Visiting just one of the world’s most exclusive hotels might be enough to satisfy the average person; Trisha Wilson, president and CEO of interior architectural design firm Wilson & Associates, has seen—and worked on—enough to fill a book and then some. Through her travels, both personal and professional, Wilson has experienced what she calls the “strange alchemy” of location, architecture, interior design, and service that makes a hotel really special. In her book Spectacular Hotels: the Most Remarkable Places on Earth, she shares impressions and photographs of her favorite places, from the Americas to Africa. Herewith, a sampling. —Jennifer Chininis
<< FOUR SEASONS HOTEL GEORGE V PARIS
People are passionate about Paris, and it is a city that I love, but I often think it is as much the George V that draws me back there as it is the City of Light itself. This is a hotel with a glamorous history, but it is the pedigree of the building too that fascinates me.
Built in 1928 at a cost of $31 million, its innovations included fire alarms, fitted closets, telephones with direct outside lines and inside service lines, two-bath suites that allowed two guests to bathe and dress for dinner at the same time, and extra-wide corridors to alleviate luggage gridlock. Its innovative floor plan included a first-floor kitchen and courtyard. Heralded at the time for modern and elegant luxury, the hotel was the product of an American owner and French architects Lefranc and Wybo. Architecturally speaking, it’s an icon of the modern hotel—it was certainly revolutionary in its time and set the standard for the way we design for functionality in the hospitality business.
The attention to detail and the touches of elegance and style make a good hotel truly great, and the Four Seasons George V does it better than anyone. … The suites are breathtaking—plush sofas, deep comfortable chairs, huge marble bathrooms with deep tubs, separate showers, soft towels, flowers and candles, and stunning views.
Of course, the service is impeccable. The concierges are the best in Paris, immediately able to detect a guest’s preferences and likes. … They can guide you to the hippest restaurants, get you the best tickets, fill any request, and make you feel like it was all your idea!
<< OLD COURSE HOTEL
St. Andrews, Scotland
Until this project, I had never worked on a hotel that had its own signature tartan. It is, no less, a tartan designed by Kinloch Anderson, tailors and knit-makers to the royal family. Like everything at St. Andrews, the tartan itself has historical ties, drawing from two tartans (the Melville and Earl of St. Andrew) strongly connected to the town.
Since the 15th century, golf has been played here, and it is this great game for which St. Andrews is famed. However, I found the early history of the town itself fascinating: its name comes from the apostle whose relics were brought here by St. Regulus, a shipwrecked monk, drawing Christian pilgrims to pay homage to St. Andrew. The Middle Ages saw the town as a thriving marketplace and educational and religious center. Scotland’s oldest university, St. Andrews University, was established here in 1411, about the time golf was first played.
The hotel has evolved in ways complementary to golf at St. Andrews. Its new identity emerged as the Old Course Hotel Golf Resort & Spa in conjunction with the opening of the par-72 Duke’s Course in 1995. Recent design investments have increased the number of course-facing suites and enhanced conference space. Our work on the interiors has kept the focus on world-famous views of the championship golf courses and the North Sea or St. Andrews town.
We also focused on perfecting the details that helped earn the resort its five-star status. We purposefully kept guest-room interiors airy and restful …. And throughout the hotel we wove the elegant luxury anticipated of a vaunted resort with the casual charm of a Scottish village. It’s what I refer to as relaxed casual—simultaneously perfect and comfortable.
I try always to choose a suite overlooking the 17th “Road Hole” of the Old Course. I like the aesthetics of both the traditional suites and the urbane, contemporary ones—and have stayed in both. … Each is relaxing and refined in its own way. Everything about the resort provides a memorable—and singular—escape.
RITZ-CARLTON BACHELOR GULCH
Beaver Creek, Colorado
Designing buildings to make them look like they’ve been around awhile is always a risky proposition. Most of those buildings lack the rich patina of age and can seem contrived, themed, and inauthentic. However, if great care is taken, good imagination used, and a strong relationship between architecture and interior design fostered, the result can be magnificent. The Ritz-Carlton Bachelor Gulch is such a project.
With its construction of enormous beams of hand-hewn timber, the lodge takes on an unmistakable sense of place. It belongs in the Rockies, and it looks as though it’s been there for a century. The architecture is grand and iconic; Vail Resorts’ development visionaries guided us to create a fitting centerpiece to the Bachelor Gulch community at Beaver Creek.
In the Great Room, which is both main gathering space and focal point of the resort, 30-inch, rough-hewn timbers rise three stories, accented by local stone and moss-rock hearth. … Uniqueness and comfort extend to the guest rooms, which have rustic veranda balustrades composed of twigs and luxurious marble bathrooms. That same dichotomy in materials can be found in the spa, an ultra-luxe space that includes a rock-lined grotto (coed, of course) for après ski relaxation.
The incredible appeal of Aman resorts can be traced to one man, Adrian Zecha, the inventive hotelier behind the Aman brand. Zecha has a penchant for reinventing luxury and exclusivity, and for understanding the lifestyles of those who can best afford them. He also has a penchant for choosing sites and linking indigenous architecture to them. I think this location (one of three distinctly different Aman sites in Bali) is nothing short of amazing.
Architecturally, Amandari follows Zecha’s strong sense of what’s luxurious and appropriate. (Again, it’s all about creating a sense of place.) What I like best about Aman style is its subtlety. It’s authentic. Culturally, it fits. This time, Zecha’s incarnation in central Bali echoes the design of a Balinese village with stone pathways to each resort element and to neighboring villages, including the creative, cultural center of Ubud and others known for crafts in silver and cloth.
While Amandari’s most spacious suites have detached bedrooms and separate living pavilions, its ultimate guest accommodation is a three-bedroom villa adjacent to the resort, situated to capture views of the Ayung River Gorge and three distant mountainous peaks. Five pavilions constitute the villa, including three detached, terraced bedrooms, a complete kitchen with staff quarters (two staffers come with the villa, and there’s a chef on call), and a living pavilion surrounded by sliding glass panels. I think the villa’s reflecting pond provides a great focal point for the outdoor dining space. A garden and a landscaped deck area encase the private swimming pool, a two-tiered escape that you’ll never want to leave.
I come to Amandari especially for the spa. It was here that I experienced my first outdoor massage (before the concept went mainstream). Only one word describes it: tranquil. The breeze was blowing; there were the multilayered sounds of nature. It was a true escape.