We caught up with our team and our friends at VisitLEX to get the inside scoop on the talk of the town… The Harmon Room at 21c Lexington. Read along as 21c Lexington General Manager, Gabe Isaac, Director of Sales & Marketing, Brian Pulley, Gathan Borden Vice President of Marketing at VisitLEX and designers Lucy Jones, Isabel Ladd and Alex K Mason give us the tea on this exciting collaboration.
How was the idea born?
GB: We are always following pop culture and using those trends to help us market Lexington as a travel destination. Being in a smaller city, we are always trying to break through the clutter of destination marketing with innovative ideas that rival what you find in major metropolitan areas. We saw the rise in the popularity of The Queen’s Gambit as several people in our offices were talking about it. With the backdrop of the show being Lexington, Kentucky we knew this could be our opportunity to gain some major notoriety for Lexington as a travel destination. We started with creating a Queen’s Gambit Guide to Lexington that touches on various points of interest in and around Lexington that were featured in the show. But after more conversation, our ad agency Cornett came up with this idea to find a hotel partner who would be willing to turn a hotel room into a complete Queen’s Gambit experience.
How did 21c get involved? Why was 21c asked to partner on this project?
GB: We knew from the beginning that 21c would be the ideal partner for this project. We wanted a hotel partner that would be nimble enough to embrace an out-of-the-box partnership with a tourism office to help bring travelers to the city. The hotel is such a unique property, that encompasses art, culture and innovation, so we couldn’t think of a more appropriate partner to work with to create a mid-century themed hotel room.
What were your initial thoughts when VisitLEX first shared the idea with you and what were you most excited about?
GI: What a tremendous opportunity to champion the city of Lexington and connect it to one of the best shows on TV!
BP: We HAVE to do this, and fast! I thought immediately this is bigger than 21c Lexington – this will shine a light on Lexington during such a critical time. We’re excited to have a difference maker in this time of difficulty for our industry, city and property.
What partners were used to bring this to life and what unique angle did they bring to the table?
GB: This project could not have happened without all of our partners who immediately jumped in and said yes as soon as we asked for their help. The unique thing about all of the partners on this project is that they are all local Lexington residents and businesses. The partners involved are: CORNETT, Isabel Ladd Interiors, Lucy Jones, Ferrick Mason Inc., Scout, Black Swan Books, Honeysage Photo Co.
Are there any small details that the team is particularly fond of in the room?
GB: I am very fond of the old-school rotary phone and the vintage phone book. I am old enough to have used them both as a child, and now as a parent, I laugh because my kids would have no idea on how to use either!
LJ: All of the best projects require a little bit of magic. When I was invited to participate in the design of the Harmon Room, I couldn’t wait to get started. I immediately started scavenging eBay to see what was available. We hadn’t discussed a budget yet but, when I located a pair of 1960’s king and queen chess piece bourbon decanters from a Kentucky distillery, I knew I had no choice but to purchase them as a gift to the project. After all, they checked all the boxes of the spirit of the room! When they arrived, I set them aside and didn’t think much about them…nor did anyone else. I don’t believe that Alex Mason, the designer of the gorgeous Knight’s Gambit wallpaper, even laid eyes on them. But when the project came together and we pulled out the decanters as a finishing touch, they matched the color scheme so beautifully it was as if the room had been designed around them. I love that kind of kismet!”
IL: One of my favorite details is the phone book. Remember how hotel rooms used to have giant phone books? I love that guests staying in the room will be able to peruse this old directory, and it will be extra special for guests who are from Lexington, or have history or family from Lexington, to look up their relatives or see the old ads. As a matter of fact, it was during our installation day that Alex Mason recognized her grandfather’s car dealership on the front cover of the phone book, as an advertiser!
AM: I love the details in the room that co-ordinate with the dark green in the wallpaper. I think Isabel and Lucy did a great job pulling together those 60’s greens that make it look authentic to the period. It is definitely in the details of this room that make it special and all the credit goes to Isabel and Lucy for that!
What is the initial feedback from guests and the community?
GB: The initial feedback has all been positive, and quite honestly, it has taken off faster than we thought. So many locals and visitors are fans of the show and were immediately asking how they could book the room. We had lots of people with the last name ‘Harmon’ commenting on social and we even virtually met a lady named Elizabeth Harmon who was born in Lexington and occasionally plays chess on her iPhone! The most exciting thing to see is how many people have been sharing with their family and friends through comments on the post about the room.
How has our team reacted to all the buzz?
GI: It’s been heartwarming to hear that teammates’ friends and family from all over the world have contacted them to say, “Hey, I saw your hotel on…”. Everyone is super excited by the physical space itself. We become numb to the thoughtful design of our guestrooms; seeing the transformation is a welcome surprise!
BP: This has been a big morale booster for our staff. The Harmon Room has given us a positive focal point in a difficult time for everyone.
What do you think this means for the city, especially as travel starts to return?
GB: We started off 2021 with a bang, when Travel + Leisure listed Lexington as one of the “50 Best Places to Travel in 2021”. And now we are only in January, and The Harmon Room at 21c has been featured on all major travel media sites, as well as top entertainment and pop culture media sites. As travel sentiment is on the rise, now that vaccines are being distributed, this media exposure is timely as people begin to dream and plan about where they want to travel this year. We’ve had a much smaller marketing budget this year due to COVID, so opportunities like The Harmon Room have provided us the necessary media exposure for Lexington as a travel destination that we couldn’t afford otherwise. We also hope this project serves as inspiration to our other industry partners as a way to get them to either jump on “The Queen’s Gambit” bandwagon too, or to think more creatively about their sales and marketing efforts this year as leisure travel hopes to see a rebound in 2021.
Interested in staying the night? Book The Harmon Room here.