15 Dec Guest House at Graceland, Interview with Aron Ramage and Jessica Elvert of DreamCatcher Hotels on Their Dream Project
*Correction issued 12/06/18 to include HBG Design as the lead architect and interior designers of the project
A project 30 years in the making, The Guest House at Graceland by DreamCatcher Hotels is quite literally fit for a king. Step into the spacious 450 room Guest House and be transported to the iconic era of Elvis Presley. Inspired by the unique character of Elvis and Graceland, the Guest House pays homage to the glitz and glamour of the past while depicting a fresh, contemporary design.
We spoke with the lead interior architect, Aron Ramage and senior interior designer, Jessica Elvert of DreamCatcher Hotels about their extensive work on this breathtaking property. Working alongside Memphis-based HBG Design, lead architecture and interior design firm of the project, DreamCatcher Hotels managed the design and construction of the project. The concept created an attainable and unique five-star guest experience for all Elvis fans from around the world who visit the Graceland Mansion.
Tell us about the dream behind Dreamcatcher Hotels!
We created DreamCatcher Hotels to provide the look and feel of a high-quality branded hotel without the costs that come with other brands. Our goal is nothing less than to redefine industry norms and change the way hotels are developed today. Born out of the recession, our whole goal was to cut the high cost of hotel construction while still providing a high-quality guest experience. Founder Greg Hnedak also wanted to provide a turnkey product with a price guarantee, something that was unheard of in the hotel industry.
The prestigious Guesthouse at Graceland must have been a dream project for DreamCatcher Hotels, how did this come to life?
The Guest House at Graceland project came about through a long-term relationship that Hnedak had with Elvis Presley Enterprises. They had long planned to replace their existing Heartbreak Hotel and upgrade the guest experience for all of the fans from around the world who visit the Graceland mansion. Graceland’s owner wanted a one-of-a-kind, four- and five-star guest experience that was attainable to all Elvis fans. Our DreamCatcher concept made that dream affordable.
Elvis Presley was a dreamer and so proud of what he had created at Graceland. How was DreamCatcher Hotels able to make Elvis’ dream of the Guest House come true?
It’s a dream for any designer to be able to work on a project for the King of Rock and Roll. The challenge for me, as given by the client, was to envision what Elvis would do today if he was renovating his beloved Graceland. Pricilla Presley was an invaluable resource to us, providing unique insight into what Elvis liked and disliked and how he always wanted his guest to feel at home when at Graceland. Ms. Presley worked closely with us on developing the suites that are on the top floor of the hotel. The suites were all derived from his favorite spaces at Graceland, his Palm Springs house and his suite at the Las Vegas Hilton.
The Guest House at Graceland is the largest project DreamCatcher hotels has done to date. What were some of the challenges developing a project of this size?
With any large project, the challenge always lies in ensuring that the project has the same level of quality that people expect from DreamCatcher Hotels. It was also key to make sure we had the right team members working on the project. We covered every base from interior design, to architecture, to development and so on. And of course, every team member was excited to have the chance to work on this unique project.
You mentioned that extensive research and decades of field-tested experience goes into the development of design and product standards in a DreamCatcher Hotel. The Guest House had been 30 years in the making. What kind of research was done to prepare for the Guest House at Graceland?
We attend The HD Expo every year and read trade magazines to stay on top of the latest innovations and products. Every product we select to include in our hotels has been tested in the marketplace for durability and customer appeal.
This project did require more research than usual, as we delved into Elvis’s style and tastes. We did not want to disappoint his family or his fans. That involved countless interviews with Graceland personnel, historic research into the mansion and the materials used in its construction, as well as the conversations with Priscilla.
How is the design able to reflect the style and spirit of Elvis and Graceland?
There was no shortage of inspiration for designers of the Guest House. It is most obvious after touring Graceland and then coming into the hotel. The formal lobby in white reflects the architecture detailing in the main house. The Founder’s Lounge was a modern interpretation of Graceland’s famous jungle room. We also found endless inspiration in Elvis’ personal style. All of the furniture, fabrics, and wallcovering were customized to mimic his wardrobe. From asymmetrical chairs that echo the motion of his capes in their upward swipe, to chairs designed to echo the silhouette of his sideburns, to the ceiling in the lobby that mimics the eye-catching patterns in his jumpsuits, to the pops of color in dresser drawers, in hallways and throughout, you definitely sense Elvis’ presence.
How does this hotel embrace the idea of Southern hospitality?
This hotel and it grand scale of public spaces such as the lobby and back porch area, reflect an era when resort hotels of the south where the place to be and to be seen in. As the guests arrive they come into the grand lobby with a formal layout that relates to hotels of the past. Yet its articulation and materials speak of what Elvis’s taste might be today.
What Stacy Garcia products were used? Why were they chosen for this project?
We used several of her large-scale prints, mostly in the drapery. The main patterns that were used include Allure as the drape in the typical guestroom, Synergy as the drape in the lobby bar, and the Moonshine as the drape in the living room suite. These styles were perfect in that they provided color and patterns that are current; yet hint back to the era when Elvis lived in Graceland.
What unique features can be found within The Guest House?
Elvis provided so many design inspirations from Graceland, his movies and his music, that there is no place or detail that does not speak back to The King – case in point, all of the unique design features listed in question six. Some of the other unique features include a 24-hour Elvis movie channel in the room and a 464-seat theater where you can watch his concerts and movies on the big screen nightly. You can even try some of Elvis’s favorite foods at in Delta’s Kitchen or in the EP’s Bar and Grill.
How does the Guest House appeal to the dreamers out there?
It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience. It provides a place for fans from all over the world to experience exactly what it would have felt like to be Elvis’ houseguest. It’s a luxurious space for them to gather, reminisce and share their stories and experiences.
What is DreamCatcher Hotels vision for the future of the hospitality industry?
We see it moving away from the branded hotels to independent hotels with more individuality – an industry where the guest experience is the driving force. We have said from day one that we strive to challenge the norms of the hospitality industry and we are proud of the role we have played in the changing tides.
You can see more of DreamCatcher Hotels at dreamcatcherhotels.com
You can see more of HBG Design’s work at hbginc.com