! As some of you may know, participating in a show house is a huge deal and tremendous pressure. Designers decorate rooms in a house at their own cost, and then the show house sells tickets and is open to visitors for viewing. Items in the rooms are for sale and proceeds from the show house benefit a charity or a cause. In this instance, the Show House is organized by the Museums of Old York, Maine, and will benefit the museums as well as their education programs. This is their 24th Annual Decorator Show House and Maine Home + Design is the media sponsor. The property we are decorating this year is on the waterfront in Kittery Point. You can read about it here:

I am honored to have been selected to decorate a very large space which is a a double L shaped screened porch just under 500 square feet. Imagine the possibilities!
I share with you a photo of the lovely home here:
01mainehousePhoto courtesy Ann Erwin via Sotheby’s Properties.

This water front home is currently on sale with Sotheby’s through Ann Erwin and offers landscaped gardens and a salt water pool!

My space prior to its make-over :

And another view:

Prepare to be floored! I am working nights and weekends on this!

I cannot wait to share with all of you and hope you will attend the Show House which will open from July 13th through August 16th.

A bientôt!



Crushing on the Eventi Hotel Design in New York

When Brizo invited a bunch of designers and bloggers for Fashion Week, they chose to lodge us in a hotel they have grown fond of over the years: the Eventi Hotel in Chelsea.

I can see why. As soon as you arrive, you know this is an unusual space. Glorious and over the top decor surprises you in the shared spaces of the hotel, part of the Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group. In 1981, Bill Kimpton pioneered the boutique hotel concept in the United States. His idea was to create welcoming and stylish spaces for guests. Thus was born the Kimpton Concept.

Without further ado, let me present the brilliant Eventi Hotel:

Photo courtesy Jayme Thornton.

The lobby’s dramatic entrance with velvet drapes revealing a hidden painting. Eventi Hotel photo Elza B. Design.

Brizo FW-2013 073Lobby photographed by Elza B. Design. Eventi Hotel.

 Brizo FW-2013 016Lobby photographed by Elza B. Design. Eventi Hotel.

Allow me to walk you to the 2nd floor, home to the lounge and dining area, a 60’s/70’s  inspired space with over-sized lighting and a disco vibe :

Brizo FW-2013 046.copyLounge area Eventi Hotel. Photo Elza B. Design.

Brizo FW-2013 042Heron statues greet you in the lounge area. One of the dining area hostesses thought I was crazy photographing all the spaces. They are sooo ugly, said she

Brizo FW-2013 031Lounge area abuts the heated patio. Photo Elza B. Design.

Brizo FW-2013 114Heated patio. Photos Elza B. Design.

Brizo FW-2013 347Brizo FW-2013 0924th floor common area with art by Barbara Nessim. Elza B. Design photo.

4th floor meeting area . Elza B. Design photo.

Glorious view of New York from top floor of Eventi. Photo Elza B. Design.

I am curious what you take away from this post. Did you enjoy the spaces? They are not for everyone, however, I found them well suited for the Chelsea neighborhood vibe. Would I decorate my house this way? No. But who wants a stay away that looks like home? Hotel spaces are unique. They are meant to intrigue and transport you.

I am not ready to forget this fabulous hotel design. Eventi’s sense of scale, color and grandiosity nurtured me and left me feeling inspired and energized.

I left New York with a big smile and creative sparks popping inside my coat pockets…