The Drayton Hotel

nemaworkshop has completed the restoration and design of a nineteenth century building to house the new Drayton Hotel, an iconic stay for those traveling to Savannah, Georgia.

  • area / size 33,000 sqft
  • rooms 50
  • Type Hotel, Restaurant,
  • Located at the corner of Drayton and East Bay Streets just steps away from the famed Savannah Riverfront, and within Savannah’s Historic District, the new hotel occupies one of Savannah’s oldest buildings. Accordingly, design and construction teams began by preserving and restoring the classical façade, and entrance canopy which date to the 1890s, while gutting the badly aged interior.

    Upon entering, one is struck by the intimate, nearly residential scale of the rooms. Décor and furnishings suggest that this may be the house of someone’s favorite quirky uncle or aunt containing layers of things assembled over the year intending to replicate no single specific period. The cheery lobby features sofas that are upholstered in floral fuchsia and citrus tones and a plush wool carpet that explodes with oversized peach and magnolia blossoms presided over by tall potted ferns. The lobby’s square format is meant to echo Savannah’s parklike courtyards, a distinctive feature of the city’s street planning. Herringbone brick flooring nods to the city’s cobblestone streets, while oak paneling, whitewashed beadboard and a glowing full-length wall composed of handwoven cane rattan panels reference its Victorian-style architecture and plantation-style furniture. Industrial-style fixtures pervade throughout, comprising heavy textured glass and blackened steel, providing counterpoint to the Victorian floral decoration. Following suit, an iconic grand mirror in the lobby repeats a motif from the wrought iron balcony of one of the oldest houses in Savannah.

    Somewhat hidden, an intimate drawing room can be entered from the back of the lobby where guests can enjoy tea surrounded by the exuberant mural by local artist Bob Christian featuring butterflies and dragonflies flitting amidst lush greenery. Period furniture and fabrics would suggest a living room untouched since the 19th Century if not for the dreamlike intrusion of two dramatically oversized industrial-style, pendant chandeliers.

    Flanking the lobby, the hotel restaurant, St. Neo’s, comprises three salons including a bar, cocktail lounge, zinc raw bar, and exposed kitchen. Here the mood is more that of a contemporary American seafood brasserie with large glass globe light fixtures trimmed with brass and reclaimed white subway tile cladding the wall, but with touches of Americana including oversized rattan furniture, Victorian floor tile, and solid captain’s chairs. The rear dining room features a second resplendent imaginary landscape by Bob Christian.

    Upstairs the vibe is decisively residential, where shades of green and eggplant predominate. Thick oak floor planks, which were cut from the demolished wood joists of the original building, provide a kind of gravitational and metaphorical anchor for these rooms, about which there is something dreamlike. Lighting throughout is kept contained, providing small pools of illumination, creating domestic-scaled vignettes: a small table with a pen, a wooden chair, a mirror leaning against a wall, prim, pressed linens on a simple antique mahogany bed–as though these were sketched-out stage sets for a play depicting moments in life, or spaces containing charged memories. As such they stand in strong contrast to the largely undifferentiated spaces and undifferentiated stretches of time which dominate our experience of travel today.

    Ascending to the top, the lush penthouse bar, lounge, and terrace provide views of City Hall, The Savannah River, and the cityscape. Intimate seating groupings, indoor and out, are set amongst generous plantings creating a variety of types of nooks in which to unwind.

    Design: nemaworkshop
    Photography: William Hereford