While the majority of DC Refined readers were not yet alive during the infamous Watergate break-in, we certainly spent many a hour in history class studying the scandal that forced the only presidential resignation in U.S. history. And considering the very spot where this scandalous history was made is right here in the District, at the Watergate Hotel, it's an era that is referenced often in everyday conversation in D.C. So the announcement that a new hotel suite would be Watergate Scandal-themed was not at all shocking. Timed to the 45th anniversary of the Watergate scandal, the hotel shrewdly partnered with "Scandal" costume designer Lyn Paolo (she also works on "Shameless," "Animal Kingdom" and "How to Get Away with Murder") to renovate room 214 -- where E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy holed up as the heads of the break-in team and remained in contact with everyone via radio as the DNC burglary went down --as a brand new signature guest room sure to entice history buffs everywhere; the suite just became available for booking today.
The new "Scandal Suite" includes a wall of newspaper clippings regarding Watergate and Nixon, several notable quotes from the era, and even a replica of Nixon's official resignation letter; several of the newspapers are originals clipped and saved by a hotel employee's mother. Of course there are numerous biographies about Nixon scattered around the room, and Paolo even went so far as to include period-accurate details such as a Crosley record player (her favorite element of the room), a red Ericofon phone, a midcentury steno chair, a cassette player and binoculars that look like they haven't been touched since the '70s. Of course, direct nods to the scandal are everywhere, from the bathrobes that direct you to "cover up" to the pencil keepsakes that are emblazoned with "I stole from the Watergate Hotel."
Paolo made a visit to Washington yesterday to unveil her scandalously stylish creation to the public, and we got to have a quick chat with her about everything from how her costume design skills transitioned to interior design, why this project excited her millennial daughter more than anything else she's worked on and the Washington politician whose style she adores.
She spent a lot of time in the White House during the early 2000s
It's very easy to get starstruck when reading Paolo's most recent resume items, such as her work on cult-favorite shows "Scandal" and "Shameless," but when I learned that she was also the genius behind the costuming on West Wing, I nearly lost my cool! I mean c'mon, what Washington woman hasn't geeked out over C.J.'s power suits, or nerdily followed the Twitter account for Josh Lyman's backpack??
"I certainly learned a lot about Washington fashion when I worked on West Wing, as I spent a lot of time here during filming. When the Clintons were in office, they would actually allow the cast and crew to explore the real West Wing, to help us capture the spirit of the office. That stopped when the next administration came in. But we had a lot of real Washington insiders on that show, like Dee Dee Myers and Lawrence O'Donnell. Even the DNC came to our set, so we got to meet a lot of Washington insiders back then."
This was her first time designing a hotel room (but she totally nailed it!)
"My whole background is in costume design, but I secretly always wanted to be the production designer. No, just kidding, I'm too busy! But why wouldn't I want to be involved in this project? I mean look at it, it's so fun! It’s just an amazing opportunity and it afforded me the ability to come to D.C., and be in this town. I absolutely love it here, as you see people from all over the world. I find this city very inspirational as a designer, because you see things in this city that you wouldn’t see anywhere else. It was just fun, and different for me. It was definitely out of my wheelhouse, but to get to have this great moment, especially as a Brit, to come here and stand in this room where the scandal all happened, it wasn't something you say no to."
She is a political junkie
"It's gotten to the point where my children have had to beg me to turn off the news. But you know, it’s sort of eerie, standing here, and you can’t believe that you are standing in the room where the end of a presidency began. I’m a huge Doctor Who fan, and I’m going to sound like such a nerd here, but I just want to get in the Tardis and sort of go back and be in this room in that moment when it all went down. What Rakel has done here, and what we have done as a team, will make this place a go-to destination for people, whether just for that one special night, or for people who are history buffs, or even just a young couple who wants to do something fun. Even for people who live in D.C., I think it's going to be big, because if you’re a political animal why not come and spend the night here?"
She admires Nancy Pelosi's style
Paolo admits that even though she thinks D.C. has great style, she takes her inspiration for the fashion on "Scandal" more so from the script than from what Washington women are actually wearing.
"I do observe what people on the streets are wearing, of course, and I have my favorites. I actually love Nancy Pelosi. I love the way she dresses and I think she is phenomenal for her age. I mean look at her, look at her go! No matter what anyone says, there's great style here in D.C."
She does not enjoy shopping for her own clothes
"Because I work with clothing all the time, it is not my joy to go shopping for clothes. But it is a true joy for me to go shopping for furniture. One of my fondest things is redoing my home, but I just wish I would stop. I just seem to keep redoing my home."
She is truly a team player
During our 15-minute interview, Paolo must have complimented the team she worked with -- particularly the Watergate's co-owner Rakel Cohen who was her partner on the project -- more than a dozen times. She was always redirecting attention to those she worked with, and reiterated that Cohen's openness to her creativity was the reason for the project's success.
"As a designer, it was fun to approach things from a different point of view. But in that I was very fortunate to be working with Rakel, because if I had worked with anyone else who wasn’t quite as open to ideas, or didn't want me to be creative, then that would not have been nearly as much fun. But the whole team, even down to Oscar at the front desk, was so kind and accommodating and an absolute dream to work with."