A Design-Driven Guide To Washington DC With Lore Group’s Jacu Strauss

A Design-Driven Guide To Washington DC With Lore Group’s Jacu Strauss

The man behind some of the world’s leading design hotels gives us his take on the US capital. Read on for the speakeasy-style bars, lazy lunch spots and museums to make tracks for



South
African-born Jacu Strauss – architect, designer and
creative director at boundary-breaking hospitality brand Lore Group – has put
the magic into some of the world’s coolest hotels. Having started
out working on interiors for Tom Dixon, before moving on to a
complete overhaul of Amsterdam’s iconic Pulitzer hotel, Strauss has since overseen the
successful roll-out of a number of high-profile addresses,
including London’s Sea Containers and One Hundred Shoreditch.

Strauss admits that preserving the original DNA of a property
can be a challenge, but a challenge that is undoubtedly fun to
overcome. “We have to be honest about what we’re dealing with. We
like to celebrate the goodness of what we inherit and try to
maintain that,” he says. “I like to think of DNA as the communities
and context that surround a property rather than the structural
shell. Design is not about things; it’s about people. In some
instances, it’s deep-rooted, but often you have to travel down
different pathways to uncover what needs to be celebrated.”

Jacu Strauss

Jacu, left, and a look inside Lyle

Washington DC-based hotels Lyle and Riggs are two sparkly check-ins in Strauss’
impressive portfolio, both of which underwent sensitive renovations
before opening their doors. Keen to discover how best to spend a
weekend in Washington DC, we caught up with Strauss to quiz him on
the best local food stops and souvenirs worth saving room in your
suitcase for.

A designer’s guide to Washington DC with Lore Group’s Jacu
Strauss

What’s Washington DC’s vibe?

Washington DC is often associated with politics and negative
press but it’s so much more diverse than that. The city is
beautiful. There are no skyscrapers, thanks to the Height Act
[which states that buildings on commercial streets can be no taller
than 40m], so there’s endless greenery and boundless blue skies.
The people like to have fun, eat and drink. They are hugely
welcoming and intensely kind.

When’s the best time to visit?

There’s something special about spring. Being the shoulder
season, it’s relatively quiet but pleasantly warm. Visit in April
to see the cherry blossoms. I’ve never seen anything like them
before – they have to be seen to be understood.

Washington DC, Spring
Washington DC, Architecture

Sun-kissed snaps of Washington DC in spring

What’s your favourite neighbourhood in the city?

I lived in DC for three years. There’s a lesser-known area
called Dupont Circle, which is rich in greenery and incredibly
diverse. Every neighbourhood has its own personality and character,
and there’s vibrant nightlife and an abundance of restaurants
waiting to be found in the smallest of pockets.

Where should we stay?

The Adams Morgan neighbourhood. There’s something charming about
old-school institutional hotels like The Hay-Adams.
Otherwise, you’ve got Lyle and Riggs to choose between. Riggs is
housed in a former bank in the heart of the city and is surrounded
by museums. It’s grand, glamorous and louder than Lyle. Lyle is
situated in residential Dupont Circle, making it better suited to
those looking at a longer stay.

Where should we head for food?

Lyle is great for breakfast. The hash browns are dangerously
delicious – I could eat 100 of them. Lutèce is my
favourite spot for a long, lazy lunch. It’s a quaint little
restaurant serving French-inspired plates in a beautiful, low-key
lounge. For dinner, there’s Kura, the “robotic grill sushi”. It’s a
counter set-up where you can spend an evening people-watching,
which I love.

Ryle, Bed
Lyle, Suite Dining Area

A bedroom at Riggs Washington DC, left, and an airy dining
space in a suite at Lyle

It’s Saturday night. Where should we head for drinks?

The coolest place in DC happens to be one of our bars, Silver Lyan. It’s
helmed by Mr Lyan [Ryan Chetiyawardana], the world’s most famous
bartender and the mastermind behind Lyaness at Sea Containers
London. It used to be a bank vault, and the cocktails are
exceptional. For a more casual vibe, chilled-out speakeasy The Gibson is a
good choice. Another low-key address is Jane Jane.

Museums we should check out and why?

There are so many. One that stands out is the Hirshhorn Museum. I
could spend 15 minutes or four hours there – it’s so therapeutic.
It has amazing exhibitions, which are made more immersive by the
building’s circular shape. Walking in a circular direction allows
you to appreciate the artwork in a different way.

I get very excited about the Hillwood Museum,
which was once the home of the richest woman in the world, Marjorie
Merriweather Post. Today, it hosts incredible activations. The
beautiful gardens are worth visiting for, too.

Museum Washington DC
Washington Street Scene

The circular exterior of Hirshhorn Museum, alongside a
colourful street scene

Something to bring back as a souvenir?

At Hillwood Museum there’s a plaque outside Post’s
bedroom with two little hinges and two little flaps. If you open
it, it says “Do Not Disturb”. You can buy a replica of it in the
museum’s gift shop – it’s small and sweet. Otherwise, The White
House Historical Association
stocks beautiful festive
decorations. It’s the perfect place to pick up a special Christmas
piece.

And, lastly, can you tell us what you’re working on at the
moment?

I’m currently in NYC. We’ve just started a 10-year project on an
office building near Grand Central Station. It’s a huge 1980s
postmodern building, which is not a hugely popular style right now
but remains one of my favourite design periods. We’re hoping to
inject a little bit of Lore magic into a working setting to create
an inspiring set-up. Understanding emotional touchpoints that have
been historically ignored in a workplace is a landscape I’m
particularly intrigued by post-pandemic.

Roberta Hall-McCarron

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