10.14.2020 / New Orleans, Louisiana

‘CHECKING’ IN : From Gingham to Gustavian, Step into the romance of Hotel Peter & Paul

Ruby Kean in conversation with Will Cooper.

This week I had the absolute pleasure of talking all things hotel design with the master in the field that is Will Cooper of ASH NYC. Our chat centred specifically around the magical Hotel Peter & Paul In New Orleans. 

Sensitively designed and conceptualised to remain true to the wonderful history of the 4 buildings that make up the property, Hotel Peter & Paul has something for every type of guest. The Schoolhouse, Church, Convent and Rectory all have their own narrative, rich with the effects of much attentive and mindful research, “One of the most important things when we are researching a project is our immersion within the city and understanding its DNA and then putting it through our lens” explains Cooper.

But the property, designed in part by architect Henry Howard in the 1860s, is as much about celebrating history as it is about holding an important place in the future of travel, “We preach democracy…what makes the property interesting is that we get such a range of people. Our price point is varied so we are able to invite all kinds of travellers from college students to celebrities”.

The hotel has a total 71 keys, each of which unlock doors to guest rooms filled with texture and a carefully considered play between the antique and the fresh, unique edge typical of ASH NYC. Decorative elements range from the naive romance of abundant ginghams of the rooms in the school house, to the plethora of antiques – particularly Gustavian – lovingly sourced on trips to Europe. There is beauty in both the humble and the luxurious. 

It is fair to say that Hotel Peter & Paul is democratic in design and spirit. Cooper describes the hotel as a place that hones in on ASH NYC’s ethos to create hotels that are “living spaces and homes, not only for our guests but the communities that we sit within”. Striving to support and become one with  the wider community.

Let’s take a moment and step inside.

Hotel Peter & Paul is such a romantic masterpiece in so many ways, what drew you to this particular project and property?

The story begins with our first hotel in providence Rhode Island, the Dean Hotel, we had never designed or operated a hotel before, so we started by building a team who now manage all of our properties. After that opening, over the next 2 years we continued to build on hospitality  design and operation having fallen in love with the adrenaline you get from creating and opening a hotel. We started identifying people and places we thought were interesting. Hotel Peter & Paul, our third property, started with a gut feeling that we had for New Orleans itself, like our Detroit property and Rhode Island we were drawn to these cities that are steeped in a rich cultural history. 

The property itself was the last on a tour of New Orleans and my business partner Ari completely fell in love with it at first site. The grounds are just spectacular and it really captures you when you first visit it. 

When restoring the property and rebirthing it as a hotel, what architectural  features were saved, were there any that captured your imagination in particular? 

All of the architectural elements are original. We were very lucky we had a lot of volume to work with in that respect. In the school house, the main building of the hotel that houses the reception and the majority of the rooms, there is this beautiful double helix staircase and a beautiful original plaster giant moulding that really sets the tone for the rest of the hotel. When we acquired the property the schoolhouse was still split up into school rooms and we weren’t allowed to demolish dividing walls or any historic architecture, it was a blessing since the romance of the giant baseboards and casing around doors was a real pleasure to work with.

When designing The church it was all about the pleasure in preserving the natural decay and stained glass windows of this sacred space. Its an area for gathering and events so we maintained and safeguarded all the original drama and beauty of the space. 

One of the most charming aspects of the hotel for me is the fact you have all of these buildings that have their own, very rich and layered history with abundant  memories shared and made within them. I just wondered if there was anything you did in particular to reflect that in the design as a place where people could come and make new memories?

Definitely, we gave each building its own personality with its own narrative so new narratives in a modern context could be written. The Schoolhouse is probably the most playful. Yellow is the headline color for the ground floor, we designed the second floor rooms with green, third floor blue and fourth floor in red. It was a nod to the playfulness of school life and being young. With that in mind we developed all of the textiles (predominantly ginghams), the tiles and the carpets all centered around the historic use of the place.

The rectory is slightly more serious and refined, we went for these big and beautiful canopy beds.   

The  convent building has a slightly more somber feel. Essentially the historic use of each building informed our creative decisions. There is something for everyone in the different moods created.

Which is your favourite space in the hotel? 

That’s such a hard question. I love the parlours and the rectory. We had incredible architecture and wonderful original mantels and mouldings in those spaces so it was a lot of fun to build on the beauty that was already there. We used Trompe-l’œil on the walls, lots of speciality drapery, beautiful upholstery and design tricks to truly make you feel like you’re stepping into someone’s home. There is an inviting quality about them. Boutique hotels can be many things but one of our core values is that of harking back to an ethos of innkeeping and creating properties that are familiar and approachable yet romantic.   

 

There is such a theatre that comes into play when you check into a hotel and begin to unwind in the world the designer has presented for you, what did you want your guests to feel when staying at the property?

Like you were in New Orleans, my version New Orleans I suppose. I grew up in Texas in the south and wanted the hotel to feel the epitome of southern decoration. A lot of research went into the development of the textiles and decorative materials to reflect the soul, levity and history. There are over 800 antiques we bought in Europe to reflect that feeling of history and old world soul.  

That’s such a hard question. I love the parlours and the rectory. We had incredible architecture and wonderful original mantels and mouldings in those spaces so it was a lot of fun to build on the beauty that was already there. We used Trompe-l’œil on the walls, lots of speciality drapery, beautiful upholstery and design tricks to truly make you feel like you’re stepping into someone’s home. There is an inviting quality about them. Boutique hotels can be many things but one of our core values is that of harking back to an ethos of innkeeping and creating properties that are familiar and approachable yet romantic.   

 

There is such a theatre that comes into play when you check into a hotel and begin to unwind in the world the designer has presented for you, what did you want your guests to feel when staying at the property?

Like you were in New Orleans, my version New Orleans I suppose. I grew up in Texas in the south and wanted the hotel to feel the epitome of southern decoration. A lot of research went into the development of the textiles and decorative materials to reflect the soul, levity and history. There are over 800 antiques we bought in Europe to reflect that feeling of history and old world soul. 

Describe the design and feel of the hotel in three words

Familiar, Youthful, Glamour 

 

What is the most unique feature of Hotel Peter & Paul?

The grounds. There is such a wonderful feeling walking the neighborhood, walk our grounds and feel the sheer scale of the buildings, walk the piazza, the courtyard, it’s grand but it’s intimate.  

 

What do you love most about New Orleans and the location of Hotel Peter & Paul? 

I love that there is something new to be discovered every time you visit. Our time in the city over many trips and visits was all about chance discoveries and happenings from a little known museum to a wonderful Swedish antique shop on Magazine street we discovered. It’s these moments of discovery and experiences we had on our trips there that informed the visual queues within the hotel. 

What’s the first thing a guest should do when they check in?

Sit in the courtyard and have a drink, time ticks by slowly and it’s a perfect place to stop to relax, drink and observe. I’d also say ask for a tour, we do them daily and it’s an opportunity to learn the history of the buildings and the secrets of each room and how they were designed.  

 

Do you have any other exciting projects on the horizon?

We are currently mid-construction for our next hotel in Baltimore, due to open Winter 2021. It’s another complete restoration building from 1926 in Mount Vernon, a historically wealthy neighborhood. The building was built as bachelor housing – it will be 116 keys, 2 major food and beverage outlets and a third secret food and beverage location.

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