The landmark Arizona Biltmore, which welcomed its first guests in 1929, recently completed a multimillion-dollar renovation that recalls the seductive style of the resort’s early years. Renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright collaborated with a former student, Albert Chase McArthur, to design the resort, which was constructed with Biltmore Block. Made from desert sand, the precast blocks were a variation on a textile block first used by Wright to build private homes. The redesign, directed by Smith & Firestone Associates, continues the original Wright style of organically incorporating the natural environment. The guestrooms and suites, the spa and salon, and the meeting spaces have been remastered. “My inspiration was to bring some hints of the amazing architecture that was put there and the people who deserve the credit, which would be both McArthur and Wright,” says Rosie Feinberg, principal of Smith & Firestone.
When Feinberg first entered the old guestrooms, she thought they felt extremely dark with brown furnishings and earth tone fabrics. “It really hit me because you look outside and see the beautiful colors of the desert and cactus,” she recalls. To lighten things up, Smith & Firestone opted for a soft color palette of mist, linen, and latte, juxtaposed with warm wood colors.
Mists of Time
Mist-colored wall coverings, embossed with metallic, echo the historic Biltmore Block pattern. “It looks like the bronze metal trim from a window, yet the big block pattern was inspired by the architects of the time,” Feinberg explains.
All guestrooms had expensive bronze and glass doors that opened out to a patio, but they had been painted white. “It looked Nantucket-y,” Feinberg says. To celebrate the original grandeur, the firm stripped the paint and restored the bronze color.
The buildings feel heavy, Feinberg says, so they chose furniture that looked big and important but not massive. For instance, pyramid shapes jut out from the bureau, but the piece is topped with soothing, mist-colored glass. “It’s a heavy piece, but it has a light touch.”