When The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman first opened its doors to the public, it could have been said that royalty had taken up residence on these shores. The remarkable property, spanning two sides of prime Seven Mile Beach real estate, was unlike anything seen before in the Cayman Islands.
“The overall goal for Seven South was to create an upscale, contemporary residence that provides guests with the foremost in luxury while maintaining a sense of approachability.”
Now, once again, the world-class resort is blazing trails with its Seven South penthouse residence. The 19,000-square-foot space has already been featured in a number of international publications, gaining headlines for both its sheer size and its fairytale-like interior.
InsideOut recently spoke with Anna McGrady of The Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry, the upmarket restaurant and hotel designers behind Seven South. Anna shared why this particular property is special and how Seven South is positioned to redefine luxury Caribbean travel.
The Johnson Studio redesigned The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s signature restaurants and lounges in 2013, and thus was already familiar with the property’s expectations and standards. Having said that, the playfulness and sheer chic factor of the new space tell us that this project was somewhat different than those that came before.
The first thing any fan of The Ritz-Carlton brand may notice upon walking into Seven South is a significant departure from the hotel’s signature, traditional room layout. The main penthouse suite was an exercise in space planning alone, with the designers working to make the massive ocean front living area feel warm and cozy, without sacrificing the open air feel. Pops of color and statement accessories, which feel new in the traditional resort setting, punctuate the wide open space.
“The overall goal for Seven South was to create an upscale, contemporary residence that provides guests with the foremost in luxury while maintaining a sense of approachability,” Anna says.
The penthouse is actually a large full-service, three-bedroom suite and takes up one side of the entire seventh floor. It was designed as a self-sufficient residence with the flexibility to be booked on its own, or to be made larger by adding on any of the four two-bedroom suites, which complete the remainder of the floor. The smaller suites can also be booked on their own, enabling smaller parties to enjoy the space when appropriate.
The great room of the main penthouse is divided into intimate spaces that still feel open. Significant departures from the norm, such as two master bedrooms and smaller social areas, in addition to a casual and formal living room, really define the uniqueness of Seven South. It also has a full kitchen, dining room, private library and cinema and every amenity one could think of within arm’s reach.
“Contemporary design can often feel too cold and minimal,” Anna says. “We looked to the interiors of great yachts which inspired built in furniture pieces and wood selections. Fine wood veneers are used throughout the suites.”
In order to achieve a sense of warmth, all of the spaces in Seven South are grounded in earthy woods. Figured sycamore was used in the master bedrooms and entry lobby; quartered, figured Anigre – an African hardwood – features in the living rooms and double queen bedrooms; and quartered Afromosia, with its strong linear grain, was chosen to reinforce the door surrounds at the unit’s entrances and the decorative louvers in the main corridor.
If you can imagine the design of Seven South in layers, with the bottom being an earthy layer of exotic, warm wood; then the next layer up is cool, weathered stone showing up everywhere from the floors to the countertops to the walls. From Gascogne Blue Limestone for the flooring to the dazzling display of Azul Macauba blue marble and Cipollino Cremo Tirreno Italian marble in the master bathroom, the juxtaposition of woods, stones and marbles brings to mind a brilliant, secluded blue lagoon.
A blue stone bathroom, one of the suite’s boldest statements, is a step outside the box and perhaps would not appeal long term to more conservative tastes, but in this setting it feels completely appropriate. It adds a touch of fantasy to the vacation property. Indeed, when one looks out on that impossibly azure sea, one could be forgiven for feeling part of a fantasy world.
This evocative feeling of the natural environment at play with man-made materials was not an accident. Colors were carefully selected to embody the extraordinary aquamarine, blues and greens of the Caribbean Sea, married with a homage to the powder white sand a literal stone’s throw from the penthouse’s expansive wraparound terrace.
The attention to conceptual design detail does not stop here. Fabrics and furniture reinforce the inspired design further with shagreen patterned embossed leather on an ottoman, sea fan-inspired hand-knotted silk and wool rugs, rich linens, silks and velvets in rich, sumptuous colors.
In a typical resort setting, the design process stops at furnishings, leaving guests plenty of space for their own things. At Seven South, visitors get a full service luxury Caribbean home styled to the hilt, with art, sculptures and accessories in bold pops of color and metallics.
The overall impression is that of a home, not a suite at a resort. This approach was completely intentional and in order to make the space feel more like a luxe home away from home, the designers focused on giving it a “residential aura”.
The books on the shelves are about the Caribbean, shells, sea life and sailing. There are magnifying glasses at the desks and throws in the media room. It is touches like these that give Seven South its very own “l’atitude.”