Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Breakers Redo



GETTING WITH IT

A hotel has to change with the times. Old isn't the look that attracts most guests these days. We live in a different way now, we dress differently, we need to feel comfortable even in a t-shirt.

I first saw this grand room, at The Breakers in Palm Beach, two years ago when it was still in its Florentine incarnation. Here it is now, just a couple of weeks after reopening with a new look. A major hotel designer did this, I can't recall his name. Something with a Th... As you can see, the ceiling and the chandelier are from the original decor. The contemporary designer is quoted as saying (more or less), "The old and the new are in dialog with each other, creating new energies..." To me it looks like they couldn't reach the ceiling and said, Oh the heck with it. The long gallery beyond the columns to the right has not been redecorated. In that these two spaces share a ceiling and are in full view of each other you might ask, But why did they stop here?

True, the guests can now let their hair down (as if they'd needed such extravagant encouragement). But to my mind a little bit of what's up there should have found its way down below. Those tripod lamps have been around for quite a while now; do they still suggest cutting edge? Or the 90s? The furniture and colors chosen might have been more aptly placed in a South Beach neo-deco residence where the context is less jarring; it shows a great insensitivity to the bigger, more noble picture, even if those colors, if you look hard enough, might very well show up on the roof beams. I believe you can go contemporary in a classic room: witness the Wolseley in London, but to me, this looks like a casino, done up fifteen years ago, on the down-slope of Monte Carlo.

The Wolseley, lovely!

Your eye wants to shut out one thing or another: what's up there, or what's down below.

As for my eye, it's not the ceiling that doesn't work.

22 comments:

Paisley Curtain said...

Ceiling is the only nice thing in the whole space, thank God they did not destroy it for the sake of change. This space is anything but relaxing! at-least in my opinion...

The Devoted Classicist said...

A generalization: if the decor does not compliment the architecture, it should at least flatter the user.

Anonymous said...

Agreed.

Anonymous said...

We hope you didn't buy a flat in south Florida thinking this was not the norm down there. Yes, you will find pockets of the old world order here and there, but not many. Your place in West Palm Beach town limits will shield you from the gaudiness and glitz of what's become Palm Beach proper, so close your door and enjoy the comfort of your lovely new flat.

-a 7th generation Floridian

helen tilston said...

Hello Paul

What a shame that the historic Breakers had to succumb to this decor. This lacks harmony and causes confusion.
We recently visited the Vinoy Hotel in St.Petersburg which is another spectaular piece of architecture and had been a favourite place to enjoy a cocktail and watch the sunset. A designer has been here too and waved a magic wand of turquoise and glitter and patches and circles and squares (like an Ikea room) without consideration for the existing bones.

Hope you are enjoying the beautiful weather

Helen xx

Parnassus said...

This is an appalling insult to that beautiful building. Who could have approved it? The only attractive elements left are the surviving original ones.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

I believe the term here is 'classless'. Perhaps a bit TOO relaxed? just awful.

Dean Farris said...

Paul, Our Ritz Carlton here in Naples, was modeled after the Breakers, and it too was recently redecorated in this manner...an interesting comparison!

Mark D. Ruffner said...

I think the exact same furniture could have worked if it had only picked up the lovely colors of the ceiling. That, and a carpet ten times more subtle! Well, at least they didn't paint over the ceiling! By the way, perhaps that ceiling needs some historic protection ...

Mark D. Ruffner said...

Regarding my last comment, I would of course omit those tripod lamps!

Laurent said...

I confess to a little trepidation, on entering this posting, that you might extend your famous generosity toward the aspirations, if not the executions, of the designer; and was relieved to be relieved by the Wolseley. I have to say that when at last I did encounter the phrase, South Beach, I did feel the exact accuracy of the gathering verdict was utterly vindicated. That said, you truly are at your best in helping to mitigate the bizarre, as in the off-axis hillside pool in Italy, even possibly at some expense to your preference. Almost nobody else I read is able to do this - or, at least, will bother. And given that we could well end up in this setting for a drink some afternoon, it will be good to have this example of how to endure it.

erin said...

the bottom half of the room is aesthetically offensive, to put it mildly. shame, with such beautiful ceilings. agree Mr. Ruffner, maybe if they had used most of the same pieces with a more complimentary and muted palette?

TDC said...

A 1920s photo of the room:
http://www.florida.memory.com/items/show/24053

Tara Dillard said...

Don't go to the Jekyll Island Club off the coast of GA.

Your delightful disdain here wouldn't be strong enough to sustain you there.

You would die, or have a stroke seeing the interior.

Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

Vittoria Gallacci said...

That moquette is awful, there's nothing more to say! A total white with some coloured accents (from the ceiling, which as beautiful colors) would have been way much better!

Vittoria.

P.Gaye Tapp at Little Augury said...

It is truly horrible-and that horrible decorator is gloating over a fantastic job well done. no truly no accounting for taste-yet this sense somehow sacrilege. Tacky is everywhere-it knows No bounds-but worse when one should know better.

Carter Nicholas said...

Is it possible, dear DC (on flattering the guest) and Paul (on the longevity of the tripod lamps), that these very fixtures pay tribute not to "the user's" fashionability but to his wealth? We might ignore their prominent provocation and disfigurement in the sightlines of the gallery at our peril, without Baccylides' reminder, in the Olympian Ode of Hiero, whose central image is this king's gift to Apollo's temple at Delphi of tripods of illumination, beaten of gold, metaphysically suggesting the 'flesh that fails and the blaze that remains', if we can believe Robert Fagles, Adam Parry and Sir Maurice Bowra (no mean triumvirate, themselves) in Yale's publication of these odes that fall between Pindar and Homer. This would suggest, I suppose (?), a timelessness in the Breakers which even its more preserved users could, what, admire?

As to the objection which one might lodge, against the interruption of the sightlines of pleasure by artifacts of faith, we find ourselves having to endure such things in 'reclaimed' convents and monasteries, and noble family chapels all the time. I think the designer's reference to imagery of the Olympiad is almost relevant, by comparison. At least I hope so. :)

Linenqueen said...

You echo my sentiments exactly. Ann

Anonymous said...

It's the same everywhere. The whole world has gone tacky. Don't think it's just Palm Beach. The Young Turks are relentless, and the Old Turks have taken a page from their book if this hideosity was performed by an Old Turk.

My Dog-Eared Pages said...

HA! How to endure it. Dizzying! Yes, the ceiling holds all the beauty.

Victoria said...

Oh dear. The worst sort of country club with the carpet to echo golf attire.

Belle de Ville said...

I just spent a week at The Breakers after going to the Miami Antique and Estate Jewelry show. While I agree that there was something a little off with the HMF lounge, at night with the lights muted, the colors didn't looks so garish. Also, even though every table was taken, the lounge was not too loud. I could have a conversation without raising my voice which is usually the norm in these kinds of places.
While the service was a bit slow at the HMF, the food was wonderful.