NO HEART­BREAK HO­TEL ‘

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - HOSPITALITY -

A new 450-room ho­tel in Mem­phis with suites over­seen by Priscilla Pres­ley, dis­cov­ers Alex Laws, taps the de­sign trend of retro de­tail­ing

Itook off my shoe and put it on the ta­ble. I said, ‘It needs to be that kind of red,’” says Priscilla Pres­ley, de­scrib­ing how she ex­plained to a group of de­sign­ers the shade to be used in a suite at the Grace­land Guest House mod­elled on Elvis’s bed­room.

The 450-room ho­tel opened in Oc­to­ber 2016 as part of a $137-mil­lion (U.S.) in­vest­ment in the White­haven area – the big­gest hos­pi­tal­ity project Mem­phis has seen in over 90 years. Pres­ley, an ac­tor and busi­nessper­son, who was mar­ried to Elvis from 1967 to 1973, had a con­sult­ing role in the project and over­saw the de­sign of 20 sig­na­ture suites, which are con­sid­ered the jewel in the four-star-ho­tel’s crown.

Work­ing along­side Mem­phis-based DreamCatcher Ho­tels, the de­vel­op­ment com­pany man­ag­ing the de­sign and con­struc­tion, and ar­chi­tec­ture and in­te­ri­ors firm HBG De­sign, Pres­ley weighed in on ev­ery­thing from ma­te­ri­als to pal­ettes. “She would col­lab­o­rate on the colours and the pat­terns, and tell us what Elvis would have liked,” says Mark Weaver, HBG prin­ci­pal ar­chi­tect and lead de­signer for the prop­erty. “Elvis was cer­tainly an in­no­va­tor in terms of fash­ion and so she was able to com­mu­ni­cate that to us, with him not be­ing here, of course.”

En­gag­ing Pres­ley in the de­sign process pro­vides the Guest House at Grace­land with an authen­tic con­nec­tion to the his­tory of the area, some­thing many com­pa­nies are striv­ing for. “When ho­tel de­sign­ers choose to in­cor­po­rate de­tails that hear­ken back to an­other era, or speak to that lo­ca­tion or spe­cific roots, it makes the over­all

ho­tel and the over­all guest stay that much more unique and more mem­o­rable,” says Deanna Ting, hos­pi­tal­ity edi­tor at travel in­dus­try re­search firm Skift. She adds that in­creased vin­tage de­tail­ing speaks to trav­ellers’ grow­ing de­sires for unique ex­pe­ri­ences and the sto­ries that come with them.

Since the early days of bou­tique ho­tels in the late 1990s, such as the Stan­dard in Los An­ge­les, there has been a ro­man­ti­ciz­ing of vin­tage de­sign. But today, mod­ern­iz­ing that retro aes­thetic is a key am­bi­tion for in­de­pen­dent ho­tels, which strive to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves from chains – and not just in ma­jor cities. An­other great ex­am­ple of this, says Ting, is the Dwell Ho­tel in Chat­tanooga, Tenn., which has stel­lar Mad Men-style vi­gnettes dot­ted through­out.

That per­fect shade of red that Pres­ley was af­ter – a rich, rosy crim­son – is most vis­i­ble in the 1,600-square-feet King’s Suite 1, which is in­spired by Elvis’s Mem­phis bed­room. As a group, the suites are re­ferred to as the Up­stairs, a ref­er­ence to the pri­vate liv­ing quar­ters at next door’s Grace­land, an area that re­mains off lim­its to visi­tors today. “They are in­spired by homes that Elvis and I lived in,” says Pres­ley, who had a hand in dec­o­rat­ing many of their dwellings.

In King’s Suite 1, four vi­brant red easy chairs cre­ate a fo­cal point in the sit­tin­groom area. The colour is echoed in plush vel­vet cur­tains flank­ing the giant bed and cre­at­ing a canopy above it, in the cen­tre of which is a flatscreen TV.

“Back in Grace­land, in his bed­room Elvis had a TV mounted over his bed, but it was a tube tele­vi­sion,” says Weaver. “Peo­ple couldn’t be­lieve that’s what he had, but he was very into the lat­est tech­nol­ogy.”

Other mod­ern twists are preva­lent through­out the suite. Take the white, graphic light hang­ing above the bar: It’s in­spired by the fire­place the cou­ple had in their Cal­i­for­nia res­i­dence. “The Palm Springs house was very ec­cen­tric, mod­ern and the fire­place had this hour-glass shape, so we took that and made a light fix­ture with it,” says Weaver. There was a care­ful man­date to not ex­actly repli­cate Elvis’s pre­vi­ous abodes or to over­shadow Grace­land, he says, adding, “The re­search was the fun part – rein­ter­pret­ing what Elvis would have done today.”

Pop­u­lar­ity of today’s retro reimag­in­ing aside, it’s un­sur­pris­ing a prop­erty like the Guest House at Grace­land in Mem­phis would en­list the de­sign in­flu­ence of Priscilla Pres­ley, says Ting. “It’s part of telling the story of Grace­land and it just adds to the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence in a way that’s hard to repli­cate, well, any­where else.” Travel and ac­com­mo­da­tion for Alex Laws was pro­vided by Mem­phis Con­ven­tion and Visi­tors Bureau and the Guest House at Grace­land. The com­pa­nies did not re­view or ap­prove this ar­ti­cle prior to pub­li­ca­tion.

FIT FOR A KING Priscilla Pres­ley con­sulted on the de­sign of the Grace­land Guest House’s Up­stairs Suites, which start at $599 (U.S.) per night. The King’s Suite 1 fea­tures a tele­vi­sion above the bed (above) and the Ver­non and Gla­dys suite (left) was in­spired by Elvis’s Palm Springs home.

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