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Redesigning the Urban Spa Experience, Park Hyatt Washington
Walk-in Bath Adds Glamor to $24 million Upgrade
By Bernard Burt -, August 2006

Going against the trend to eliminate bathtubs, the Park Hyatt Washington rolled out a new concept of spa-inspired bathrooms designed by Tony Chi as part of a dramatic $24 million re-conception for this prime property in the nation’s capital.

Located in the West End power corridor between Georgetown and Embassy Row, the elegant 215-room trendsetter is owned by the Pritzker family, founders of the Global Hyatt network. 

The concierge confirmed my room, massage, and dinner reservations when I checked in a few weeks after the hotel reopened in June. The entire lobby gleams with etched crystal artwork, a mirror effect that makes the long, narrow lobby seem larger than life. Total design by Tony Chi, whose firm based in New York has worked on Hyatt hotels in Asia and Chicago, pays homage to American traditions in the capital. Washington’s first Tea Cellar brews rare single-estate teas to your taste in a bow to our celebrated Cherry Blossom Festival. Glass-enclosed booths beckon Washington insiders to the bar. A happening space, the lobby bar becomes a breakfast buffet with low tables for Bernardaud china and silver service.  

Spa-inspired limestone bath with rain shower and deep soaking tub
The main scene is the kitchen at Blue Duck Tavern, a witty and wise rendition of a country inn in the city. Designed by Chi, blue burlap walls complement Shaker-style wooden benches. Executive Chef Brian McBride showcases organic cuisine from regional farms, identified on the menu and served in small chaffing dishes by staff suited in Chi-designed blue gabardine. For example, the restaurant receives eggs from a cooperative of Pennsylvania Amish farms, dairy products from Mennonite-owned Trickling Springs Creamery, soft-shell crabs from nearby Chesapeake Bay.

Entering the Blue Duck Tavern through massive, 16-foot-tall black doors, the open kitchen offers a view of what’s on the menu. Ice cream is hand-churned, meats roasted in a wood-burning oven. The kitchen’s showpiece, a Molteni range imported from France, the first of its kind in Washington, had to be lifted in place by a crane.  The chefs put on a great show to match the menu.

Reconfiguring the hotel’s 1980s design, Chi had no space for a spa. (An existing fitness center, swimming pool, and beauty salon adjoin the hotel.) So he created spa-inspired bathrooms for the Park Deluxe rooms, the largest in the city at 618 sq. ft. (57 sq. meters). Dark gray limestone on walls, floor, and ceiling surrounds you. Gone is the shower stall. The effect is like walking into a Zen mountain sanctuary. 

Sybaritic soaks in a deep tub, rainshower overhead, and hand-held shower are part of the bath ritual. Amenities by Parisian artisan perfumer Blaise Mautin infuse shampoo with scents of cherry blossoms. But the absence of bath salts is disappointing. In-room treatments get more glamorous next spring when Chi completes top-floor suites. 

The hotel’s luxurious Audi provides complimentary transportation to museums and meetings. Reservations: 202/789-1234 or 800/233-1234.

Distinguished by prime urban locations and exceptional interior design, there are only 25 Park Hyatt brand hotels in the world. While the Chicago-based Global Hyatt Corporation operates 214 branded hotels and resorts in 43 countries, just seven rate Park Hyatt status are in the United States and Canada. Openings planned for 2007 include Beijing, Cairo, Jeddah, and Istanbul, and a London location is scheduled for construction.

Based in Washington, Bernard Burt authored “100 Best Spas of the World” for The Globe Pequot Press. His magazine column and spa industry news are online at

 Bernard Burt

Also See: King Ventures Acquires Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa in Desert Hot Springs, California; Plans to Add High-end Residential Units / August 2006
A Spa is Born in Pennsylvania - The Lodge at Woodloch / July 2006
Kohler Co. Makeover of Scotland's Old Course Hotel Features First Kohler Waters Spa Outside America / July 2006
The Asian Spa Market Experiencing Brand Expansion / Bernard Burt / June 2006
Kohler Co. Acuires the Old Course Hotel Golf Resort and Spa in St. Andrews, Scotland from the Kosaido Company of Japan / October 2004
The American Club, Owned by Kohler Co., Building an Onsite Spa Showcasing the Kohler Brand / Mar 2000


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