Up, Up and Away

Since his promotion last year to president, director of design of Helman Hurley Charvat Peacock/Architects, Inc., Mike Chatham has been a busy man. The full-service architectural firm headquartered in Orlando has diverse projects in 30 nations, including those in hospitality/resort development, mixed use and themed entertainment.

Emerald Grande at HarborWalk Village in Destin, FL, which opened last summer, was originally designed to be a condo project, but market factors caused a change in plans for Chatham and John Purdy, HHCP vice president and senior project designer. The switch to vacation ownership, Chatham says, put an increased emphasis on luxury and the interior design plans were constantly upgraded throughout the project.

Emerald Grande features two towers with 13 stories and 281 units that are part of HarborWalk, a mixed-use resort complex along Destin's harbor. The units feature nautical-themed interiors with nine-foot ceilings, spacious balconies and grand terraces.

The rooms feature crown moldings, Italian marble floors, designer-grade cabinets and a granite vanity top, glass stand-alone shower and oversized soaking tub in the bathroom.

Chatham and his firm also are putting the finishing touches on the Wyndham Resort at Bonnet Creek in Orlando. The 744-room condo-style villas next to Walt Disney World are nearing completion with a combination of Florida architecture mixed with Mediterranean-style features.

Lodging Hospitality chatted with Chatham about the latest trends in vacation-ownership architecture and interior design.

How would you describe your design style?

We have tended to move toward traditional forms of architecture. Part of the reason is we're trying to create a sense of a place or what a place is based on a story. If you move to more modern architecture, you start to move away from sense of place. If you look at Emerald Grande, it is almost a historically based architecture very heavy in detail and grandeur, not specifically based on any one style. It's almost a whimsical fantasy style, but when you look at it, it creates a sense of place and identity. That is the key, having an identity that people can associate themselves with and want to buy into.

Are VO projects more fun for a designer?

Absolutely. We get more freedom. We're continually challenged by our clients to take these projects to a higher level.

How has the green movement impacted VO design?

I think it is coming. It's going be driven by perceived value to buyers of timeshare product. I think it's still coming down to the design professionals to show the economics of sustainable initiatives in projects and to show the owners how we can make these design initiatives economically feasible.

What other trends are you seeing in VO design?


  • Owners are starting to develop and sell more exclusive upscale units: These units are at a higher price point, but also provide a higher level of service. The market out there is of people looking for room service — which is not traditional to timeshare — concierge services, spa services. There used to be a few of these and what we're seeing is more and more of these higher-level units included in projects.

  • The idea of expanding amenities for projects: As the project grows and is being built, the demand becomes greater and greater. Owners and operators are upgrading their packages (midstream). We're also seeing them creating unique amenity experiences within a resort — like one building being more geared to kids with slides and pools, while another would be more geared to spa services — customizing the different buildings and giving owners a chance to select their own experiences.

  • The synergy between hotels and vacation ownership: We are working with Wyndham Vacation Ownership at the Bonnet Creek Resort in Orlando. They are tending to build their resorts with hotels adjacent to an ownership project. It creates a lot of synergies. Like I said earlier, the high-end services are more important and it makes it easier to provide that. The other synergy is you can pique people's interests and create an opportunity to soft sell from the hotel to the timeshare. Right now we have electronic kiosks to see more about the product and just by being there and seeing it from the hotel gives you an opportunity to create that interest. It's an opportunity while having coffee to learn more about ownership opportunities.

  • Companies are starting to look globally at the market and testing the waters of how they can grow overseas: I think some of the things that hold things back are cultural perceptions. It will be slow to happen. The cost is different, sales are different, a lot of politics are different, local customs are different. There are lots of obstacles moving into a global market, but everyone is interested in it. It won't be long.

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