Set in the historic Penn Quarter in a 19th-century landmark that once housed the Riggs National Bank, the unique 181-room Riggs hotel offers guests a true step back in time. Paying homage to the building’s original use, each of the rooms and suites are reminiscent of a bank vault, with coffered ceilings, stately pillars and oversize chandeliers that recall the “Bank of Presidents” glory days. The property is always buzzing due to Café Riggs, a central brasserie with a garden terrace, and Silver Lyan, a subterranean cocktail bar set in the bank’s main vault.
DuJour spoke with Jacu Strauss, the creative director at the LORE Group and Riggs Washington D.C., to learn more about all the hidden gems at this property.
What’s the most requested room at the property?
Room 601, The Ida McKinley Suite, one of our four first lady suites. It’s located on a beautiful corner of the sixth floor with views of Penn Quarter and the National Portrait Gallery.
What makes it so special?
The design of the suite is inspired by Ida Mckinley, First Lady of the United States at the turn of the 19th Century and wife of President William McKinley. She loved flowers and decorated The White House with plenty of flora. This love of flowers and plants were the inspiration for this suite, and the bold pink and purple palette is an abstract interpretation of this, and also a nod to the annual Cherry Blossom season in DC. All of the pieces are unique to this suite, with many of them being antiques I bought locally during my time living in the city. Even the minibar safe is customized to match the pink tones of the suite. The floral wallcoverings in the bedroom are by Voutsa, with whom we created custom prints for the majority of the rooms at the hotel.
What is the nightly rate for this room?
The suite costs around $1,000 per night.
What’s an interesting tidbit about the hotel that speaks to its status as an icon?
I love of all the uncovered hints, symbols and secrets of this building’s history as a grand, golden age bank buildings from the late 19th century, and the way we incorporated it into the story of Riggs. We found a profile medallion on the frames of the original brass doors with Juno Moneta the Roman goddess of funds or money. We loved the way she looked both confident and elegant and this is what we wanted Riggs to look and feel.
What’s your personal favorite room? Why?
We discovered a hidden concrete vault which is now The Cabinet Room in Silver Lyan, our lower ground floor bar. We uncovered the original tiled floor and metal ceiling during the refurbishment, which we retained in their original state. We then found mysterious secret chambers filled with angled mirrors, these allowed people to check if any ambitious thieves were trying to tunnel into the vault to steal the personal treasures of DC’s most notable residents and families.
What’s your favorite design element on property?
I love the glass and wood display case in Café Riggs filled with giant paper flowers, it’s actually two stories in height. The flowers were made and designed in collaboration between myself and Mio Gallery. I actually personally installed and arranged the flowers in the cabinet. The installation plays on the Grand scale of the public areas.
What special perk or amenity do you offer that no one knows about?
This would actually be another secret room. During the refurbishment we discovered another smaller, secret vault with original safe doors and metal clad interior. We turned this into a secret lounge and bar for special visitors and groups. And what makes it more magical is that you have to walk through the hotel gym in order to get to it, so it really is well hidden.
How about one more fun fact about the property?
In a building like this I need more than one! There is an original marble staircase in the main arrival lobby that goes nowhere, it just ends. The room numbers are displayed as plates resembling traditional safety deposit boxes. All the mirrors in the public areas are made with silver leaf, a nod to coins and noble metals used to make precious items and very relative to banking.