Nashville Is Youthful and Vibrant. This Hotel Got a Redesign to Match.By Hollie Deese
Ebullient might be the best word to describe the 25-story chandelier at the center of a $35 million renovation of the Sheraton Grand Nashville Downtown. The LED lights surrounded by handblown glass evoke champagne bubbles rising to the top of a flute, especially to those riding past them in new cylindrical exposed elevators.
The impressive Edison-inspired light fixture is one of many elements that designer Anna Busta used to bring her contemporary touch to a hotel that hadn’t seen a redesign since the 1970s.
“Nashville, it’s very up and coming,” Busta says. “It is one of the hottest cities right now in the country. It is very young, very vibrant. It’s very diverse. We tried to keep a design that will speak to that.”
The first space Busta tackled was the open-atrium lobby, which was also the biggest challenge. She sought to play up the inherent drama of the open space while making sure there was no mistake this was a hotel lobby — a very sophisticated hotel lobby.
“We’re trying to introduce design elements that will help to create a look that is very cozy and create a feeling of welcome and sort of get away from the initial reaction of being in an open atrium space,” Busta says.
The walnut grand staircase grounds the design with its sleek, midcentury modern lines dramatically contrasted against a white, geometric, three-dimensional sculpture that stands in relief behind it. It’s the perfect introduction to the youthful and vibrant Nashville that Busta talks about and the perfect jumping-off point to dive into Music City’s electric nightlife steps from the hotel lobby doors.
The staircase, sculpture and elevator bank, accentuated by that stunning floor-to-ceiling chandelier, work like three parts of the same artwork, eliciting a “wow” moment when guests walk in; yet each is composed of unique, individual design elements that tell their own beautiful story.
To the right of the lobby is the Library Bar, which embraces all the best parts of a hidden nook — hushed tones, dark lighting, crackling fireplaces — exactly the kind of place in which any proper local or visitor would want to mix and mingle.
Part bar, part beer lounge, it is a respite from the raucous honky-tonks just down the street, but it’s also just the right place to begin before joining that same energetic fray.
“There are little nuances that bring you back to Nashville,” Busta says.
These nuances include the large cowboy-gear-decked Elvis Presley portrait in the bar and the more than 50 kinds of bourbon to try.
“We tried to create something that was a new destination but also had a little bit of that element of being local and inviting,” Busta adds.
The one-time rotating restaurant, Pinnacle, on the top floor has been converted into the high-end private event space Skye. Walls are covered in white marble, the perfect backdrop for an aquarium filled with hundreds of electric-blue jellyfish.
The shining design element has to be the 360-degree view of an expanding Nashville, with cranes dotting every inch of the landscape nearby and the rolling hills of iconic Middle Tennessee in the distance.
“The way we design it is special finishes,” Busta says. “It’s all about the view but also creating a space that is beautiful and has a strong design sense.”
And the guest rooms got more of the kind of treatment Busta gives her residential clients — airy colors, warm woods, a beautiful bed, large soaking tub, conscientious layouts — all while showcasing downtown views.
“Nowadays, people are very sophisticated, and they’ve seen things. They expect something that’s going to create a memorable moment, that’s going to be a nice experience, is comfortable, has a great bar,” Busta says. “Discovering a great place is part of the travel experience.”