How Suite It Is: Why Event Pros Are Turning to Luxury Hotel Penthouses and Suites
All-inclusive amenities, over-the-top decor, and ultimate privacy have turned hotel penthouses and V.I.P. suites into ideal event venues.
It's perhaps no surprise that Meghan Markle's baby shower was fit for a queen. According to reports, the Duchess of Sussex’s 15-guest shower, which took place in February, was held at the elegant Mark Hotel in New York.
Why a hotel rather than one of the city’s many varied event spaces? The Upper East Side property’s $75,000-a-night penthouse suite—and the privacy it affords—may have something to do with it. The 10,000-square-foot, two-story suite has five bedrooms, four fireplaces, and a 2,500-square-foot terrace.
But the royal family aren’t the only ones turning to these types of ultra-luxurious spaces for events. Hosts are increasingly drawn to the over-the-top amenities, total privacy, and built-in decor that comes with a hotel penthouse or V.I.P suite.
"The appetite exists for spaces that open up the boundaries of what you can do and how you can do it," explains Jorin McSween, catering sales executive for the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver and the adjoining Douglas Hotel. "Suites are ideal spaces for events—appointed with all the fine-tuning of a luxury hotel room and residentially set, making guests feel at home.”Photo: Jeremy Segal Photography
Perhaps the biggest benefit of hosting an event in a suite? Most of what you need—such as staffing, catering services, housekeeping, valet parking, audiovisual systems, and more—is already built into the space.
Yes, many of these amenities can be found in hotel ballrooms and restaurants. But Sebastien Silvestri, chief operating officer of Disruptive Group, a division of SBE, notes that hosts are “evolving beyond the ballroom space.” In fact, the hospitality group launched a service called “The Suite Life” in early 2018; it offers customized service like airport pick-up and 24-hour assistance for anyone who books a stay or event in an SBE luxury suite.Photo: Scott Frances
“[Hosts] really want more exciting venues,” adds Silvestri, noting that hosting an event in SBE’s Mondrian Los Angeles, for example, offers food and cocktails catered by the hotel’s popular Skybar lounge and Ivory On Sunset restaurant. “It just brings so much more than a regular meeting room or ballroom. … It’s almost like a restaurant experience in the suite.”
Another benefit: multiple rooms with completely different feels. The Mark’s Grand Penthouse, for example, has a 12-seat dining room for dinner parties, a two-story living room that can take on the feel of a grand ballroom, and a private terrace for outdoor gatherings.
The London West Hollywood’s 11,000-square-foot penthouse, which is the largest in the Los Angeles area, also has a variety of spaces, including its own 5,000-square-foot roof deck that can only be accessed through the suite. “Our penthouse suite really offers the 'wow' experience that so many brands are seeking,” says the hotel’s general manager, Jeff Kulek. “It’s a self-contained environment with both indoor and outdoor experiences.”
Another benefit: Since most hotel suites require the room to be booked all night, event breakdown can wait until the next morning, and guests can stay as late as they’d like.Photo: Courtesy of London West Hollywood Penthouse
No Decor Required
Along the same lines, penthouses and suites come with ready-made decor—which often makes the hefty price tag worth it.
“The cost saved on decor is notable, as these suites have been designed by world-class interior decorators,” says McSween, who notes that the 281-room JW Marriott Parq Vancouver and the 178-room Douglas have a total of five luxury suites, all with different designs appropriate for different types of events. “With a meeting room or ballroom space, florals, furniture rental, and more would be required to create an ambiance.”
Denise Kurland, director of special events for the SLS South Beach in Miami, agrees. “Our clients are always looking for something outside of the box, not a traditional four-wall space,” she explains. “[Our] penthouses and V.I.P. suites are curated with ready-to-go decor, which enables the planners to allocate their budget for other enhancements and needs.”
The SLS South Beach, for example, features a 1,044-square-foot penthouse designed by singer Lenny Kravitz, while the London West Hollywood’s penthouse comes from British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.
Silvestri notes that SBE has also worked with big-name designers. “Philippe Starck, David Rockwell, some of the best designers in the world,” he says. “The suites almost feel like a museum—you have so many beautiful art pieces on the walls, and some really cool furniture.”Photo: Courtesy of SLS South Beach
Many penthouses and suites take it a step further, like the W Seattle’s 580-square-foot music-studio-inspired suite. Open since 2017, the space doubles as a working recording studio and has a DJ system plus a writer’s room and lounge. Another memorable themed suite is the 1,200-square-foot Extreme Wow Suite at the W New York—Times Square. The space holds 85 and has a Times Square theme, with fun touches such as wallpaper made from Broadway ticket stubs.
Other hotel suites can be a way to further an event’s philanthropic mission, like the two-year-old Andaz West Hollywood’s (RED) Suite. The 800-square-foot space was designed by interior designer Jonathan Adler, and 30 percent of each booking benefits (RED)’s mission to end AIDS.
For a truly over-the-top themed event, though, it’s hard to beat the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas after its recent $690 million renovation. In March, the hotel unveiled its new Empathy Suite, a 9,000-square-foot museum-like space designed by acclaimed artist Damien Hirst. A collaboration with Bentel & Bentel Architects, the luxury space is reportedly the world’s most expensive hotel room, with a $100,000 price tag for one night.
The 1,365-room Palms is also home to the $15,000-per-night Kingpin Suite, which has its own bowling alley; and the $20,000-per-night Hardwood Suite, which has its own basketball court, locker room, and whiskey room. Both rooms come with a round-the-clock butler.Photo: Clink Jenkins
For certain V.I.P. event hosts, though, the greatest amenity of all is privacy, says Silvestri. “Celebrities and C.E.O.s can be in a safe space where no one [is] trying to take their picture,” he notes.
McSween agrees. "The exclusivity and distinctiveness of the suites are absolutely a draw for higher-profile guests and event hosts. A number of our suites come equipped with dedicated service corridors so that items can be dropped without ever intruding in the space."
The Mark’s penthouse, for example, does not have a private entrance but it does occupy an entire floor of the hotel. “Its five bedrooms are good for staff and security,” explained a spokesperson for the hotel. “Everyone can be in the same space.”
On the other end of the spectrum, social-media culture may be making these spaces more popular than ever—everyone wants that ultra-exclusive, V.I.P. shot for Instagram.
"We see it with restaurants, public art, urban design, and more—we are creating a photogenic world that ignites intrigue and those 'Instagrammable moments,'" says McSween. "Our suites were crafted in the same avenue of thought as backdrops for captured moments and photos that garner the question, 'Where did you get this shot?'"Photo: Marcus Strole Photography
This story appeared in BizBash's Spring 2019 issue.