A New Mural Makes This Hotel Lobby a Destination Unto Itself

Parker Bowie Larson
·3-min read
Photo credit: Brantley Photography
Photo credit: Brantley Photography

From ELLE Decor

When you buy a landmark hotel—especially in a town like Palm Beach—there are traditions to be kept, an ambience to maintain, and a character to be preserved. Thankfully, Andrew and Sarah Wetenhall, who purchased the Colony Hotel in 2016, were very familiar with these protocols—Andrew’s family had previously been the owners of the very same hotel just a few decades ago.

Still, when the couple announced their plans to restore the hotel to its former glory, with the help of Mimi McMakin of Kemble Interiors, Sarah knew she had to proceed carefully. While perusing old photographs and postcards, she stumbled upon one depicting a midcentury mural in the lobby dating back to the hotel’s opening in 1947. With a similar idea in mind, she called (via Zoom, of course) the storied wallpaper house de Gournay to collaborate on a new scenic mural for the lobby.

“Hospitality is all about first impressions, and so we knew we needed to create a stellar guest experience from the start,” Sarah says. “I had a dream of visually immersing our guests in the Colony ethos in a way that was truly unique.”

Photo credit: Brantley Photography
Photo credit: Brantley Photography

Having first caught her eye after its collaboration with Erdem, de Gournay was the perfect partner to realize Sarah’s dream; the team immediately set to work studying up on Florida’s flora and fauna as well as the history of the hotel. Jemma Cave, de Gournay’s design director, began sketching the hotel’s folkloric characters, while McMakin focused on the color palette, which was inspired by a Patrick Frey textile central to the design scheme. The resulting hand-painted mural, entitled “The Living Room,” is none other than the “pink paradise” of Andrew’s childhood brought to life.

“The wallpaper is completely different than anything we’ve created before,” says de Gournay director Hannah Cecil Gurney. “Having these characters throughout the wallpaper, hidden among the foliage, creates such a beautiful story for the visitors to the hotel. Every time you walk to a different part of the lobby, there are new things to discover and unveil that will make you smile.”

Photo credit: Carmel Brantley
Photo credit: Carmel Brantley

Here are a few of those surprises to be on the lookout for: The initials WW+LW are carved into a tree, in honor of William and Lucia Waller, the husband-and-wife duo who opened the hotel in 1947. The hotel’s mascot, Johnny Brown, is seen to the right of the fireplace waving the Colony’s pennant flag. Even Palmer, the Wetenhall family’s Cavalier King Charles spaniel and a frequent hotel guest, makes an appearance.

“The mural is full of hidden details and secret meanings, some of which are intensely personal to our family, while others are meant to be discovered by our guests and community,” Sarah confirms. “We wanted to capture that ‘old Palm Beach’ attitude, which is equal parts nostalgia and whimsy and is as natural as the island itself.”

Gurney adds: “When you step back and take in the whole interior, the wallpaper is this amazing love letter to Florida and to the Colony.”

Indeed. And for those who wish to take a piece home with them, framed panels of the mural are for sale throughout the hotel.

You Might Also Like