Located in the 340 year-old Casco Viejo neighborhood in Panama City, The American Trade Hotel is the result of a collaborations of design superstars– hip LA design firm Commune, architect Hildegard Vasquez of Hache Uve, (Panama’s leading historic restoration firm) and the Ace Hotel group. The hotel’s name is a nod to its provenance as the national headquarters for various American and foreign companies, when it was built in 1917. When the group found the space, it was basically a shell, filled with squatting gang members.
Since its opening in 2013, it’s become one of the most sought-after places to stay in Central America. The redesigned space combined the five-story stucco original building with two adjacent houses. In face, the entire project was a marriage of different styles, time periods and cultures. This eclectic mix results in a feeling of effortless luxury. There are the mid-century modern Bertoia side chairs from Knoll in the lobby bar and courtyard, leather furniture from designer Jamey Garza in the central courtyard, and weavings by LA designer Tanya Aguiniga in the hotel’s restaurant. Even the floor boards have a story — they were handcrafted from sunken logs salvaged from the Panama canal.
However, you don’t necessarily need a trip to Panama to bring some tropical luxury in your life. Read on for tips from our designers on to bring a little South American luxury into your home.
American Trade Hotel Reception Area
Commune’s Roman Alonso has said that the inspiration for the hotel’s lobby is “a bit of New Orleans meets old Havana in a 1930s noir film, buzzing with international reporters and correspondents.” The lighting is by Atelier de Troupe.
American Trade Hotel Sitting Area
The leather seating, tile floors and jute rugs, give the American Trade Hotel an airy tropical elegance that makes you feel like you’ve wandered onto the set of a Humphrey Bogart movie. Much of the hotel’s furniture is made from reclaimed hardwood and was designed by Commune in partnerships with local artisans in Nicaragua.
Floor Details – Moroccan Floor Tile
You can mimic the look of the tile flooring found throughout the American Trade Hotel without the high renovation costs by looking for a rug that imitates pattern of a tile floor like this Plum & Bow rug.
Bringing Nature In
The abundance of indoor plants and trees makes the American Trade Hotel feels like you’re stepping into a tropical paradise. You can evoke that that South American vibe at home by mimicking the look with indoor trees in white planters.
Hospitality Dining Design
The tables and chairs in the hotel’s restaurant were designed by Commune and then handmade in Nicaragua. The weavings are by Tanya Aguiniga and wall sconces by Remains. Architect Hildegard Vasquez of Have Uve designed the tiles found throughout the hotel.
Wall Texture – Fringed Wall Hanging
An updated take on a ’70s design trend, textile weavings have become a favorite way to add a little texture to a space. One of our favorite textile designers is artist Justine Ashbee of Native Line. Justine divides her time between Seattle, Washington and the UK, where she combines geometric forms with shimmering metallic thread to create her woven artwork.
Textile Accents – Palm Leaf Throw Pillow
Most of the furnishings in the American Trade Hotel are fairly sedate — leather, jute, browns and blacks. But for a little added tropical flair, the Commune team brought in tropical print fabric. You can do the same at home with this Jungle Leaf Pillow that was hand-printed in Australia.
Leather Womb Chair
Much of leather furniture in the hotel was designed by Garza Marfa, a husband and wife design duo in Marfa, Texas. This round chair is crafted from saddle leather. The base can be powdered coated in a large variety of colors.
Luxury Hotel Room Design
Commune designers were inspired by the building’s colonial roots. The design choices in the American Trade Hotel highlight the building’s provenance as a center of both culture and trade.
Minimalist Wall Sconce
Many hotels use wall sconces to save precious bedside table space. The American Trade Hotel uses wall sconces with an extra long reach, like this Workstead wall sconce, over tables. It’s a great way to provide overhead light even if you don’t have a ceiling mount fixture.