The Langham was the place you took out-of-town relatives on a Saturday afternoon for the chocolate brunch at Cafe Fleuri, or perhaps tea with your auntie. You may have celebrated a special occasion over a steak dinner and a martini at the hotel’s masculine restaurant, Bond. The Langham, in its fortress-like edifice, felt dark and rich, but more recently it was also feeling outdated. The hotel’s public spaces, along with the guest rooms, were ready for a renovation. It was time to ditch the heavy drapes and dark colors. Yes, it was time to ditch all that chocolate.
In 2019, the Langham closed for a year, vowing to come back in the early summer of 2020 after a $150 million renovation with a fresh, light look and new dining options. In the process, the Langham no longer wanted to look like an impenetrable block and instead more like a place that Financial District workers might want to come for a drink or dinner after work.
The 2020 reopening was scrapped when construction projects came to a standstill last spring as COVID-19 shut down the city. The Langham sat as empty as the nearby office towers. But at long last, the Langham returns this June with a light-filled Italian restaurant (goodbye Bond), a London-inspired cocktail pub called The Fed (goodbye Reserve), which will include an outdoor terrace. Guest rooms are losing all of the heavy drapes and striped wallpaper in exchange for gauzy shades of blue and cream. If you’ve stayed at the Langham in London (and lucky you if you have), you’ll notice more than a passing resemblance between the Boston and London properties. The same design team tackled both.
Outside, the building will be strategically illuminated so it no longer looks like an unwelcoming block of granite, but instead a Financial District attraction. Even the red awnings have been replaced with chic new charcoal awnings.
Michele Grosso, the managing director of the Langham Boston sat down (via Zoom) last month and offered a virtual walk-through of what to expect when the hotel opens this summer.
“Artwork is going to be a big part of the story here,” Grosso said. “It’s a combination of pieces from our chairman’s private collection, pieces that were commissioned from the Copley Society of Art, and just cool pieces that were picked specifically for this project.”
The hotel’s billionaire chairman, Lo Ka Shui, is an avid art collector who has been incorporating his collection into his hotels around the world.
Speaking of money, one of the colors introduced into the design of the renovated hotel is green. The Langham was built in 1922 as the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and some details of its banking past are dotted throughout.
While green has found its way into the lobby, the guest rooms pull in touches of blue, a nod to New England and the sea, Grosso said.
“You have these great airy, bright colors,” he said. “You can see that all the windows on the lower floors are stamped with “New York 1914,” which is when they must have been ordered from New York. And so it’s a nice touch of history. Obviously, any historical features we found were preserved.”
If you’d previously stayed at the hotel and missed such details, you can easily be forgiven.
“There was a time when window coverings were very grand, heavy drapes. There was a reason for that,” Grosso said. “I can’t tell you the reason for that, but today it’s all about opening up and letting in natural light.”
The marble for the bathrooms came from Italy and was ready to ship when Italy was shut down amid the first wave of coronavirus cases. For about three months, the marble was unaccounted for. Eventually it found its way to Boston. The overall look of the room can be described by the current hotel word of the moment: “Residential.”
The dramatic chandeliers of Bond will be preserved, but that’s one of the few features from the old restaurant that will carry over when it reopens as Grana, an Italian restaurant. Its a bright space that has a very different character from Bond. It feels more like a restaurant for everyone and has shed its stuffed shirt vibe. Cafe Fleuri is becoming a ballroom, which means no more weekly chocolate brunch, but a spokesperson for the hotel said vestiges of the chocolate will appear on restaurant menus.
Most of the hotel was stripped back to the concrete during the renovation. Grosso said staff was hoping there might have been some leftover loot from the days that the hotel was a bank.
“In case anyone was wondering, there were no gold bars behind the walls,” he said. “Trust me, we were all carefully looking.”