Proximity elevates green design to new level of sophistication
By Jessica Dauray
News & Record, July 26, 2008
The hotel’s floating rectangular reception desk is silhouetted by a wall of Fortuny fabric drapery panels. Summer is a time to slow down, relax and enjoy some time with family and friends. But the reality is that many people spend the lazy days of summer rushing from place to place, just like they do the rest of the year.
Relaxing requires a lot of planning. With the high cost of gasoline putting a damper on travel plans this summer, it is nice to live in an area that is within easy driving distance of the mountains and the beach. Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting a soothing "green" retreat right here in Greensboro: The Proximity Hotel. My brief visit reminded me of the fact that you don't even have to leave the city for a refreshing change of scenery.
I spent an afternoon at the hotel's Sustainable Practices Symposium. We learned about the Proximity's green philosophy and the use of innovative products and technology. The hotel, part of the Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels group, is awaiting certification status as a LEED-rated hotel. The U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program is a nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. A platinum designation — the highest — is expected when the rating is issued next month.
The hotel is gaining recognition because its design made use of every opportunity to conserve resources and create an environmentally responsible building. Attaining LEED status is very difficult because of the strict guidelines, and Proximity has gone above and beyond the requirements. Six years of planning and construction paid off in creating not only a green building, but also a hip space. The décor is simple, serene and sophisticated.
As a designer who works on a lot of new construction projects, I appreciated all the engineering technology, but I really enjoyed checking out the décor while touring the guest rooms, common areas, bar and restaurant. Many folks think eco-décor translates to cold, sparse and uncomfortable, but this could not be further from the truth.
My husband and I enjoy traveling, and if I did not know that this hotel was green, I never would have guessed it by the fine attention to detail, both in the design style and furnishings.
From the moment you pass through the spa-like outdoor drapery panels and into the reception area, you enter simple, sophisticated luxury. It reminds me of a European resort.
The 147-room hotel was designed to have the industrial look of a 1929 fabric mill. Attention to detail is evident in every design element — there are high ceilings, expansive walls of windows and massive concrete support columns. The industrial look was very chic, and the use of natural light creates a nice glow and an open airy feeling.
Notable design elements include:
• Drapery panels as room dividers: Common areas are divided with ripple fold drapery panels, which offer a soft contrast to the expansive industrial concrete walls and linear design created by the bank of windows.
• Floating rectangular reception desk: The effect of this linear floating shape silhouetted by a wall of gorgeous Fortuny fabric ripple fold drapery panels is wonderful.
• Carpets and ceiling décor: The signature Proximity circle and "X" from the 8th-floor City Suite window design is featured in the wall-to-wall carpeting, and the distinctive nine-panel lower window design is mimicked in the decorative ceiling decor above the lobby area.
• Modular conference tables: I fell in love with these. Kudos to local designer Bradshaw Orrell, who designed these simple and chic tables. The tabletops are made of walnut with iron bases that mimic the signature "X" design.
The suite that I toured had three tables together, which provided flexible seating for 10.
• Drum shade lighting: The lounge areas and Print Works Bistro, the connecting restaurant, had ceilings aglow with fashionable, yet simple, lighting profiles. The graphic effect complemented the linear lines of the decor. The hotel's signature design was also present in the large iron chandelier at the front door.
• Use of accessories: As with most spaces, the finishing touches make all the difference. I particularly liked the Proximity's use of botanicals. They opted to hang glass boxes with moss and lush orchids. The greenery appears to float against the concrete columns, offering a simple and exotic look.
Passing through the main hotel portion through a lovely glass walkway, you enter Print Works Bistro. Here, the vibe picks up a bit. The colors are lighter and brighter, with accents of citron green fabric providing a nice punch of color. One of the design centerpieces of this space is the bar top, which was constructed with reclaimed walnut wood.
I was particularly impressed with how the hotel's outdoor space is designed. The restaurant and bar area are surrounded with a wrap-around patio, ideal for lounging on the European inspired all-weather wicker furniture. With all the floor-to-ceiling windows, the outdoor space acts as an extension of the interior space.
The guest suites are well appointed with all the amenities of a luxury hotel — fine linens, comfortable beds, ample casual seating and storage. My favorite feature was in the spa suite, where there is a small door above the tub which, when opened, allows one to soak in the tub, watch TV and chat with the person in the bedroom area of the suite. When the door is closed, it is cleverly concealed behind a wall of drapery panels.
I was pleased to learn that North Carolina resources were used whenever possible. The stylish custom upholstery, modular tables and drapery panel treatments were all fabricated by local vendors. Even the original art located throughout the complex was done by a local artist, Chip Holton.
If you would like to see for yourself why the hotel is being recognized for its use of responsible building practices, stop by. The Proximity management team is proud to show off the green details and regularly gives complimentary tours.
Jessica Dauray is owner of Elements of Style Interiors, a full-service interior design firm with offices in Greensboro and Wilmington.