On The shore — 11 May 2012
A conversation with designer Clodagh


A hotel today should be more than a place to stay, the design guru behind the W Fort Lauderdale says. A hotel should also wow

Entering the W Fort Lauderdale through the porte-cochère, your senses are awakened with the sweet scent of Confederate jasmine. Your eyes are attracted inside to a dramatic waterfall in a steel frame filled with black river rocks. Above the water-filled base is a mobile of LED lights, doing double duty as lighting and sculpture.

The W’s contemporary design, which incorporates the ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui as well as eco-friendly techniques, was created by Clodagh, the New York design guru famous enough to earn single-name status. Recently Clodagh, who says she loves to stay at the W, was in South Florida to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Design Center of the Americas in Dania Beach.

Clodagh says the ante has been upped on hotel design recently because clients have become more sophisticated. They want the simplicity of the hotels they visited translated to their homes. At the W, her inspiration was the colors of the beach and the ocean to create an urban resort with the elements of earth and stone, water sounds, a fire pit, the natural feel of wood and the edge of metal.

“For a while, spas and restaurants were the great leaders in design,” she says. “But then the leaders were the boutique hotels. We are international nomads. People see fantastic things and they want them in their homes.” For example, many of her clients are now sleeping on the Heavenly Beds, which are used at the W and Westin.

The Irish-born designer says she is not about “design.” She is about creating experiences.

“Mies van der Rohe once said: ‘God is in the details.’ In hotels, God is in the wows and the ahhs. I want someone to walk into the hotel and say: ‘Isn’t that great.’ I want them to walk into the bedroom and say, ‘Ahh.’

“A hotel should not be a one-note Johnny,” she adds. “It should be a nest of experiences.”

—Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub

W Fort Lauderdale, 401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, 33304, 954-414-8200, www.wfortlauderdalehotel.com.

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