The Ritz-Carlton redefines design

To remain not only competitive but ahead of the game, a development of the calibre of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman must constantly reinvent itself.
 

Since the summer of 2012, extensive refurbishment work has been underway at the resort on Seven Mile Beach.

And, by the start of this winter season, not only the restaurants and common areas will have received a facelift, but all the rooms will have been completely redecorated too. 

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While the hotel is only eight years old, the design process would have begun more than a decade before it opened, and even the best designers cannot always predict what consumers will be demanding in 15 or 20 years’ time.

The resort operators have observed and taken on board their guests’ preferences and requests, as well as the trends emerging in the wider world.

What they found was that The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman had built a strong reputation based on the quality of the food they served and the level of service offered, but that the concept of the restaurants’ design did not always support this.

They therefore contracted Atlanta-based designer Bill Johnson, who specialises in food and beverage industry venues, to realign the style of the restaurants with the fare they were offering.

Phoenix Construction, meanwhile, was engaged locally and was responsible for all facets of the reconstruction, working closely with the resort’s interior designers and coordinating all suppliers and subcontractors. 

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“We have extensive experience in keeping businesses operational while re-creating them, so it was a good fit for us,” says Bob Cameron, a project manager for Phoenix on the fit-outs.

“We never intended a revolution, but more of an evolution,” explains Marc Langevin, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

 This has meant – throughout the resort – a broad move away from a traditional, formal style, with thick curtains and heavy furniture, to a more casual atmosphere that encourages social interaction.

The choice of colours, patterns and furniture are all designed to be less rigid than before, making spaces adaptable to changing situations throughout the day.

The redesign of the restaurants has also taken into account the changing demographics of The Ritz-Carlton’s guests.

“Our customers are changing,” says Jaime Moench, director of sales and marketing at The Ritz-Carlton.

“We’re seeing a lot more multi-generational family travel. Whereas in the past, a couple might have come alone, now they visit with their kids, and their kids’ kids. A lot of the design speaks to that, and many of the restaurants now have private or semi-private dining rooms or large tables that will accommodate bigger groups.”

A great deal of thought and effort has been put into creating spaces where guests can find privacy when they need it, but that is equally conducive to mingling.

Furniture has been chosen that can easily be rearranged as gatherings expand and contract, and the choice of high tables and high chairs, for example, allows diners to chat easily with people who are standing, without having to rise from their seats.

Taikun

When The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman opened, wine bars were a prevailing trend, and this was the function of the space originally occupied by the resort’s restaurant Taikun.

“People kept asking for sushi though, so we responded to what people wanted and created a sushi restaurant,” Jaime explains. The problem has been, however, that the space was never intended as a sushi restaurant.

At the far end of the restaurant the sushi bar is now framed by floor-to-ceiling mirrors on either side, directing attention to – and creating a theatre of – the bar itself.

A long communal table running the length of the room caters to large groups or those wanting a more social experience, while booths and smaller tables to either side accommodate couples and families.

The grey granite which previously covered the floor and bar was a little cold, says Marc. Rather than removing it, however, it has been partially concealed with large carpets and leather upholstery which, coupled with a colour palette of muted browns and greens mixed with plenty of wood, creates a warm and convivial atmosphere.  

Blue

Primarily a seafood restaurant, the design of Blue is subtly nautical, with lots of wood and deep, sea blues, giving diners a sense of dining aboard a yacht.

Although the wood panelling on the walls, ceiling and bar is actually nothing new, it wasn’t particularly visible previously against the orange painted walls.

Now, the dark blue walls in the main dining room – which have been hand-painted with a mural depicting outlines of make-believe lands, compasses and ships – offset the warm tones of the wood.

In a private dining room, separated from the main dining area by glass panels etched with wave patterns, the colour scheme is reversed with blue outlines on a white wall, and the floor reflects the heavens.

The repetitive pattern of the original carpet has been replaced with a vast single-piece floor covering in midnight blue, bearing constellations and galaxies outlined in white.

The choice of furniture – couches and armchairs in the lounge area, leather-covered bar stools, and deep, upholstered seats in the dining room – have been selected to offer comfort and relaxation.

Seven

Although a steakhouse by night, the concept behind Seven was that it would serve as the resort’s three-meal restaurant: the venue where guests would eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. As such, the restaurant occupied a large space and the decor was kept fairly neutral.

Of all the restaurants that have been renovated, Seven has experienced the greatest transformation.

Despite the original designer’s intent for Seven to be the main hotel eaterie, it soon became apparent that hotel guests had other ideas, choosing to eat their midday meals by the pool, rather than dressing formally for lunch indoors.

Moreover, when a restaurant is famed for its best prime steak, it really has to feel like a steakhouse, Marc observes. And so, Seven was transformed into an elegant steakhouse.

Floor-to-ceiling glass wine cellars divide the large dining room into three areas, with a semi-private dining room occupying the central space. Wooden trellises suspended from the roof give the illusion of a lower ceiling and therefore a more intimate space, while booths were installed for those seeking a greater degree of privacy.

Warm wood floors, large rugs, burlap-covered seats and leather table coverings all combine to create an authentic steakhouse feel, with elements of the traditional merging with contemporary, to create a space that is both elegant and atmospheric.

Throughout the resort, the same fresh, modern style is being introduced. There is a clear move away from the former more traditional, formal style and towards spaces that are, above all, comfortable and invite relaxation but that also embody a timeless elegance. 

Rather than adhering to a Ritz-Carlton style that is recognisable in resorts around the world, The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman aims to stand out from the crowd by creating a whole experience for its guests that is unique to this island.

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On-island contractors

Main contractor
Phoenix

Electrical work
Mr. Electric

Interior paint work
Paint Pros

Plumbing work
Mario’s Plumbing Contractor & Maintenance  

 

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The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman