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The "W Atlanta"

R Sky Kagachi - Click to Enlarge

by

R Sky Kogachi

Sr. Writer, Contemporary Styles

When traveling to Atlanta, there is no question where to stay for a sophisticated, contemporary environment. Amid a chain of look-alike hotels, W is a gem among a sea of pebbles. Surprisingly, W itself is a chain, owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which also owns Westin, Sheraton, and St. Regis. 

If you're already a member of the Starwood Preferred Guest Program, your perks and benefits still apply.

W is difficult to pin down - lying somewhere between a luxury, chain, and boutique hotel. It first opened in New York with a second in Atlanta in February 1999 - so it is only a year and a half old. 

The "W Atlanta"

However, Starwood hasn't wasted anytime in reaching out to hotel guests tired of the same bland hospitality aesthetic - they have since added locations in Los Angeles, Seattle, Honolulu, Newark, Sydney, San Francisco, New York, Atlanta, and New Orleans with 8 more coming by 2001. Every W Hotel is unique in appearance, so don't expect that the things described here will necessarily reflect in the others. Remember, it is a chain, but it isn't.

From the very first step into the lobby, you know you are in a different kind of hotel. The floor is a diamond pattern of beige limestone and the walls are veneered in warm, figured maple. To the right is the Living Room, a lounge area in earthy green ultra-suede upholstery, mountain grass woven throw rugs, glass topped center tables with cherry wood box side tables. The large, circular columns in the living room and the elevator lobby are surrounded by spiraling couches climbing to the ceiling. To the left of the entry, behind the stainless steel, frosted glass, and figured maple concierge desk and white sheer curtains, is Savu - the hotel's Asian fusion restaurant and bar. Upbeat jazz, fusion, world, and dance music compels you forward to the convex curved front desk where the service is quick, attentive, friendly and racially diverse (highlighting the metropolitan qualities of both the city and the hotel). Varsha, dressed in all black with a silver W pin on her lapel, checked me in, and from that point became my guardian angel, always referring to me by name and ensuring everything was fantastic, the minimum to be expected there.

At night, Willie, the concierge in charge of facilities, transforms the lobby with over 200 candles. The effect is enhanced with dramatic lighting - including color changing lights in the cabinet behind the bar and blue light behind the concierge desk. It takes on the atmosphere of a dance lounge, especially with the ten-year high school reunion there one night.

The hallways leading to the rooms were as beautiful as they were mysterious. Opposite the elevator is a dark wood table, a small lamp with beaded shade and a classic dial telephone. The halls are dimly lit with blue sconces and stripes of yellow light from the recessed doorways.

The rooms are much brighter than the halls. I was staying in one of 22 business suites (there are 120 deluxe guestrooms and 132 oversized one-bedroom suites). The foyer has green slate tile floors and earthy green walls. The rest of the room - living room, dressing room, bathroom and bedroom keep an understated elegance with beige carpet, tiles, and walls, off-white cotton upholstery, sheer white curtains and cherry wood cabinetry. There are wonderful cobalt blue accents set about in this neutral palette including a polarfleece blanket, pillow, backboard, shower curtain, glass soap dish and drinking glasses. If you want to keep the theme going, order some Saratoga bottled water for your room. It is the most delicious bottled water I have ever tasted (and living in Los Angeles, I've tried almost everything), and it comes in a beautiful cobalt blue bottle. There was also a camel colored chenille throw and pillow in the living room to cuddle up with if there isn't anything else to cuddle. The body amenities are by Aveda, mouthwash by Rembrandt. The rain-shower head on a dual-pivot arm is to die for. The hotel stationary is also notable with the die-cut W at the top center of the writing paper, envelope and Post-It notes. Above the television cabinet in the bedroom is a large, flat rock with the word IMAGINE engraved in it.

From my window and balcony the view included the North and South Terrace, two handsome concrete-frame and glass infill office buildings connected by a suspended wooded bridge over an artificial river, and lots and lots of trees. It seems that the area north of Atlanta is well preserved green space with very little development.

My room had a full kitchen, a fax-copier-scanner machine, and data ports on the telephone. The voice mail and cordless phone came in handy; toll free calls are also free under 60 minutes. When you check in, you are given five business cards (more upon request) so that people you meet can easily contact you at the hotel. The television has full service including VCR, limited cable, pay-per-view movies, internet connection via HotelTV (no Java script capabilities, ~ button, or child security), and Nintendo. There is also a CD-tape-radio stereo.

Room service is 24-hour with a limited selection between 11 pm and 6 am. If you get a craving in the middle of the night, the Thai Coconut Chicken Soup is wonderful, but the old fashion Cookies and Milk may also do the trick. Overall, in-room dining at the W is delicious, with typically a 20 minute delivery time. The honor bar and munchie basket also include pleasant bottles of wine. There is a strange, but welcome, Whatever/Whenever button on the phone for anything you need. Tak, who I often saw around the hotel keeping things smooth for guests, manages this service. No more looking at a laundry list of extensions to get help or service, one button does it all.

The hotel also has a host of amenities including a complimentary business center with copier, fax, printer, and sleek black IBM computer with dial-up internet connection. There is an outdoor recreation pool, perfect for the hot summers, and a fitness room with 4 different cardio machines (6 total), five different weight machines, 4 televisions, and yoga balls. They also have banquet rooms (called great rooms) and a variety of conference, meeting and work rooms.

W Atlanta is located in the Perimeter Center. If you are not familiar with Atlanta, the city is surrounded by the I-285, a circular freeway defining the perimeter, and bisected with the I-20 running east-west and the I-75 and I-85 running north-south. The airport is located at the southern edge of the I-285, and the W is located at the northern edge. I'm still not sure why the northern edge is called the Perimeter Center, or how a perimeter can even have a center that is still located on the perimeter - but I will leave that question up to the anthropologists. There is a rail system called MARTA, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, that has a North-South Rapid Rail Line and a East-West Rapid Rail Line that intersect at the center of the city, called Five Points.

The hotel is about a 40 minute MARTA ride from the airport. Taking the North-South to the last station Dunwoody, W provides a free shuttle service to and from the hotel to the station or anywhere within a 2 mile radius. Being a pedestrian in Atlanta is not an easy task, so I wouldn't suggest you walk from the station, there is a severe lack of sidewalks in the area. If you prefer to drive, exit Ashford-Dunwoody Road off the I-285. W has complimentary self parking and 24 hour valet parking for $9 per day.

There is plenty to see in Atlanta, even if you are limited by the existing rail service. Top of the list should include the High Museum of Art, designed in 1983 by Richard Meier, famous for the Getty Center. Located near the Arts Center MARTA station on the North-South, it houses an eclectic display and collection of contemporary and classical art from the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Near the next station south of that, Midtown, is the only 24-hour club called Backstreet. Although billed as a gay club with fabulous drag shows, the space attracts both male and female, straight and gay. If you are looking for a trendy, fun area for night life - check out Buckhead, only two MARTA stops away from the W. Although Underground Atlanta at the Five Points Station is pushed onto tourists and the Perimeter Mall is just across the street from the W, great shopping is at the upscale Lenox Square and the even more upscale Phipps Plaza across the street, both accessible from the Lenox station 4 stops from W.

Although Atlanta is a cosmopolitan and diverse city, the W is the only hotel to truly reflect that. If you would like a special treat, chic contemporary style awaits you there. W Atlanta is a moderately priced hotel.

The W Atlanta
111 Perimeter Center West
Dunwoody GA 90346

Phone: 770-396-6800 or 877-WHO-TELS
Fax: 770.399.5514. 
Web: http://www.whotels.com

Peace,

Sky

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Email: R Sky Kogachi

R Sky Kogachi understands contemporary styles. He holds degrees in Architecture, East Asian Languages and Culture, and Industrial Design from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, Waseda University in Tokyo, Cambridge University in England, and Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Besides practicing architecture, interior, furniture and graphic design, he also writes food, wine and travel articles, as well as poetry and short fiction. Sky draws the large picture from the small details, through hawk eyes, heavy research, and active contemplation. His professional core is balanced with his personal passions - swimming, rock climbing, snow skiing, cooking, nutrition and protecting the environment. Sky walks the earth; this is his home.

 

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