From a ‘Holidome’ to a Hilton, Lawrence hotel receives extreme makeover.

The Holiday Inn ‘Holidome’ hotel and convention center in Lawrence, Kans., was long overdue for some updates. Greenery throughout the lobby and atrium felt more jungle-like than relaxing, and light from the large skylights was lost in the redundant walkways on the second through fourth floors. Inside the guest rooms, a palette of traditional browns, olive green, and muted orange felt drab and dated.

When the property owner moved forward with plans to convert the hotel to a DoubleTree, the goal was to infuse the hotel with more of a contemporary aesthetic. The process took nearly two years to complete, and from upgrades to the convention area, to re-configuring the lobby and opening the hotel restaurant to that space, the renovation left no key element untouched. More than 50 guest rooms were added, and 70 rooms were expanded out into the atrium walkways to capture additional square footage in each room.

Interior designer and project manager Michelle Wiley, and Principal-in-Charge Mariah Meyer, share some of the most rewarding – and challenging – parts of this project.

This project could be thought of as an “extreme makeover” of the existing hotel. When you first started thinking about and working on it, what felt like the most daunting task?

Michelle: Changing the guests’ perception of what used to be the “Holidome” to a high-end, full-service DoubleTree. The client and project team wanted this project to feel like a well thought-out, well-executed redesign, and not just a remodel.

Mariah: The final design solutions of any remodel need to be successful enough to stand on their own after completion … the goal is for a guest walking through the space to not know it was ever something else.

What were some of the more substantial challenges regarding the design and production of this project?

Michelle: These types of projects are unique because we have two clients – the hotel owner, and the brand. Our goal was to produce a cohesive design that achieved the owner’s vision, and incorporated the brand’s objectives and goals. It sounds simple, but clear, consistent communication with the owner and brand, along with multiple 3D modeling tools, helped us successfully navigate the balance between both parties’ objectives. It also helped that, despite differing opinions at various stages of the process, the common goal was to create an environment that felt more modern and welcoming to guests.

Mariah: There’s also the challenge of budget. Hoteliers are tasked with ensuring the project’s bottom line makes sense, while the brands are focused on elevating the guest experience, often through furnishings and finishes. For this project, we had to think of creative ways to get a bigger impact out of money being spent, while verifying the brand was also excited about the direction the project was taking.

What was the process like doing a full renovation, as well as transitioning the property to a completely different hotel flag and brand?

Michelle: Challenging, but rewarding. The brand’s design review required three big submittals at the schematic design, design development and construction document phases. Fortunately for us, Hilton’s process aligned closely with our internal project approach, so the effort came together seamlessly and on schedule.

Mariah: Agreed – it was a challenge at times. We were in design and coordination with Hilton for close to a year before getting final approval. There were so many parties involved, too – multiple people on the client’s side, and several different departments within Hilton – that all needed to weigh in and provide direction. However, we now have a completed project that both the client and brand are thrilled with, which I consider a success!

What was most fun about working on this project?

Michelle: The details and how the finishes worked together. Some of the elements are understated and support the overall design, like neutral textiles with heavy textures, or the consistency in metal finishes. Other details stand out, like the stone bar, reclaimed lumber wall and restaurant pendant lighting. For the artwork, we worked with Kalisher to produce a contemporary spin on locally-sourced materials like wheat and sunflowers to tie in the Kansas roots.

Mariah: For me, it was the total conversion process. It’s meaningful to know the background behind every decision that was made, and in this case, we took a property that was completely dated, and transformed it into a contemporary design. The drastic change of this project was especially exciting to see.

Now that everything is wrapped up, what’s your favorite part of the final product?

Michelle: Just seeing the design materialized. There’s always a vision for the design, and you’re confident that what you put together will be great, but watching it come to fruition is extremely satisfying.

Mariah: I think the view up into the atrium was the biggest transformation, and my favorite. Prior to renovation, there were wood lattice railings along a walkway at every level that dominated the aesthetic of the interior design. Now that we’ve expanded the guestrooms to encompass those corridors, and the lattice work is gone, the atrium feels much cleaner and less cluttered. It’s like the space can finally breathe.

For more photos of the finished project, visit our web portfolio!