The Eye

The Watergate Hotel Gets a Glitzy Midcentury-Inspired Makeover

The Whisky Bar
The Next Whisky Bar designed by Ron Arad Architects.

The Watergate Hotel

This month, Washington’s Watergate Hotel, which opened in the mid-1960s, reopened for the first time since closing in 2007 with a gleaming $125 million makeover that the new owners hope will restore some of its original glamour and generate new heat 44 years after the scandal that gave us a suffix for the Nipple-, Monica-, and Panama-gates to come.


The Watergate Hotel


The Watergate Hotel entrance.


The Watergate Hotel

Built between 1960 and 1965 by Italian architect Luigi Moretti (who died in 1973), the Watergate complex includes residential and commercial office space as well as the hotel. Since 2005, it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, meaning that the building exterior could not be altered.

The lobby.

The Watergate Hotel

Another view of the bar.

The Watergate Hotel

London-based Ron Arad Architects sought to honor the building’s striking midcentury-modern character while updating it for the 21st century with sculptural furniture produced by Italian luxury brand Moroso, reimagining the hotel’s lobby, whiskey bar, and restaurant. New York developer Euro Capital Properties worked with the Washington offices of architectural and interior design firm BBGM on guest rooms (which start at $425) and additional public spaces. Emmy Award–winning Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant was in charge of the staff uniforms.

The Watergate Hotel Uniforms by Janie Bryant
Watergate Hotel uniforms by Mad Men costume designer Janie Bryant.

Janie Bryant

The Watergate cape uniform by Janie Bryant
The Watergate cape uniform by Janie Bryant.

David Preta

“I have a confession to make: our initial attraction to this project was actually the Watergate scandal,” Arad said in a press release. “It is fantastic that this starting point led us to work on a project that also has such a great architectural legacy. Working within such a significant period piece, you can’t ignore the context, but at the same time you don’t want to mimic it.”

Arad applied metalwork to existing structures during the renovation.

The Watergate Hotel

Ron Arad Architects said in a project description that the design “balances Moretti’s original sensibilities” by adding “a rich palette of patinated metals to the existing marble and plaster.” As an ode to the signature curvy character of the building, “sinuous motifs are expressed continuously,” it said, using “bent metal, layered woodwork and subtle texturing of stone surfaces, and complemented by custom-designed furniture, upholstery and rugs.”

Guestroom_Full View 2

A guest room.  


The Watergate Hotel

Bathroom_Sink and Mirror



The Watergate Hotel

And the Washington Post reports that management hasn’t shied away from cheeky nods to the past with touches like pencils embossed with the words “I stole this from the Watergate Hotel,” rooms keys that are labeled “No need to break in,” a customer service number that incorporates the date the scandal was born (1-844-617-1972), and plans to pipe audio of Richard Nixon into the restrooms.