Be Our Guest - Hospitality Winner - Hotel Sofitel, Philadelphia, PA

Aug. 10, 2001
Philadelphia welcomes guests to its first international hotel
Brokers. Investment bankers. Futures. Stocks.
In 1967, this is what you'd find at 120 South 17th Street in downtown Philly. Today, the once bustling Philadelphia Stock Exchange building welcomes a new kind of traffic - the sophisticated traveler, business person, vacationer - all as guests of the city's only international hotel, the Hotel Sofitel Philadelphia.

Purchased by Accor, a French company and European leader in travel, tourism, and services, Hotel Sofitel Philadelphia is the first of its kind for the Pennsylvania city. True to the company's mission for the premium hotel brand, Sofitel Philadelphia reveals and reflects the spirit of the destination in a truly unique way.

With the addition of 90,000 square feet of new construction, the 14-story, 188,000-square-foot building contains 306 guest rooms, a 5,000-square-foot ballroom, a contemporary brasserie, and many meeting/conference areas - all luxuriously designed in a contemporary style defined by Scott Wiseman, general manager, as none other than "Shaker chic."

"What we tried to create was a contemporary European hotel with an American flair," says Tonny Sadha, associate, Brennan Beer Gorman Monk/Interiors. The New York City-based interior and graphic design firm of Brennan Beer Gorman Monk/Interiors (BBGM) closely studied the history of the area, discovering the rich heritage of the religious group known as the "Shakers." Mostly known for the simplicity and purity of their furniture, the Shaker style provided the inspiration for Hotel Sofitel's interiors and just the "American flair" the design team at BBGM and owner company, Accor, were looking for.

A marriage of form and function infuses the interiors of Sofitel Philadelphia with practical sensibility. The pattern of a Shaker quilt is interpreted in seven different types of granite and marble on the floor of the lobby. Traditional Shaker wall pegs (historically used to hang chairs on the wall to save space in cramped interiors) have been reborn in a contemporary fashion, constructed of dark cherry wood and polished chrome pegs. This unique molding adorns the hotel in multiple locations, and is used to hang draperies in Sofitel's lounge. The combination of lavish finishes with the simplicity evoked from the Shaker-inspired design creates a calming elegance that is both sophisticated and simple.

Dark and light cherry woods are used throughout and harmonize with a color palette of creamy neutrals. To liven up the interiors, BBGM took its cues from European-hotel design - jazzing up the space with rich blues that add drama to public areas while creating excitement and accent in guest rooms.

Striving for the comfort and convenience of home, Sofitel Philadelphia's rooms will no doubt have guests wishing they could extend their stay. Like earth and sky, ocean and sand, the color palette is natural and warm, consisting of soft neutrals and rich blues. Attention to details, such as the pegged molding and frosted glass doors, convert the space from high-design to high-class. Drawing inspiration from Shaker basketweave designs, the walls behind standard guestroom beds are finished in wood veneer - "a 24- by 24-inch square checkerboard pattern to resemble woven baskets," explains Sadha. Bathrooms contain four fixtures - a separate shower stall, oversized tub, toilet, and sink.

More than complimentary coffee and shampoo, Wiseman explains, "We have three phones in every room with two lines, high-speed Internet, plus web TV." Technology-dependent guests feel right at home with all the telecommunications outlets right at their fingertips. "You don't have to crawl under the desk to plug in a laptop or modem connection; it's all done through the lamps right on the desk," he adds.

In order to achieve a truly residential feel, luxurious fabrics such as linen, silk, and velvet were employed. Rather than providing the typical armoire for guests, rooms at Sofitel Philadelphia contain a custom-built, wood-lined closet equipped with built-in shelves, hanging bars, and full-length mirror. Original artwork and warm indirect lighting highlight the Shaker-inspired design elements while complementing the room's color palette.

Designed with the guest in mind, Hotel Sofitel Philadelphia has 67 junior suites - each of which is laid out with two bays. In one area is a parlor with a television, desk, and seating - perfect for conducting meetings, interviews, or socializing with friends, family, and coworkers. The bedroom is located in the second bay. A pass-through bathroom enables visitors to use the restroom without walking through the bedroom. Junior suites also feature a dressing area complete with vanity, mirror, and bench.

Since opening its doors in May 2000, the Hotel Sofitel Philadelphia has received rave reviews. While guests may not immediately recognize the subtle Shaker-inspired elements, they appreciate the comfort, design, and residential appeal. According to Sadha, "One of the biggest success stories is the positive feedback from the guests. We tried to give Philadelphia a hotel that it did not have before. What was missing was a contemporary hotel that is hip, not intimidating, and has its own luxury and is fun."

Mission accomplished at Hotel Sofitel Philadelphia.

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