The much-beloved Colony Hotel makes its comeback with plenty of aesthetic and culinary surprises.
The exterior of the iconic Colony Hotel in Palm Beach
Like many establishments in Palm Beach, The Colony Hotel had to shut its doors last spring and go on its forced COVID-19 break. But owners Sarah and Andrew Wetenhall didn’t waste time dwelling on the negative. Instead, they decided to use the pause to pivot and make their pink landmark even better than before.
First up on the Wetenhalls’ agenda was the creation of Swifty’s POOL, an outdoor restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner with seating around the hotel’s pool and its hanging garden, in collaboration with Swifty’s owner and founder Robert Caravaggi. Having already introduced this offshoot of the original New York Swifty’s (a favorite of everyone from Michael Kors to Gwyneth Paltrow) to patrons back in December, The Colony wanted to bring the eatery back in an alfresco incarnation until its interior dining room opens Dec. 17. “The goal was to create engaging culinary and creative programming to delight and inspire guests,” says Caravaggi. “The menu will feature exciting items that mingle classic Swifty’s with new dishes created by chef Tom Whitaker.” Those selections include jumbo Maryland crabmeat with tomato aspic, cheese soufflé and prime New York steak au poivre.
Vanilla meringue cake from Swifty’s POOL
Then came a rethinking of the decor. In late August, the Wetenhalls revealed they had formed a partnership with renowned company de Gournay to create an original wallpaper design inspired by the original midcentury mural that adorned The Colony’s lobby back when it opened in 1947. This prompted another idea: a refresh of the lobby as a social space now called the Living Room. “I knew from the outset that the design of today’s Living Room was to be more of a restoration than a renovation,” says Sarah. “I only had to see one vintage image to know that we were meant to revert back to the terrazzo flooring and that the original art deco mural needed to be honored somehow.”
To that end, Sarah collaborated with de Gournay on a pattern depicting flora and fauna indigenous to South Florida, meticulously painted on custom pink Edo Xuan paper. Now, regal flamingos sip water as a lizard stares, alligators creep by from shallow pools, and panthers wearing diamond necklaces stalk their prey, all while The Colony’s monkey mascot, Johnnie Brown, waves a pennant flag from a palm tree. This bespoke imagery adorns all four walls of the Living Room from floor to ceiling.
an artist working on the de Gournay wallpaper custom made for The Colony Hotel’s new Living Room (its former lobby)
The rest of the decor is the work of Kemble Interiors and is marked by small seating vignettes, cocktail tables and conversational furniture. Pink velvet, natural grass cloth, bamboo lattice and gray linen now accent the hotel’s original terrazzo floors, which were completely restored. Impossible to miss is a 10-foot-tall pagoda above the fireplace. More than a lobby, the Living Room is now a meeting point for cocktails and light bites. The aforementioned wallpaper is even available for sale as framed panels in the hotel’s store.
“The combined passion the Wetenhalls and I have for our family brands and creating something that will be part of both our histories is enormous,” says Hannah Cecil Gurney, daughter of Claud Cecil Gurney, de Gournay’s founder. “I have long adored The Colony, so the process of creating something completely personalized for it was such fun.”
The big reveal takes place Oct. 29. Rates from $359, 155 Hammon Ave., Palm Beach, 561.655.5430
Swifty’s POOL’s alfresco seating under the hotel’s hanging garden
Photography by: courtesy of The Colony Hotel