By Zack O’Malley Greenburg www.luxist.com
It’s difficult to believe that a $1,000-a-night hotel designed by fashion designer Giorgio Armani in the world’s tallest building could ever be considered understated. Yet in Dubai, where bars with multicolor fluorescent ceilings are considered classy, the Armani Hotel Dubai manages to fill that niche.
Opened in April 2010, the hotel is the first in a series of Armani-branded resorts and residences. It occupies the first eight stories of the 2,717-foot tall Burj Khalifa and includes 160 guest rooms and suites. For those seeking the full Dubai experience, suites on floors 38-39 offer breathtaking views of the buildings bursting forth from the desert floor; nightly rates can run as high as $2,500.
Despite the designer handbag display in the lobby and the occasional Bentley idling outside, the Armani Hotel is not oppressively gaudy. Upstairs, the hallways are clean and bare, with smooth wood-paneled walls and back lit floors meant to evoke a catwalk. The rooms are swathed in sumptuous fabrics and earthy tones; even the curtains are made of a material that feels like it could easily find its way into an Armani blazer.
Giorgio Armani, who is chief executive officer of the Armani Group, designed all the furniture and specified every last detail in each room. In one fifth-floor suite, Armani’s hand can be seen everywhere from the lines of a sleek couch to the functionality of a foldaway desk to the shape of a pencil sharpener. Even the shades, drawn halfway down the window as they are all across the hotel, exhibit the preferences of Armani himself.
If the Armani Hotel’s design isn’t overly indulgent, the service surely is. Rather than having a concierge desk, the building bustles with 32 “lifestyle managers.” Each guest is assigned a single manager to take care of their every need: arranging car service, planning dessert (or desert) excursions, even finding places to launder suits. The lifestyle managers make up a small slice of a 500-person staff meant to ensure a near one-to-one host-to-guest ratio when the hotel is at or near capacity-which management claims is the case currently, despite a preponderance of lonely corridors in the building and a general emptiness in recession-rattled Dubai.
Regardless of the economy, Armani goes to great lengths to maintain an atmosphere of Italian hospitality beneath the desert sun. One in ten members of the hotel’s staff hails from Italy, including all the chefs and many of the waiters. At Ristorante, one of the site’s eight on-site eateries, you can make like a Tuscan and whet your palette with fresh buffalo mozzarella flown fresh from Italy three times a week along with a host of other foodstuffs.
The Armani Hotel may be relatively understated in a relative sense, but it’s still undeniably Dubai: the signature dessert at Ristorante is a plate of tiramisu garnished with edible 24-karat gold foil.