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March 30, 2010

Bottega Veneta at the St. Regis

Hulya Kolabas

Tomas Maier of Bottega Veneta compares the perfect hotel room to the backdrop behind a woman in a beautiful dress. “You want to be looking at her,” he says, “not a lot of chintz curtains.” Last October Maier put the finishing touches on the Bottega Veneta Suite at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. And like the fashion house itself, the suite conveys Maier’s distinctive take on quiet sophistication.

With its marble lobby and iron banisters, the St. Regis, built in 1902, is as well wrought as an Edith Wharton heroine. John Jacob Astor spent $5.5 million to build the hotel and furnish it with all the accoutrements of the turn-of-the-century good life—Oriental rugs, Louis XV bergères, and a library of some 3,000 books, many from his private collection. Every room had its own telephone, every floor its own mail chute. The hotel even made news for installing one of the first central vacuum systems in the city.

That was more than a century ago. In more recent decades, the St. Regis has turned to top luxury brands to create a modern look for a few of its rooms: In 1991 the Christian Dior and Tiffany suites opened. Last year, as part of an ambitious renovation by interior design firm Sills Huniford, the hotel decided to add another such suite—and Tomas Maier was an obvious choice.

Since taking over at Bottega Veneta in 2001, Maier has transformed the company from a fading Italian luggage and leather manufacturer into a major luxury player. Relying on quality design and craftsmanship rather than logos and trends, he has extended the brand to include modern, elegant women’s and menswear lines, recently lauded by fashion critic Suzy Menkes as “the essence of what is upscale.” In 2003 Maier launched a Bottega Veneta home collection, incorporating its signature intrecciato, or woven, leather into sleek furniture pieces such as ostrich-leather console tables and gunmetal-trimmed desks. Many of those products feature in the St. Regis suite.

Maier had never designed a hotel room before, but as a constant traveler—he’s on the road two weeks of every month—he knew what he wanted. “For me the point was to underline, not upstage, the existing architecture by mixing in furniture pieces almost as if they were accessories,” he says. To that end he left many of the Beaux-Arts details in place. At 1,700 square feet the space still features 13-foot ceilings, a black marble fireplace, and the original decorative moldings and plasterwork. (Even the radiator grill remains, though it has been carefully restored.)

Maier’s palette is not surprisingly characterized by warm neutral colors. In the living room are two mohair tufted-back sofas and a coffee table with a limestone top and leather-and-metal detailing. A matching leather-covered dining table, with gunmetal trim and a smoked-glass top, sits behind the sofa and doubles as a desk. Maier also incorporated a pair of the hotel’s own Louis XV armchairs into the decor, first covering them both in suede, a material he uses frequently in the company’s stores. Brown leather console tables have flat drawer pulls, a feature borrowed from the handles of classic Bottega Veneta luggage, and the fireplace is offset by a long leather-upholstered bench, which Maier uses to display books.

"Most rooms don’t have enough places to show books,” he says. A connoisseur of architecture and design volumes, he chose a few from his Miami store for the suite, each relating to Manhattan (the hotel’s location), Italy (where the products are made), or design in general. The selection includes New York 1880, Robert A. M. Stern’s definitive history of the city; Jansen, a monograph on one of the most renowned decorating firms of the 20th century; and several biographies of the Venetian architect Palladio, a sly reference to the Veneto region in Italy, where Bottega Veneta was founded.

On the walls are an assortment of black-and-white prints that Maier bought at the Staley-Wise Gallery in Manhattan. He says he chose two Erica Lennard shots because of their calm and quiet influence.

“I spend a lot of time in crowded air-ports so I really appreciate calming spaces,” he says. After a few moments in the Bottega Veneta Suite, it is impossible not to appreciate Maier’s sophisticated take on relaxation.

The Bottega Veneta Suite, on the seventh floor of the St. Regis Hotel, is $6,500 a night. At 2 E. 55th St., New York; 212-753-4500.

The Accents

When designing the Bottega Veneta Suite, Tomas Maier was careful to avoid overshadowing the existing Beaux-Arts-era architecture and decor with his own more modern aesthetic. “The St. Regis has such historical integrity,” says Maier. “I wanted to respect that.” He did so by accenting the space with the following pieces.

The Shining

All the lamps in the suite are part of the Bottega Veneta home collection. Table lamps sit on either side of the bed in the master bedroom, and the living room has a floor lamp. The stands are made of handwoven nappa leather, and the shades are constructed with a single linen cord, wrapped without any knotting. Table lamp, $6,400, and floor lamp, $9,800. At Bottega Veneta, 877-362-1715.

Crystal Clear

In 2003 the company began selling the Murano Glassware Collection, which includes vases, drinking glasses, and a decanter. The pieces are available in a variety of colors—from clear to topaz to cognac,—and are handblown in Italy with a criss-cross design that mimics the company’s intrecciato leather pattern. $160-$560. At Bottega Veneta, 877-362-1715.

Art

Maier hung black-and-white Erica Lennard photographs in the living room for a calming effect. Lennard, who started her career shooting for fashion magazines, is known for her evocative portraits of formal European and Asian gardens. Maier found the prints at Staley-Wise Gallery in SoHo, a favorite source for the fashion industry. Also in the suite are works by Slim Aarons, Firooz Zahedi, Bob Willoughby, and Lillian Bassman. At Staley-Wise Gallery, 560 Broadway, New York; 212-966-6223; staleywise.com.

Reading Matters

Maier’s parents are both architects, and he sells books on the subject at his store in Miami Beach. Two that he picked for the St. Regis suite are New York 1880 (Monacelli Press), by Robert A. M. Stern, Thomas Mellins, and David Fishman, and Jansen (Acanthus Press), by James Archer Abbott and Mitchell Owens. At Tomas Maier, 1800 West Ave., Miami Beach; 305-531-8383.

Perfect Settings

Designed as an accessory rather than a focal piece, the five-foot-long Bottega Veneta bench (left) comes with either a woven-leather or velvet mohair top. In the suite Maier placed one bench beside the fireplace to create extra seating and another at the foot of the bed. $16,900–$20,600. At Bottega Veneta, 877-362-1715.