The Iconic Hotel Zoo Berlin, Revived in a Charmingly Modern Fashion by Emmy-Nominated Designer

Powerstrip Studio’s Principal designers, Dayna Lee and Ted Berner, brought back to life the iconic Hotel Zoo Berlin. Lee and Berner certainly are not strangers to creativity, rather, this duo is widely recognized and applauded for their outstanding work across the globe.

Together, Lee and Berner tackled the task of rebirthing Hotel Zoo Berlin which was originally built as a private residence 130 years ago; perhaps the most impressive aspect of this hotel is its withstand-ability. Lee pointed out that most other buildings cracked and piled during the bombings of World War II, yet Hotel Zoo remained intact. She even refers to the Hotel as ‘charmed and protected’.


The task of revitalizing the hotel while maintaining its original charm was not an easy ask, however, the Powerstrip Studio team thrived while faced with this challenge. Unlike most accommodations, each suite at Hotel Zoo Berlin is unique in every aspect. Of the 141 rooms and suites, each is as enchanting as the next, decorated with a variety of rich fabrics and patterns. Guests staying at Hotel Zoo experience Berlin in a whimsical fashion.


After chatting with Emmy-nominated Dayna Lee from Powerstrip studio, we uncovered the details of Lee’s inspiration and the elements that make Hotel Zoo Berlin deserving of the Best Hotel Award.

TP: How did you want guests to feel when they explore Hotel Zoo Berlin? Whom do you want them to feel like?
Dayna Lee:
Ted and I like to design spaces with a sense of exploration and unfolding experiences to be generous to guests. Hotel Zoo Berlin is designed with the essence of its original being as a private residence of an influential Berliner family (albeit now with 146 guest rooms). We implemented architectural details, layers of furnishings and art to suggest you might be guests at an eccentric toney residence of a cultured family who chose to live by the Zoo in the 1800’s. The design of the entrance is more intriguing when it is deliberately small. As you wander in the low brick passageway, the large living room of massive proportions and filled with unexpected natural light reveals itself. Through more quiet passageways, more gathering places are found and this is how the guests’ experiences unfold.


THE PLUS: It’s pretty rare to get to work on a renovation in Berlin that predates WWII. How did you feel when you first visited the site? What were your first impressions?

DL: Having researched old photographic archives of Kurfurstendamm crumbled after bombings, we were even more floored that our property’s facade was beautifully intact. The pre WWII baroque exterior carvings boldly defied the explosions where all the other buildings cracked and piled. Our first impression is that this site is charmed and protected.

TP: The interior has a distinct 1920s feel. How much did you get to learn about the previous inhabitants of the hotel, and how much did this affect your approach to the interior design?

DL: As filmmakers, we happily prepared a fictional story of the
family that built the home and its generations thereafter. With a sense of seductive mystery, we designed the current Hotel Zoo to recall the 1920s Berlinale Film Festival that it hosted. It was the hub for sophisticated partying for which Berlin became famous.”


TP: How did you approach furnishing Hotel Zoo Berlin? Was any of its designed bespoke?

DL: We chose some statement furnishings and details that tell our love story of the property. Following a story of lineage and global travel, our art, textiles and almost completely bespoke furnishings amplify our references to classic set design. The timelessness and eccentricity of the designed spaces allows it to be a great setting for fashion.

TP: Can you tell us about the key fixtures installations in the new design?

DL: Our ceilings are sculpted with oversized moulding trims that feel like meringue,and a see through indoor/outdoor fireplace gives crackling warmth to the living room and wintergarten. Restoring the original brick vaulted ceilings and walls that envelope the Grace Lounge, adding a cut amethyst bar and designing Euro Asian fringe trimmed seating gives the guests the feeling that they are in a secretive private salon.


TP: You’ve worked on many different types of hotels and spaces. Were there any major challenges that presented themselves in the process with this design, given that it is an old building?

DL: Given that it is an old building, we had challenges that surprisingly had more to do with its new parts. After the 1920’s, the building had less than stellar to pure abysmal layers of renovations that we stripped off and discarded in order to reveal its original bones and beauty.

TP: How did it feel to win a Best Hotel award for Hotel Zoo Berlin? What do you think made your design stand out from the others?

DL: It felt spectacular to win this award, because it validated the many years of design, care, and worry. I think we were able to culturally understand the aesthetics and history of this property within Berlin enough to create a space that many local neighbors came in and said, “I never knew this room existed. It is the beautiful room in Berlin.” As if it was always there and we are humbled and happy.


TP: The roof terrace bar features a more modern aesthetic than most of the interior. What was the reasoning behind this?

DL: The rooftop felt good as a modern place. Outdoor furnishings that are newly made are a lot more comfortable than vintage outdoor furnishings. With our low deep plush banquettes, we can kick back and view the historic large letters of ZOO on the roofline, against the sunset.