2018-04-07 / News

Grand Hotel To Introduce Suite Dedicated to Prentiss M. Brown

By Jacob A. Ball


A rendering of the exterior of Grand Hotel’s Lilac Suite, complete with a painting of the flowering tree, and a lilac-colored door. A rendering of the exterior of Grand Hotel’s Lilac Suite, complete with a painting of the flowering tree, and a lilac-colored door. A newly redesigned guest suite dedicated to former U.S. Senator Prentiss M. Brown will debut this spring at Grand Hotel, and another will feature Mackinac Island’s favorite blossom, the lilac. The Prentiss M. Brown Suite will feature personal effects belonging to the late senator, who lived in St. Ignace and was instrumental in bringing about the building of the Mackinac Bridge.

Carleton Varney, Grand Hotel’s longtime interior decorator and president of Dorothy Draper and Company of New York, ensures that every design and renovation at Grand Hotel is customized.

“Nothing is taken from a book, it is all from our heads,” he said.

The Prentiss M. Brown Suite is no exception, as a custom carpet featuring the senator’s signature will be featured in the suite, which Mr. Varney says will be in dark, “scholarly” hues. Several pieces in the room were selected from the senator’s belongings. This includes a roll-top desk, a wing chair, and correspondence between himself and former Grand Hotel President Stewart Woodfill, an uncle of the present hotel president Dan Musser III and another key figure in the establishment of the Mackinac Bridge. Mr. Musser said the inclusion of some of Senator Brown’s personal effects adds a level of authenticity to the suite. Mr. Varney said this space recognizes Michigan’s history, and Mr. Musser added that the room will garner attention from those interested in Michigan’s past and politics.


A rendering, by interior designer Carleton Varney, displays one of two new suites being completed for Grand Hotel this summer. The Prentiss M. Brown Suite is dedicated to the former U.S. Senator who had ties to Mackinac Island and Grand Hotel, and was integral in the realization of the Mackinac Bridge. (Images provided courtesy of Dorothy Draper and Company, Inc.) A rendering, by interior designer Carleton Varney, displays one of two new suites being completed for Grand Hotel this summer. The Prentiss M. Brown Suite is dedicated to the former U.S. Senator who had ties to Mackinac Island and Grand Hotel, and was integral in the realization of the Mackinac Bridge. (Images provided courtesy of Dorothy Draper and Company, Inc.) The concept for the space came from Mr. Musser, while he was sitting in the suite thinking about how to renovate the space. The view from the windows perfectly frames the Mackinac Bridge, which led to designing a room to honor a man with deep connections to the bridge and the Straits of Mackinac. Mr. Brown is the grandfather of Marlee Musser, Mr. Musser’s wife, and the Brown family owned and operated Arnold Transit Company for years. Sen. Brown was also the founder of First National Bank of St. Ignace, which has a branch on Mackinac Island.


A design rendering of the new, brightly appointed Lilac Suite at Grand Hotel designed by Carleton Varney of Dorothy Draper and Company of New York City. The suite features a one-of-a-kind mural painted by Michael Peck of Marshall, which is visible behind the headboard in this depiction. A design rendering of the new, brightly appointed Lilac Suite at Grand Hotel designed by Carleton Varney of Dorothy Draper and Company of New York City. The suite features a one-of-a-kind mural painted by Michael Peck of Marshall, which is visible behind the headboard in this depiction. Mr. Musser said he is proud to share a part of his family history with guests.

The Lilac Suite has a brighter ambiance and incorporates pastel colors and floral designs throughout. A centerpiece of the space will be a one-of-a-kind mural painted by Michael Peck of Marshall, who has previously participated in the Lilac Festival poster contest.

“I think the mural is going to be phenomenal,” Mr. Musser said.

Mr. Varney designed the room with custom-made carpets, fabrics, and furnishings to surround guests in a make-believe garden. His use of the lilac and other Mackinac Island flowers in the design of the suite is meant to fit the concept that Grand Hotel is a “plethora of fantasies,” he said.

“We want to transport your mind into a fantasy,” he added. The last thing he wants is for someone to feel as if they are at home.

Both suites will feature updated bathrooms, with glass showers replacing bathtubs. Mr. Musser said this renovation is taking place in about 15 additional guestrooms this winter, and eventually every bathroom will be updated to this new design. Grand Hotel’s bathrooms are not especially spacious, and Mr. Musser says the switch to a walk-in shower frees up more floor space. In addition, hoteliers, in general, have been converting shower and tub combinations into stalls because guest preference has shifted away from bathing toward showering, and also a walk-in shower makes a more modern space. The new bathroom design features radiant floor heating, which Mr. Musser says is an amenity he personally appreciates.

Other Renovations

New wallpaper will adorn the guestroom hallways throughout the hotel, featuring a custom-designed trellis pattern in pastel blue and white. The wallpaper was designed by the decorator’s son, Sebastian Varney, who manages Carleton V. Ltd., the design studio that produces original printed and woven fabrics and matching wallpaper in vibrant colors and large scale prints. Carleton Varney has helped popularize this style, which is seen throughout Grand Hotel.

The wallpaper in the parlor level art gallery has been replaced this winter. The design of the wallpaper is understated in this space to avoid distracting from the artwork, and makes use of the hotel’s signature green.

New equipment has been installed in the kitchen. The additions and renovation was done at the request of Head Chef Hans Burtscher, who has worked for the Mussers for more than three decades.

“I have learned over a number of years to keep our chef happy, because he deserves it and works very hard,” Mr. Musser said.

New equipment in the kitchen includes an upgraded oven, soup kettle, walk-in cooler, freezer, and new flooring.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2018-04-07 digital edition