Set in downtown Baltimore, the 440-room Lord Baltimore Hotel is a culturally significant landmark that is included in the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America. When Rubell Hotels acquired the property in March 2013, it was tired, worn out, and in need of a drastic update if it was going to succeed and hold its own in the marketplace.
“We love architectural treasures and opportunities that are invisible,” says Mera Rubell, partner with Rubell Hotels, on the opportunity to acquire the hotel. “We think history is an asset, so we bought the hotel and needed to do an intelligent renovation to provide affordable, unpretentious luxury.”
Luckily, the building itself was still full of its original charm and French Renaissance architectural details that could not be ignored. Embracing the historical significance while redesigning the hotel, interior designer Scott Sanders of Scott Sanders LLC and the Rubell family created a modern, contemporary feeling that highlights the space’s history and unique character.
“Our global vision is to let the old shine and bring in a layer of contemporary comfort,” Rubell says. “It’s a balancing act—what you leave, how you leave it, and how you express it in a contemporary way. This is the only grand hotel left in Baltimore that hasn’t been converted to a residence, so we took that very seriously.”
The redesign process began with prepping 440 guests rooms that required the longest lead time to get everything ordered, turned over, and staged. After a phone conversation about the project with Rubell and reviewing photos of the property, Sanders brainstormed ideas for their meeting, knowing the design needed a modern touch to make the hotel feel current and to bring people back into it.
“I had a color palette in the back of my head,” he says. “I was feeling gray, which has become such a beautiful neutral and works with so many other colors. It’s somewhat unexpected in a guest room.”
After previously working together on several other hotel and home design projects, Sanders and the Rubell family have had a long-lasting relationship and are comfortable with what each brings to the table. Being on the same page for the vision of the hotel allowed the project to progress very quickly. In fact, Sanders and Mera Rubell pulled together the design for the guest rooms in under an hour during their meeting.
“Within a half hour, there was just a beautiful palette of grays and blacks with a rich mahogany wood color for the furniture,” says Sanders. “We went from there and installed the model room in two weeks and there wasn’t a single change; it was so dead on, and everybody loved it.”
In addition, unique, contemporary artwork in each room adds a pop of color and contrast to the rich, modern color palette. And instead of picking artwork off the shelf, Rubell infused some of the family’s love for art into each room by having original works of art commissioned for the guest rooms. In total, there are 2,500 original works of art within the guest rooms and public spaces.
harmonizing with history
With the guest room design finalized, Sanders and Rubell moved down to the lobby, which features an ornate, detailed painted ceiling that is original to the building, as well as brass elevators, bronze railings, and gold details on the columns. The goal was to give the space a comfortable, contemporary feeling while retaining and showcasing the original elements.
“I really felt that the same palette that was in the guest rooms should be the driving force in the lobby, the cocktail lounge/bar, the business center, and the mezzanine, almost as if you were designing a home where you have a backdrop of a palette that runs through the house, and then when you get to special rooms, they have a different palette, but there’s still an underlying theme that creates a cohesiveness,” Sanders explains.
To create this sense of cohesiveness using the color palette as a common theme, they pulled the gray, black, and white from the rooms and then mixed in gold and brass to connect the contemporary colors brought in from the rooms with the historical elements they wanted to showcase. They also took the gray and black carpet from the guest rooms and reversed it for the center lobby, adding another level of cohesion.