“The overall goal was to create a contemporary look that would evoke an emotion about the location of the hotel, and an elevated experience for hotel guests,” explained Michael Suomi, Principal and Vice President of Interior Design at Stonehill & Taylor of New York, NY. “Through our design, we wanted to celebrate the heritage of Minnesota and the industries that gave the state its strength. To take this beyond aesthetics, we set ourselves a goal of using as much materials and products produced within 500 miles of Minneapolis as we could.”
Suomi explained that at the start of the hotel renovation, the goal was to obtain either hematite, taconite or magnetite from within the state of Minnesota. “Almost all of the stone removed from the grounds is for the production of iron ore and prohibitively expensive for decorative use,” he said. “We overcame this by finding stone that had a similar look and graining to our preferred stone and that was within our budget.”
With this objective in mind, Virginia Mist granite was used throughout the project, and it was processed relatively close to the site in Quebec, Canada. The material was specified for the reception desks, countertops, flooring, base and stair treads, and a fireplace feature wall in the hotel’s reception area and lobby. Additionally, Mesabi Black granite — quarried locally in Minnesota— was employed for bathroom vanity tops in all the guest rooms.
“Our clients were immensely supportive of our efforts of finding materials and products that fit our design locally,” said Suomi. “We worked very closely with the purchasing agents on the project, The Stroud Group, in finding local sources for the materials we were interested in using in our design.”
According to the architect, the hotel needed a new look for its public spaces and guest rooms. “Beyond this basic need, however, we did an assessment of functionality of public spaces and found that there were some efficiency and circulation issues,” he said. “For example, the location of the reception desk was not immediately clear to an arriving guest. Or there were public spaces, such as the breakfast area, that were operational for only a short part of the day. We collected all these observations and incorporated the solutions in our redesign.”
The flooring throughout the public spaces consists of 18- x 24-inch tiles of Virginia Mist granite, which was processed and supplied by Ancor Granite Tile Inc. of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The stone producer also supplied the base and stair treads.
A floor-to-ceiling fireplace — comprised of slabs of Virginia Mist granite that average 8 feet x 3 feet, 6 inches in size — is the main design element of the sunken living room that was created in the lobby. Additionally, reception pods were carved from large rough-cut pieces of Virginia Mist granite.
“Virginia Mist was selected because it has a similar look and feel to the iron bearing stones — hematite, taconite and magnetite — removed from the ground in Minnesota, and it met our budget,” explained Suomi. “[For the design of the reception desks,] we were inspired by the industrial mining industry in northern Minnesota along the Gogebic Range.” The slabs for the fireplace feature wall as well as the stone for the reception desks were supplied by Granicor of Saint-Augustin, Quebec, Canada.
Moreover, Mesabi Black granite, which was quarried locally by Cold Spring Granite, was used for the vanity tops in the guest rooms. “We were delighted to find a material that was so sophisticated in its look, with a deep dark color and soft finish, quarried right in Minnesota,” said the architect. The vanity tops in the 533 guest units, as well as the hotel’s bar tops, were fabricated by Granite Tops Inc. of Cold Spring, MN.
The installation was completed by CD Tile & Stone of Blaine, MN. The floor tiles were set with Tec® Full Flex® Mortar from H.B. Fuller Construction Products Inc. of Aurora, IL, and most of the floor had a Tec® HydraFlexTM Waterproofing & Crack Isolation Membrane. The large granite wall tiles on the feature fireplace wall were installed with stainless steel relieving angles, dowels and clips.
“The fireplace was easy at the bottom, but progressively more difficult as we went up,” explained Tim Christopherson of CD Tile & Stone. “The top of the stone is 32 feet above the finished floor — the finished ceiling 35 feet. With 1,000-pound stones along the top, these pieces were extremely difficult to get in. I have to give a lot of credit to my installers. With their many years of experience and savvy, they found a way to make it work.”
Installing the large reception pods also required skilled. “The larger pieces were approximately 2,500 pounds,” said Christopherson. “We used a propane-powered forklift with nylon lifting straps.”
According to Christopherson, the job required 12 installers in the guest units and up to 12 additional workers in the lobby, working simultaneously. In total, it took approximately five weeks to complete the stone installation.
Overall, the design team did not have to spend much time on the jobsite to supervise the installation. “Our contractors did an incredible job with the installation,” said Suomi. “The project was on a fast track. From start to end, it took 13 months to complete. We are very happy to have achieved all our goals — from design and production points of view — in this short period of time. Using mostly domestically produced materials and furnishings greatly contributed to our ability to complete the renovation fast — cutting down delivery timing. We have had a great reception for the project — both from our clients and from our guests — since its official opening in June.”