Full disclosure. I don’t have my license, I don’t recycle, and I’ve smoked more cigarettes than my lungs care to remember. Also, I’m scared of vegetarians, vegans, Bob Dole, people interested in the environment, people who use the word “green,” Leonardo DiCaprio, Vanity Fair‘s “Green Issue,” farmers markets, and fresh produce in general. These are just a few of my shortcomings, which is why it struck me as odd when I was asked to explore the new eco-friendly Lexus Hybrid Living Suite on the 10th floor of San Francisco’s legendary Fairmont hotel.
Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton was staying at the palatial inn, as were her Secret Service henchmen and killer canines, who frightened me for altogether different reasons. The President of El Salvador had just checked in, and was met with protesters brandishing placards of Spanish rhetoric and political venom. Had they heard about my refusal to compost?
I was ushered through the door to my hotel room—non-smoking, to be sure—and spent some time looking out onto Alcatraz, cable cars, and the “Full House” residence of my childhood dreams. I changed into a bow tie and tighter jeans, and made my way to meet the representatives from Lexus and Fairmont. Every light in my room was left on as I closed the door behind me.
In the Lexus Hybrid Living Suite (more on its design later), I sampled local cheeses while dodging the dreaded question: “So, how often do you write about green issues?” Think, shudder.
Turns out the tree-huggers of the world aren’t as much like L. Ron Hubbard as I’d originally assumed. “Let’s break into the basement later tonight, after a few drinks, and I’ll show you the stuff they’ve got lying around. It’s insane down there. I keep expecting the doors to open, blood to pour out, and to see The Shining twins staring back at me,” said the suite’s designer, famed eco-designer Kelly LaPlante, who is currently putting her finishing touches on Fairmont’s Washington, D.C. outpost. That version will be “far more conceptual,” she explains. “I wanted it to feel like you were walking into a black-and-white photograph. And the bathrooms are sepia!”
In this room, however—with only a faint aesthetic whiff of concern for the environment—the fixtures, furniture, walls, and draperies all mimic the color palette outside, as if bleeding out onto nearby streets. Blues and pale oranges—I’m colorblind too—are picked up by the San Francisco Bay and the palm tree-lined houses down below. I’d be lying if I said I understood the details of energy-efficiency and solar-blaggity that went into the creation of the suite, although listening to LaPlante speak somehow made perfect sense. Most of the furniture had been re-used from the hotel’s glory days, other pieces had been bought from eco-friendly designers (all of whom seem to love bamboo), and one piece in particular—a stunning, rounded coffee table—had been covered with leather left over from old Lexus models. What’s more, the partnership between Lexus and Fairmont is less about the room itself, and more about the experience of travelling green. (Wait, what? Did I just… ) In addition to the suite, guests can buy a package that includes a Lexus loaner, and an audio guide with tips on where to get your eco on in the city. Despite myself, I was beginning to feel won over.
Over the course of the three-day sojourn, I spoke with my hosts on a variety of subjects. One had stolen a bracelet from Brad Pitt while the superstar was puking at a party. Another proved to be a true champion in the art of rock-paper-scissors. Yet another shot me down when I suggested that Donny and Marie Osmond were twins. The conversation was only slightly peppered by greenery. I did, however, hear about LaPlante’s work (which, I’ll admit, is sort of fascinating). Over stinging nettle soup and cactus salad at the hotel’s restaurant, LaPlante, in an eco-friendly design previously worn by Darryl Hannah, discussed the residential projects she has completed in the past for Ally Sheedy and Michael Rapaport. In fact, LaPlante has overhauled so many celebrity interiors that she is self-publishing a book, écologique: the style of sustainable design, about the experience.
There were delicious meals served throughout the trip (the wine and steak at Spruce were pretty super-fantastic), tours in a Lexus that told us where to steer, and a quick jaunt to Stellar Spa for a facial. Overall, the whole experience was quite pleasant.
My driver was waiting to bring me to the airport at some ungodly hour on Saturday morning. He was early. I was late (but I’d had bacon, so things were good). As we navigated the West Coast hills, past runners and cyclists, something LaPlante had said resonated in my head. “I know very well that I’m a niche designer, and that I can’t be everything to everyone. But, you know what? I feel confident that people will find me out, that they’ll want to do the right thing for the environment. And, personally, I think it’s better to do one thing really well than a bunch of things poorly.” I couldn’t agree more, as I sit down to write this piece in my slummy New York apartment, in desperate need of a smoke.
For more information on the Lexus Hybrid Living Suite, click here.