“What’s next?” one journalist wants to know, before we adjourn for a whirlwind tour of the hotel. Alabbar reports that an Armani Hotel is currently under construction in Milan, on Via Manzoni. This will be followed by the first Armani Resort, slated for Marrakesh. Then an Armani Residences/Villas, scheduled for the beach in Marassi, Egypt. Other destinations on the itinerary include New York City, Tokyo, Shanghai, and London.
Armani seems not a bit impressed by all the figures and facts being bandied about. But then, why would he be? According to Forbes, the designer’s net worth hovers at around $5 billion. He employs 5,000 people, owns 13 factories and 25 restaurants, and has more than 500 stores around the world. And he also owns, in addition to his custom-designed yacht, an impressive portfolio of personal real estate: a pied-à-terre in Paris; a penthouse in New York; houses in St.-Tropez, Antigua, and Italy (in Pantelleria, Broni, Forte dei Marmi, and, of course, his Peter Marino–designed home base in Milan).
As people familiar with Armani’s work know, the designer is a Modernist. Not a Modernist in the clichéd white-walls, chrome-and-black-leather-furniture sense of the word. But a Modernist with a penchant for streamlined furniture and restrained rooms. They all embody the rigorously understated elegance that is his signature. Armani came to the project with considerable experience in designing interiors and furniture. His Armani/Casa division now has more than 60 stores and outlets in 46 countries. Battalions of architects and designers under Armani’s watchful eye not only create the collections Armani/Casa introduces each season but also perform extensive design services for clients who want to live the complete Armani “lifestyle.”
The first thing you see when you walk in the front door of the hotel are four interlocking arches that rise almost 40 feet. Made of thick tubular steel with a bronze finish, the arches are inspired by regional architecture. They also form the symbol for Armani Hotel Dubai, which has been incorporated into the base of the glass-topped tables found in every room. As I glimpse the hotel, it’s clear Armani is partial to the 1930’s—not only to Jean-Michel Frank but also to a certain period in designer Eileen Gray’s remarkable career. He likes macassar ebony and black lacquer, vellum and parchment. One wall is leather, another is fabric, another is wood. Here and there you can spot a Japanese influence, from tatami mats to sliding shoji-like screens. The palette is all beiges and grays, coffees and cappuccinos, deep olives and pale seafoam greens. At times there is a hint of Art Deco, in the way a corner of a sofa or chair is rounded, the way a curve of a vanity is resolved. But always there is rigor to thwart any nascent inclination toward excess. Like the curvaceous Burj Khalifa itself, the walls in the guest rooms curve and bend, move and slide to give access to the bedroom, to the bathroom, to the walk-in closet. In my suite, there is a dining table with four straight-back chairs, and a dark-wood secretary inlaid with embossed black leather that looks a bit like shagreen. The dining area is separated from the living area by a chest-high bifold screen made of creamy fabric panels framed in ebonized wood. In the bathrooms, the floors are Eramosa stone. In each living room and bedroom, oversize sliding panels, framed in bronze, open to reveal a flat-screen TV that doubles as a computer monitor, thanks to a wireless keyboard. Another oversize panel conceals a butler’s station with an espresso machine, a well-stocked refrigerator, and drawers filled with Armani sweets. From the shampoo to the flatware, everything is stamped armani. Similarly, the flower arrangements in the guest rooms are the work of Armani/Fiori, which has a retail outpost in the lobby next to Armani/Dolci, which sells chocolates, jellies, sweets, and spreads. Also in the lobby is Armani/Galleria, which offers haute couture accessories from the Armani Privé collection. In addition to the hotel’s 160 rooms and suites, which range from $1,000 to $10,000 a night, plus a 20 percent tax, there are 144 one- and two-bedroom apartments in Burj Khalifa designed and furnished by Armani and measuring 1,000 to 2,000 square feet. According to one report, the apartments sell for $3,500 per square foot. The hotel also has eight in-house restaurants, all designed by Armani, along with a serene, 14,000-square-foot spa on the third floor, which opens to an outdoor swimming pool on the spa’s terrace.