How does one of the oldest hotels in Florida compete with the fast past renovations and restorations constantly swirling around it? By leading the way in updated and innovations, of course.
Hotel Biba of West Palm Beach, Florida was once known as Mount Vernon Motor Lodge. Located in a less than desirable part of town, locals knew it as a crack shack and steered clear. But all that changed when the name sake of the hotel and late 60s fashion movement in London Barbra Hulanicki took over the transformation of the hotel and turned it an eclectic European style retreat.
“Cheap chic” boutique hotels like the Biba are gaining in popularity and demand in the United Sates and are often the first choice of overseas travelers here on holiday. The concept is deliciously simple and the formula Biba developed could be used to breathe new life to old motels across the country.
First off they applied for historic status. Then they worked with the community to clean the district of crime and encourage more entrepreneurial endeavors in the surrounding areas so visitors have plenty of places to choose from for shopping, dining and visiting.
Next fresh paint inside and out gave the place a whole new personality. Instead of a sterile white, the exterior was covered in a warm terracotta color. Inside each of the 42 rooms are unique, painted in bold bright colors inspired by Hulanicki’s design influence in Miami and the Spanish culture that saturates south Florida. She explains the intention behind the bold color choices, “You have to have lots of colors so that people can move their eyes from one color to another… It’s restful when they all work together.”
Slat shutters offer an escape from an abundance of afternoon sun as well as additional privacy. The rooms aren’t the largest but they are outfitted with top of the line pillows and mattresses which makes it hard to get out of bed. The posh pool and gorgeous grounds are definitely motivation to break free from the comfort of the bed and explore outside.
Grass and gravel in the hotel’s common spaces was replaced by tile, trees and a variety of indigenous vegetation. Plants and palm trees surround the premises helping visitors forget they are still a few blocks from the beach nestled just off the main highway into town. The lush landscaping adds to the Zen feeling Biba offers its guests, making even business trips conducive to relaxation and meditation.
A short distance from the Norton Museum of Art the entire area swells with creativity and culture. Because of this another draw the Biba offers is an eclectic collection of one of a kind art. The office is filled with amazing pieces and each room is outfitted with unique pieces by painters, sculptors and photographers and all of it’s for sale.
Before their most recent round of renovations the Biba regularly participated in an event called the “Showtell” where it opened its rooms to renowned artists as a showcase of their original works. Guests and members of the community could tour the touted up rooms and enjoy the installations up close.
Now with a new owner Hotel Biba continues to push forward into the future of hospitality and leading the way in new technology. They are currently converting the outdated wall units to a central air conditioning system that they had designed specifically for their needs.
Many hotels and motels that may feel as if they have hit the wall in the hospitality market can steal some inspiration from this amazing hotel. Historic properties can be saved instead of raised with a little out of the box thinking like Hotel Biba.