Wednesday, October 15, 2014


During my hotel design lectures to my interior design students, I use the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island in Lake Huron as a great example of the late 19th Century hoteliers obsession with the neoclassical style, despite the location.  All over the world from Hong Kong to India to the American West to the Great Lakes, hotels in the 19th century were big, white neoclassical mansions plunked down in any type of landscape with little regard for their surrounds.  And this big, white neoclassical mansion is no exception, however I believe the spot is actually quite well suited for the style!

It is most well known for its front porch, the longest porch in the world at a total length of 660 feet.  I must say it was the highlight of the visit, sitting and soaking in the view on that porch.  Luckily I visited just at the end of the season and it was quite quiet.

In addition to the porch, the main attraction for me was the interior design, all of which was renovated in 1977 by none other than the Dorothy Draper Company.  However excited I was, the excitement was tempered by the knowledge that Dorothy Draper had died in 1969 and her loyal minion Carleton Varney was running the show at that point.  While the firm still exuded a Draper-esque feel, I knew the minute I stepped in the door that it was not in fact Ms Draper that had done the work.  All seemed an echo of her brilliance, but unmistakably affiliated with her.

I must say I was quite impressed with how much of the design felt fresh and new, a kind of 'Kate Spade' aesthetic that really is quite popular right now.  Bold prints, bright colors and lots of white painted woodwork.  However, there was the occasional 1970s faux pas, mostly occurring in some of the draperies and room wallpapers.  Might be time for a few updates, Grand management.

Overall, despite some roughness around the edges expected with the 100+ year old hotel, I was quite happy with the visit to another property that I can now scratch off the bucket list.

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