Embassy Row, the latest luxury hotel in Washington DC

First opened in 1970, the Embassy Row Hotel, in Washington, DC, has reopened following a $15 million extensive renovation and redesign as part of the Destination Hotels portfolio.

Shirli Sensenbrenner, Destination Hotels’ vice president of design and construction, says a fusion of the location’s two distinct personalities—the vibrancy of Dupont Circle and the dignified air of Massachusetts Avenue’s embassies—was paramount to the 231-room property’s revamp. The goal was to illuminate “the symbols and patterns of Federalist Washington, but with lively, playful irreverence.”

Keeping the Millennial market top of mind, Sensenbrenner and her team devised a conceptual plan that called for raising the lobby one level to make way for new features like the animated bar anchoring Station Kitchen & Cocktails, and a convenient grab-and-go food station.

“We also wanted to open up the front and create a ‘porch’ so it was more connected with and visible to the neighborhood,” she points out. “Traveling from place to place, one typically ends up developing collections of sorts, whether thoughts and ideas, passport stamps, treasures, or new friends,” explains Christine Shanahan, JN+A’s managing director of design. “We took this sense of adventure and desire to explore, and applied it to a design that is modern with a touch of history.”

The guestrooms, with a calming blue and gray color palette, are punctuated with splashes of yellow, funky furnishings, and robustly patterned rugs and curtains. When they aren’t unwinding in those, guests might be up on the rooftop—an urban respite with a pool, bar, and cabanas—decked out with mirrors and greenery.

For example, political artwork pokes fun at onetime alliances forged on property, just as a paparazzi graphic mural in the restrooms hints at the hotel’s salacious heyday. Sensenbrenner especially relishes how Washington, DC is cheekily reflected in the artwork.

Such lobby highlights as the wall behind the front desk graced with presidential silhouettes and the metal cherry blossom sculpture “make a tour through the hotel full of surprises and delight,” she adds. And although a chandelier fashioned from handblown Italian glass offers a swank welcome in the lobby, one of Shanahan’s favorite design elements is a “simple but unexpected garage door. A space crisis challenged us to get creative and find a vertical solution to separate the main and private dining areas. It adds instant visual interest,” she says. “The hotel, in essence, is a true rough-luxe mix.”