Taking flight

A travel-inspired hotelin Atlanta continues a new chapter for Le Meridien

The past few years have been monumental for Le Meridien. which began life in 1972 as an extension of Air France before becoming a member of the Starwood Hotels & Resorts family 33 years later. Since then, a series of Le Meridien’s European outposts and one in Philadelphia have opened that showcase the brand’s $3 billion transformation (another $1 billion is in the pipeline) and its evolving aesthetic informed by culture, cuisine, and the arts. Now a renovation of a historic Atlanta property is following suit.

Formally known as Le Meridien Atlanta Perimeter, the property’s $20 million makeover came courtesy of Chicago-based Gettys. To transform the formerly ho-hum Perimeter Hotel into a 275-room showplace for Le Meridien’s new appeal, the designers anchored the look around key colors such as black, white, and gray and, the vital component, Atlanta itself—and its venerated status as a major U.S. transport hub. Indeed, with Le Meridien’s own history so strongly rooted in aviation, the travel theme fully embodies Atlanta while conforming to the brand’s goal of highlighting local culture.

“The flight narrative really expresses the idea of storytelling that Le Meridien is trying to achieve,” explains Gettys’ senior project designer Christy Hubbard. To tell the story, Hubbard complemented the hotel’s austere, whitewashed exterior with aviation-themed internal elements accented by a mid-century “modernist” touch. Behind the reception desks, for instance, is a linear light installation inspired by an aerial map of the city streets, while guestroom headboards feature a graphic of the mapping of flights in and out of Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and the runway itself. And contemporary artwork with travel-related themes hang throughout the guestrooms and public spaces—even “discovery”-messaged mirrors in guest quarters.

“We rooted the property in the spirit of mid-century modern design contextualized by local elements,” says Julie Frank, Le Meridien’s director of design. “Le Meridien Chicago opens in January and as the home of the skyscraper, there will be similar patterns and language of design there.”

For both Starwood and Gettys, the project’s main challenge wasn’t necessarily transforming an old space into new, but rather working with construction crews and custom furniture vendors on such an accelerated timeline. Every aspect of the renovation seemed to overlap, according to Hubbard. “While we were working on the guestrooms, we were also thick into the public spaces, with less than a year of turnaround time,” she explains. Among the most difficult tasks: reconfiguring the guestrooms and subtracting existing balconies, which were converted into more space, like expanded living rooms and seating.

Yet, as Frank explains, the end result confirms that the push was clearly worthwhile. Frank visits the property monthly and says she enjoys watching guests interact in the Longitude 84 bar or lobby—Le Meridien’s “Hub”—a key feature of the brand-wide design effort.

“I love to just sit there and see how guests engage with our design principles,” she says.

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