Hotels Bringing Back 1920s Style

Jazz-era design is alive and well at hotels across the country. From the Arizona Biltmore re-creating the resort’s secret speakeasy to the Paramount Hotel in New York resurrecting Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe theater, the 1920s are roaring back into style.

“Since the recession, we’ve seen an explosion of the pre-WWII aesthetic, perhaps as a panacea to contemporary ills,” says Michael Suomi, principal and vice president of design at Stonehill and Taylor, an architecture and interior design firm. “It fills a desire for authenticity and the return to a time of optimism and fun.”

The décor trend—a glitzy, glamorous throwback to the country’s beloved era of elegance—has surged within the past year, thanks, in part, to the hit TV show “Downton Abbey” and Leonardo DiCaprio’s scene-stealing turn as Jay Gatsby in the movie adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel “The Great Gatsby.”


Suomi says Stonehill and Taylor incorporated a 1920s vibe at NYLO New York City, a boutique hotel that opened in October on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

“Our design team took cues from the New York Jazz Age’s music clubs and speakeasies—most notably the Savoy and Cotton Club—for the design of the lobby and bar,” he says. “Our design team wanted to create an authentic feel that incorporated historic details of the original French apartment building in 1920s—the fireplace in the library, an ornate ceiling pattern, and a cage enclosure that has been transformed into an ADA lift that has a counterweight and wheel decoration.”

Other details at NYLO New York City include heavily carved wood paneling in the Piano Lounge, eclectic seating throughout the lobby with tufted chesterfield-style sofas and metal finishes, and yellow accents that give a nod to the popular color in ladies’ fashion from the 1920s era.

The Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, recently recreated the legendary “Mystery Room,” a secret speakeasy that was once hidden in the resort’s main building.

The speakeasy is open on Sunday evenings, and it features historic photos and a restored gold-leaf ceiling. Guests are treated to Prohibition-era cocktails, a bartender dressed in time-period attire, and jazz music. Admission is free, however, like the security measure commonly employed at speakeasies of the Roaring ’20s, a different password for entrance is tweeted to patrons each week.

Jeffrey Beers International is another design firm that drew inspiration from the 1920s for the overall design of WestHouse, a boutique hotel that is scheduled to open this fall in Manhattan. Details include textured marbles, bold graphic patterns, and an Art-Deco-inspired color palette of heather grey, cobalt blue, amber, and bronze that is used throughout the lobby, reception, and den.

“It’s a public style so it makes perfect sense to see it in hotels,” says Ken Zogry, hotel historian at The Carolina Inn, where the Old Well Room has long been adored for its Art-Deco polish. “We have this idea of the 1920s being a constant party, and people like that. I don’t think you can talk about any other style that is both formal and fun.”