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New York City

Alexandra Champalimaud  

The Plaza’s Legacy Suites get a contemporary upgrade with a chic Upper East Side apartment feel.  

The whole world knows about The Plaza. It’s famous everywhere,” says Alexandra Champalimaud. Her eponymous New York-based design firm was commissioned to undertake the refurbishment of the 29 Legacy Suites, which debuted in June 2015.

The glamorous guest rooms are as much a part of the 110-year-old hotel’s DNA as its famous fictional resident, Eloise, and its address at the edge of Central Park. In fact, it was to that urban oasis that Champalimaud turned for inspiration. Not only do the suites face the park, their great door-like windows (grandfathered in from a time before hotel safety codes prevented such liberalities) also open out over its verdant splendor. 

“The focal point is the view,” she says. “We’ve made sure that the windows stay clear of too much curtaining so the rooms feel bathed in light.” The decor, too, reflects the park in patterns of vegetation on the floor coverings, in small paintings of flowers and in the hidden botanical motifs on the underside  of lampshades.

She also sought to turn the previously European-influenced suites into spaces that better represented modern Manhattan. “We brought a New York attitude to the renovation,” she says. “The idea was to make the experience entirely residential, something akin to a beautiful, sophisticated apartment on the Upper East Side.”

Champalimaud achieved that feel by, in her words, “making the suites take themselves a little less seriously.” She brought in smaller furniture pieces to encourage freedom of movement; she took the formality out of the rooms’ artwork, replacing classic oil paintings with contemporary photographs of New York City Ballet costumes; and she creatively freshened up formerly stuffy staples, like the rooms’ heavy light fixtures and gilded headboards.

“When I walk into these suites now, I am overjoyed,” she says. “They’re not pretentious, but they’re glamorous. They’re essentially New York and The Plaza.”



“Those of us who have known The Plaza over the years will remember the very strong, dominant headboard that existed in the previous rooms,” says Champalimaud. “We kept it, but we changed its attitude. We’ve maintained the beautiful gilding, which is so very much The Plaza, but we’ve added a beautiful pale blue leather. It went from a heavy, very adorned, take-me-very-seriously piece to something that is fresh and much more hip.”



“The materials, the fabrics and the surfaces are all a great study in reflection: the velvets, the antique mirrors on the coffee table and the carpet, with  the bit of silk it has, provide a sheen. These small, superficial surface reflections cause a levity in the room that one may not be entirely aware of, but the overall perception makes the space feel happy and light.”

“It was important to keep the color palette light and fresh, yet classical. The tones we’ve used – creams, grays, blues, pale yellows and golds – reflect the outdoors and particularly Central Park. The pale yellow is related to the rays of the sun, blue-gray to the outdoors and the sky. All of these colors in some way connote the experience of walking in the park.”


“One of the pieces we had the most fun  creating was the refurbishment of an old gilded light fixture that we had to keep for all sorts of reasons – but in doing so, we turned it into one of my favorite pieces in the whole suite. We  created a custom lampshade with a glorious botanical-patterned lining on the inside.  When the light goes on, that pattern comes to life and it becomes central to the decor.”


“To me, the pieces that make the single biggest difference  are the chandeliers, because they are, at the same time, brilliantly classic and superbly modern. They essentially take the traditional language of faceted crystal and redefine it with very light small pendants, loosely put together. They are just so fresh in their attitude and work so beautifully in these suites, that, without a doubt, they are my favorite item.”


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