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December 22, 2009

The Latest Grand Dame Revamps

_Milan_Principe_Lobby
The lobby at Milan's Principe di Savoia

by Ondine Cohane

One of the main hotel trends I have noticed in the last few years is the revamp of the grand dame properties. Basically after these places become a little fusty the owners inject a good amount of cash, hire a hot shot interior designer, add a few funky details like a great spa or bar, and voila the place gets a whole new round of buzz and a new generation of guests. Among the impressive models for this kind of reinvention (and there are lots more): La Mamounia's redesign by Jacques Garcia (Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston added to the celeb quotient when they went to grand opening over Thanksgiving), the Pierre's $100 million refurbishment and a new Le Caprice restaurant, the Plaza Athenée with its great Champagne bar, and the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat in the south of France. The Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles is currently closed for renovation, but I am expecting the same kind of buzz after its unveiling in 2011, with a new spa and villas among the additions.

Another recent debut that I am excited about is Milan's Principe di Savoia following a $50 million redo. Rock star designer Thierry Despont--who was behind other such reinvented classics as Claridge's and the Dorchester--has given the place new life, added some suitably sexy new suites, and brought in the former DJ from Miami's Delano to pump up the bar scene. But the centerpiece is a new rooftop pool with its great views of the city--and the Alps on a clear day. Of course, the fashion crowd is already jostling for a prime room for the spring shows.

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