Design Diary: The Highland Dallas
From a Hilton to a Kimpton to a Curio, BD’s first-hand look at this 1960s hotel icon’s most recent transformation by Flick·Mars shows high-end doesn’t necessarily mean high-brow.
Spending time in a guest room at The Highland Dallas doesn’t feel as much as an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city as a reflection of it. If you don’t count all those hours waiting out layovers at DFW, my recent two-night stay at the hotel sums up the extent of my experience in the Texas hotbed for hotel development. During that time, I only left The Highland once, yet I still checked out with a good sense of the area’s lifestyle. That’s what good design should do.
Flick·Mars guest room redesign at The Highland Dallas.
Locally based Flick·Mars completed a major redesign of the former Hotel Palomar’s accommodations and event spaces in March of last year following the 198-key upscale property’s conversion from a Kimpton hotel to Hilton’s Curio collection soft brand in August 2014. When the hotel’s PR rep invited me to see the property’s most recent renovation first hand, I didn’t only get a taste of Texas (literally), but a feel for the two urban areas the mid-century locale brings together: the Park Cities enclave and the Lakewood neighborhood.
A guest suite at The Highland Dallas.
Everywhere I looked in the guest room—including snakeskin-inspired upholstery under the swivel lounge chairs—there were clever discovery points that nod to the location. I pulled the blackout blinds to discover artwork depicting horses. Framed art above the bed featuring a bare leg wrapped in rope clued me in that this was an adult-oriented property with a Texas edge. Organic abstractions throughout the carpet amped up the modern feel. The materials palette of velvet, leather-inspired and hide-like upholsteries and rich wood tones reinforced the regional vibe.
And perhaps most importantly, all of these details complemented the hotel’s other spaces, including Knife—a high-profile steakhouse concept from James Beard-nominated chef and Bravo’s “Top Chef ” contestant John Tesar that was designed by Dallas-based Breckinridge Taylor—and Exhale Spa, a wellness concept designed by Studios Architecture that has been on the property for over a decade.
Genius moment: An upholstered panel backdrop behind the TV not only adds Texas flair, it mitigates sound transfer between rooms.
Following my stay, I reached out to Flick·Mars partner James Flick for some drill-down into the firm’s revamp of the guest rooms and event spaces. Read on for his thoughts, shared in an email Q+A.
What was the former Kimpton like when you started the project? What did you want to keep about the existing design—and what needed to go?
A modern, boutique lifestyle hotel, The Highland Dallas was originally The Hilton Inn, a Dallas hotspot in the 1960s known for its trendsetting social scene. That part of the hotel’s history provided a strong framework for the renovation, while new elements embody the Highland’s unique personality and offer a contemporary feel while still instilling a true sense of place.
Bringing back the history of the hotel’s former glamor days as a Hilton played a big part in the design process. One of our team’s primary goals was to welcome guests to the crossroads of style, comfort, culture and sophistication. Research of the Park Cities and Lakewood areas heavily structured our vision for the project. Creating a design that works with the existing structure and wood tones was one of our largest areas of focus. The space was dark to begin with, so allowing natural light to come into the space, as well as lightening the carpet and wallcovering finishes, played a major role in the design.
It’s my understanding that the project involved identifying cultural notions and channeling them into the design. Can you share some of your favorite examples of this within the property?
Flick·Mars designed the interiors at The Highland with the intent to stay true to neighboring areas. The Highland evokes the unification of affluence and elegance associated with the Park Cities, and the relaxed sophistication stemming from the Lakewood community, giving the Highland a comfortable and familiar feel. It’s not high-brow, but high-end.
Each of the guest rooms incorporates design details inspired by iconic notions of Dallas. The carpet features patterns that are an organic representation of oil and gas, both of which are prominent commodities in the area. The natural flow of the carpet patterns subtly contrasts with the clean lines of carefully placed statement pieces found throughout the room, such as mid-century swivel chairs. The leather-inspired custom headboards in the guest rooms speak to the region by evoking the feel of a distressed leather saddle.
Tell us about the art you incorporated throughout the design and why you chose the pieces you did. Did you tap any local artists?
Abundant and alluring artwork played a major role in the redesign, with the goal of each piece being interactive, encouraging guests to explore the hotel. Guest rooms feature window shades that serve as unique pieces of functional artwork; each depicts a black and white image highlighting elements of human nature and beauty along with a subtle western flair. The Dallas map artwork featured in each elevator lobby on floors three through nine descends in hue per floor, bringing out the signature sapphire and topaz colors branded with the hotel. Underwater photography is represented in the guest corridors, alluding the guest to the unseen pool located on the second floor.
The guest rooms show a great degree of functionality. What considerations did you take into account when designing the accommodations?
In addition to the artwork on roller shades in each guest room, a framed, upholstered TV panel helps mitigate sound transfer between rooms while creating a focal element across from the bed. A second desk chair was also incorporated to give guests an additional seating option. The lighter-weight chair has a cupped handle on the back to allow for easy movement around the room for work or dining.
What challenges did you face incorporating your vision into the confines of the existing guest room layouts?
The goal was to update the concept without fully replacing all items in the room. In addition to adding new elements such as the headboard, art and framed TV panel, the challenge was to update the existing pieces in a way that made them feel fresh and cohesive to the design. A new, brighter lampshade on the existing lamp bases and metal accents in new nightstand hardware were the finishing touches.
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