Design trends come and go in hospitality, but for much of today's vacation ownership design, the mantra seldom varies: Give guests the best — the best concept, the best furnishings, the best amenities, the best materials and the best craftmanship. These vacation “residences” go beyond the typical luxury hotel room to offer grand-entry foyers, spacious spa-quality bathrooms, designer kitchens replete with commercial-grade appliances and roomy living areas with fireplaces and the latest in high-tech gadgetry.
Case in point: the soon-to-open Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences, San Francisco. Currently undergoing a $90-million renovation, the property will offer 49 one-, two- and three-bedroom fractional residences for use by club members and 52 private ownership residences. Housed in the former Chronicle building, which was built in 1890 as the West Coast's first skyscraper, the project “aims to capture the building's history while offering the most modern amenities,” says project architect Charles F. Bloszies, AIA. The scope of the transformation encompasses restoring the building's original facade of brick and stone and the addition of eight stories.
“With The Ritz-Carlton Club and Residences, San Francisco, we maintain the same high levels of quality and service offered at The Ritz-Carlton hotels but in a residential environment,” says Tom Davis, senior vp, development management architecture & construction, The Ritz-Carlton Club. “Only the highest quality materials are used in the residences — from the furnishings to the top-of-the-line appliances and appointments.”
One of the challenges of this project was restoring the exterior. Back in the ‘60s, the building was clad in a metal “slipcover,” explains Bloszies, resulting in “a very banal-looking squat building. But behind that cladding was buried treasure. It was the architectural equivalent of raising the Titanic.
“The addition is a very modern, quiet and dignified design that pays homage to the original. You could say we recycled the building.”
Forrest Perkins is handling interior design. The two- and three-bedroom units feature not just one, but two master bedrooms. The high-end kitchens open onto spacious living rooms that are decorated in a traditional, elegant manner, with soft colors and Asian accents. High-end finishes, fabrics and furniture are standard.
Marriott Vacation Club International earlier this year opened its first resort in the West Indies on the island of St. Kitts-Marriott's St. Kitts Beach Club. Located at the AAA Four Diamond St. Kitts Marriott Resort & The Royal Beach Casino, the vacation ownership resort offers additional amenities for owners and rental guests.
The first phase opened with 22 two- and three-bedroom villas ranging from 1,400-2,089 square feet and will ultimately include 88 villas upon build-out, according to the company. The villas are designed with a tropical color palette of orange, blues and greens and feature at least one private balcony, as well as a fully-equipped kitchen with stainless steel appliances, walnut finished cabinetry, tile floors and granite counters. Other features include spacious living and dining areas; washer/dryer; an oversized shower and separate deep soaking tub in the master suite; multiple LCD flat-panel televisions; DVD players; and high-speed Internet accessibility.
The extended-stay aspect of vacation ownership is an important consideration in vacation ownership design, observes Ed Kinney, vp of corporate affairs and brand awareness, Marriott Vacation Club Intenational. Owners want spaces that offer privacy for everyone staying in the unit. Whereas a typical hotel unit has one sleeping/living area, the Marriott vacation ownership villa offers the master suite, living area, second bedroom and balcony.
“The product continues to evolve based on customer feedback and concerns over the years,” says Kinney. “I think this property is a good example of combining the needs in a Caribbean environment and beachfront property and blending it with our evolving brand standards.”
Also, in vacation ownership design, additional homey features are often included such as softgoods and accessories, from extra pillows on the chairs and couches to decorative knickknacks. Large soaking tubs in big bathrooms with separate sink and water closet area are available. At the Marriott villas, bathrooms in some master suites open into the bedroom area for a more expansive feel.
It's important that “we always remain aspirational — providing a vacation environment that is as good or better than one's home,” says Kinney. “We have a fairly affluent customer and we make sure we never fall behind the design curve. We also continue to use past experience and customer feedback to guide design development.
“Some of the brand standards we've integrated over the past few years include granite countertops throughout the villas, Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs and bedding packages which are a complement to what our lodging parent adopted for all the properties.”
Vacation ownership as a business model is in its second decade and, as such, there's a lot of aging product in the marketplace, says Kinney. Marriott has addressed the issue proactively, refreshing and refurbishing properties before owners have reason to grumble. “Collectively, we continue to awe customers and impress existing owners when they return to their villa and see that it's actually better than it was the last time they visited. In the past the changes were more subtle — perhaps the color palette may have changed or the carpet was replaced, and those are done on an ongoing maintenance basis. But when you come back and see significant changes — upgraded appliances, furnishings and technology — that's impressive to clients.
“If you don't reinvest in the design and atmosphere of the properties, in the villas and surrounding areas, the owners won't have as much confidence in buying additional time for themselves or referring their friends. It's a tremendous amount of revenue at stake for us.”
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