The hit TV show Mad Men may have ended its run in 2015, but the midcentury-modern aesthetic it had a huge hand in repopularizing is very much alive.
Witness this month’s soft opening of the TWA Hotel at JFK Airport in Queens, New York. After a long renovation process and numerous media sneak peeks, the rooms and public spaces in the repurposed TWA Flight Center designed by Eero Saarinen were finally opened to the public, who greeted it with the kind of enthusiasm that fictional ad man Don Draper might have engineered.
In large part, the hype has been well earned. Designed by Stonehill Taylor, the hotel’s 512 rooms pay homage to the landmark terminal, which was built in 1962, without descending into kitsch. Accented with warm wood and brushed brass, each features views of either the original Flight Center – the guest rooms aren’t actually in the Saarinen structure, but in two newly built wings, designed by Beyer Blinder Belle and Lubrano Ciavarra, located behind it – or the airport’s active runways through ultra-quiet, 4.5-inch-thick glass curtain walls by Fabbrica. (Guests can watch planes take off, says the hotel, without hearing them.)
“We envisioned a refined guest experience in dialogue with Saarinen’s masterpiece, a serene refuge from which to enjoy views onto one of the busiest airports in the world,” says Michael Suomi, principal at Stonehill Taylor. In addition to walnut wall and ceiling accents and brushed-brass lighting and trim, authentic Knoll furnishings – including such Saarinen icons as Womb Chairs (upholstered in red Knoll fabric), armless Executive Chairs (wrapped in tan leather) and white round Tulip Side Tables – give the rooms their Jet Age lift.
Each is also equipped with a Rat-Pack-worthy martini bar custom built from walnut, glass, mirrors, brushed brass and crystallized glass. Terrazzo tiles, glass-enclosed showers and custom Hollywood-style vanities with bubble lights distinguish the bathrooms.
In the public areas, a similarly evocative palette holds. Carpeted in TWA’s signature red, the curved hallways feature walnut trim and walnut doors. Room entryways are signaled with custom brass sconces, crystallized glass shelves and terrazzo flooring.
Perhaps the most dramatic of hotel’s eight bars – only three of which are open to date – is the Sunken Lounge, located in the former terminal’s iconic modernist lobby.
Carpeted in Chili Pepper Red, the signature colour created by Saarinen for the terminal, the airy space outfitted with similarly hued upholstered banquettes and authentic sparkling-white penny tiles provides panoramic views of the runways outside (plus a retrofit Constellation airplane turned alternate lounge parked on the hotel’s own tarmac) through floor to-ceiling windows.
Overhead, an authentic split-flap departures board, manufactured by Solari of Udine, Italy, displays custom messages.