Earlier this year, boutique hotel brand Lore Group opened its second property in the US capital. Designed as the antithesis to its more serious sister, Riggs (named for the bank that funded many political campaigns and Washington socialites since the turn of the century), Lyle is set on a tree-lined street in the city’s tony Dupont Circle neighborhood.
“The whole narrative here is about capturing a residential feel with the rooms and the food and beverage offering,” explains Jacu Strauss, Lore Group’s creative director and the brains (and, in some cases, braun) behind the hotel. Born and raised in South Africa, Strauss came into his own in the design profession when he worked with British design icon Tom Dixon on London’s Sea Containers hotel, also owned by Lore Group. He made such an impression on his client that they offered him a job as the group’s creative director. Strauss took this new appointment as a chance to unleash multifaceted creativity as a furniture designer, artist and architect.
Strauss recalls there were several quirks that he inherited with the Art Deco building in DC. “It was designed to be an apartment building which is why the public areas aren’t really that big,” he says. “It was never designed to be a hotel with a massive lobby.” He worked around this setback by introducing a gallery space off the reception area, where custom-designed plinths showcase a menagerie of art and sculpture. This addition reveals another Strauss talent. “I’m a master eBay shopper,” he explains, admitting the vast majority of the “sculptures” on display are actually internet finds. Other pieces were procured from two of Strauss’ favorite DC vintage shops that he encourages all to frequent, “Miss Pixie’s on 14th street has antique glass and silverware and some vintage table lamps, and GoodWood on U street is where I picked up some small accent furniture items and small side tables.”
Strauss is also a masterful painter and created 50 pieces that are featured throughout the hotel. “I wanted to do original artworks because I feel that adds that extra residential touch. Because I do all aspects of the design I felt that I should do something that worked with the concept as a whole. I had planned to do them over a period of a year but in the end, due to COVID, I had a month to do them all, so I worked every day,” he explains, recalling that he tackled the winter elements for nights on end, on the rooftop of the Riggs. “The artworks are surreal landscapes that hopefully allow guests to dream and see something unique only to them, like finding shapes in clouds,” he adds.
Opposite this gallery space, a cozy bar with lush butterscotch tufted banquettes is the preamble to a restaurant that’s tucked in the back. There, a central banquette loaded with white pillows plays right into Strauss’ residential narrative. A low ceiling is combated with stealthily placed pendant lights and wood trim formed into Art Deco shapes along with a central skylight adorned with a cluster of ethereal Herman Miller lanterns that Strauss says are reminiscent of clouds. The walls of the otherwise monochrome space are adorned with more of Strauss’ artwork. Lyle was intended to be a neighborhood restaurant, and a healthy assemblage from around Dupont Circle is already seen noshing on small plates like pea fitters and lamb meatballs or soul food like their crispy fried chicken with hot honey.
Downstairs, past a clandestine emergency staircase, is a delightful subterranean entertainment space that picks up where the lobby left off—a place to actually sit rather than stand, and maybe even get some work done. Here, Strauss based the design on a chic DC apartment with a library/conference room, a colorful living room kitted out with funky Deco-inspired furniture pieces (many of which, unsurprisingly, were custom designed by Strauss) and a conservatory lined with succulents and the same white, cushion-covered seating that features in the restaurant upstairs.
The hotel’s 196 rooms are designed in line with Strauss’ mandate, “Taking the best of what you’d find at home and making it better.” Corner King rooms offer the best views over the treetops of Dupont Circle, while 56 of the rooms feature sleek kitchenettes for longer stays. They include decidedly Deco burl headboards, handsome rattan seating and Strauss’ prevailing cloud reference by way of fluffy beds and low-slung chaises.
Strauss is optimistic that this new feather in his design cap will flourish in a city that is truly enjoying a hospitality renaissance. “DC is a center of politics and lobbying, but it’s gradually changing. There are many more creative people here and it’s diversifying a lot,” he says, as he pulls a lightbulb out of his pocket—there’s always more to be done.
Images courtesy of Lyle