First Look: W Hotel Washington

Washington Monument from POV, W Hotel Washington

"Washington Monument from POV, W Hotel Washington" by Jenn Larsen, on Flickr

Yesterday I got a sneak peek at the W Hotel Washington, due to soft open next Wednesday. I’m so sorry I wasn’t allowed to photograph the interior for you. Because really, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I hope my words will give you a taste of what to expect on July 8.

First off, it’s impossible to tell what kind of vibe the W will actually have when its public spaces are filled with people. Will it deliver on the promise of some seriously stunning interior design and incredible libation talent? Or will it devolve into a pretentious hive? I can’t answer that now, but I do know that designer Dianna Wong’s wry elegant touches set the stage for a crazy scene.

I was happy to see the original architecture has been renovated, not gutted, melding the cool classicisim of the old hotel with the arch sensuality of the W style. Empress Josephine, Zelda Fitzgerald, and Lily Allen would all be at home in the grand Living Room, with its blacks and reds and pinstripes in a riff on the idea of “lingerie as a power suit.” The chandeliers are all lit for changing moods and clever little details abound, like the George and Martha Washington silhouettes flirting on the elevators.

My favorite part of this large room is tucked into a corner – the old registration desk with its imposing brass and marble is used as a private alcove with purple banquette seating. It’s the perfect example of how the W went about merging the historic with the new.

Jean-Georges Vongerichten is overseeing all the food menus throughout the hotel and catering as well. The J&G Steakhouse features beautiful arched windows, its ceiling scattered with Chinese coins and cherry blossoms. The steakhouse aims to have a rather light and feminine look, but my favorite part is the little nook downstairs, a cosy wine bar facing Pershing Park, with a communal table that’s bound to get lively.

Of course everyone is waiting for that famous rooftop to open. The old Hotel Washington never quite capitalized on that spectacular view, but the W has. Brilliantly. Split into two areas – the inside POV lounge and the outside terrace – this will be the spot of spots, no doubt. Outside redefines patio chic with plenty of comfy seating to admire that fabulous view. But it’s the inside bar where the design explodes with a fun flair – it’s an “Alice in Wonderland” concept – high curving chairs, mirrored walls, and (everyone will be so grateful for this touch) little steel bar tables lining the expansive windows.

I cannot wait to sink into one of those chairs in a long flowing dress and sip one of the handcrafted cocktails being designed by Sasha Petraske of ultra-exclusive Milk and Honey. Justin Guthrie of DC’s own brilliant DC Craft Bartenders Guild will be manning this helm, and you can expect the same meticulous commitment to fresh ingredients and classic pre-Prohibition recipes with a twist.

What’s bound to make for an interesting scene is the W’s stated objective to make sure hotel guests will actually be able to reserve spots and get into the bar/restaurant as well as locals. So we’ll see what kind of mingling ensues…

Beyond these public spaces, I know many women in DC are awaiting Bliss Spa! It’s very bright and girly, but be warned, it seemed quite small, so be prepared to make appointments well in advance. What will make this a destination will be the products and hopefully the service.

If anyone is interested in the rooms, if you like the W style, you’ll love them. Personally I love that style for drinks and nightlife, but hate it for sleeping. I’m not big on white and glossy. But the rooms have that airy spa feel which is so popular in hotels now, so if your guests like that, book them here.

I was really reassured by the enthusiasm for the history of the hotel (did you know the Hotel Washington was continually operated from 1917 to 2007? Elvis and Marilyn Monroe stayed here apparently?) and the commitment to reinventing the W style for DC. There is a lot of local love in the management and that is so much nicer than a corporation just stamping themselves down.

My only serious quibble is that it’s a bit disingenuous to say that “DC has never seen anything like this before,” as seems to be the main message in their brand sell. That’s not entirely accurate and smacks a bit of coming late to the party. We’ve been enjoying some ridiculously sexy restaurant design here for a while, not to mention plenty of boutique and luxury hotels. It’s like that NYC sensibility – they want to make sure DC’s not cool until they say we’re cool. But though I understand they think they need to play that game, really, there’s no need. It’s a gorgeous place and it will be popular.

In any case, I’m looking forward to having drinks in such a whimsical and elegant setting as the W Hotel Washington. Please join me, and let’s keep it fun.

As one of the founding editors of We Love DC, Jenn’s passions are theater and cocktails. After two decades in the city, she’s loved every quirky, mundane, elegant, rude minute of her DC life. A proud advocate for DC’s talented drinks scene, she’s judged the Corcoran Gallery of Art’s ARTINI contest, the DC Rickey Month contest, the Jefferson Hotel’s Quill Cocktail competition, and is a founding member of LUPEC DC. A graduate of Catholic University’s drama program, she toured the country as a member of National Players, and has been both an actor and a costume designer before jumping the aisle to theater criticism. Writing for We Love DC restored her happiness after a life-threatening illness, and she’s grateful to you, dear readers. Send your suggestions to jenn (at) welovedc (dot) com and follow her on Twitter.

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3 thoughts on “First Look: W Hotel Washington

  1. I can’t wait to check this place out! I won a two night stay in a silent auction recently. Definitely looking forward to spending time on the roof.

  2. Pingback: We Love DC » Blog Archive » Second Look: W Hotel Washington (Now, With Pictures!)

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