April 21, 2018


Change of Scenery for Florida's Hotels & Motels

Florida hotels & motels modernize their décor

Chris Sherman | 7/1/2010
The Hotel Duval
The Hotel Duval in Tallahassee

For travelers, one great feature of the internet is the gallery of photos of rooms around the world, so detailed you can almost check the thread count in the sheets.

Look at the website for the graphics-crazy Postcard Inn on St. Pete Beach and you might see a room with surfboard and snapshots, wall-sized surf murals, walls stenciled with long literary fragments or wild stripes, a lobby of classic ’50s furniture, infinite book cubbies and patterns on the polished concrete. Too cool for you? There’s still a big pool, tiki bar and barbecue restaurant.

Or check out the website of Aloft at Jacksonville Airport, which shows crisp white duvets, bright striped bolsters and jewel-tone bench seats.

While the hotel industry has revamped for younger, design-conscious customers across the country, the view in Florida outside Miami has too often been the teal-tinged oldies: A lobby cluttered with tacky pamphlets and bedrooms festooned with florals, palms and pelicans.

But Florida hotels and motels are slowly pulling into modern décor, mid-century or 21st century.

Sometimes it’s accidental — as with the Postcard Inn. Developers who wanted to replace an aged motel on St. Pete Beach were stymied by local permits and decided to squeeze their lemons into a sassy retro daiquiri.

More often the updating is deliberate.

The target is not the traditional Florida visitors, seniors and families heading to the beaches or Disney, but the young and the hip, business travelers and anyone with style, particularly in urban areas or city centers.

Contemporary looks can be found at any price point, on the Naples grand scale, where the public space in the Naples Grande Beach Resort, a Waldorf Astoria property, is eye-stopping pure, sleek and?sexy and the rooms are oases of white and taupe. Motel 6 won best “large hotel” design this year from Travel & Leisure for its bright remodeling by a British cruise cabin designer, gradually coming to all its units. Holiday Inn, under its new lime-green logo, is sprucing and brightening everything from linens to shower heads (even a choice of pillows) and reinventing lobbies.

The Postcard Inn at St. Pete Beach
While most hotels boast of eco-sensitivity and high-tech amenities, redesigns go deeper, to both aesthetics and functionality of rooms as places to rest, relax and work. The look is cleaner and warmer, neutral gray, tan and white, with splashes of red, yellow and orange; artwork is contemporary; furniture is simpler and modern. Fabrics are soft, and floors often hard surfaced. Beds have better mattresses and pillows; bathrooms have better details and curved shower rails to feel larger. Flat-screen TVs allow separate work area and relaxation space, with settees or sofas for reading and TV watching, even in small non-suite rooms.

Tallahassee’s Hotel Duval offers an uptown oasis of cool in the middle of politics central. Public areas are stylishly stark in dark woods, white and neutrals; sleek rooms come in a choice of blazing colors from “uplifting yellows” to “exhilarating reds.” Likewise, the Wyvern injected modern style into Victorian Punta Gorda with a lobby of Corbusier chairs next to a nuevo tapas bar.

And hotel building continues, slump or no. At Avion Park across from Tampa International Airport, McKibbon Hotel Management has a Hilton Garden Inn and two suites hotels in a playful jigsaw of maroon, blue, purple and white; less than a mile away, an Element Hotel is under construction.

Older properties are joining in as well. At the Sheraton at Sand Key, Russ Kimball, general manger for three decades, just finished a major revamping down to Sheraton-standard white duvets on every bed and thinks up an improvement every year. “You have to keep up. When you have a lot of repeat guests, they want to know what’s new. It shows you’re keeping up.’’

Tags: Dining & Travel

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