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Town & Country
By Drew Limsky | Photo: Courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton | February 4, 2016
Separated by just 33 miles, The Ritz-Carlton’s two Northern California properties, both recently renovated, have distinct personalities but share the same 24K gold standard of luxury.
The San Francisco Bay area isn’t simply an affluent metropolis fueled by tech industry innovation; it’s a global luxury capital whether you stay in the city or venture out. The Ritz-Carlton brand well understands this fact—and the need to keep raising the bar for its two Bay-area properties that together define a premier town-and-country experience.
The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco (rates from $479 per night, suites from $599 per night), a Beaux Arts classic that’s more than a century old, sits halfway atop Nob Hill in gleaming white splendor, its mason work and iconic columns recalling an earlier gilded age. Known as a temple of commerce, the building was commissioned by MetLife after the 1906 earthquake and fire. But behind the stately columns rests the results of a multiphase renovation that includes several elements. In recognition of the area’s intense vinoculture tradition, the hotel has partnered with legendary winemaker Jean-Charles Boisset to unveil a new luxury venue, the fun and decadent JCB Tasting Lounge that offers wine tastings and light fare.
Upon retiring to their rooms, guests will be charmed by a redesign spearheaded by Hirsch Bedner Associates. HBA’s principal designer, Kathleen Dauber, says the firm worked on all the 336 guest rooms and suites as well as the common areas. “In the rooms, the soft goods and case goods are all new,” she says. “The bathrooms enjoy new wallcoverings, with the brand’s signature Carrara marble remaining intact.”
“The new guest-room design draws inspiration from San Francisco’s Wilkes Bashford—one of the city’s iconic luxury department stores—and the legacy of former Mayor Willie Brown, renowned for his famous suits,” Dauber says. “We actually brought in suspender detailing and tweed elements, such as in the weave of the tweed blanket that was custom-designed for the property. The suiting aesthetic can be found in the specially woven pillows and in the layering of the wallcoverings in the guest rooms and corridors, creating a sense of drama in the spaces.”
The masculine colors—steely blues and grays—are balanced by a female sensibility in other areas via tactile elements such as the velvet headboards and calligraphy-like floral patterns in the carpets. Dauber notes that a plush quality need not be sacrificed for the durability that a hotel project demands. “Many of the better fabric manufacturers are developing plush fabrics and krypton finish in a durable product that allows housekeeping to keep it fresh,” she says.
“We also played with the fog tones and kept in mind what that kind of atmosphere and localized weather creates in the city,” Dauber says, putting a different spin on the tried-and-true design convention of letting the outside in. This concept is especially apparent in the redesigned eighth-floor Club Lounge, with its abstract carpeting in tones of gray, and its tufted sofas in pale gray and charcoal. This spot remains one of the brand’s most luxurious Club Lounges: Not only does it offer four daily culinary servings, but on weekends the venue features a local vintner wine series and even a caviar presentation.
From the sophisticated city to romantic sea cliffs: The magic of the variegated northern California landscape means that a mere 33 miles away, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay (from $495 per night, suites from $755 per night) is very different in style and temperament, reminiscent of the type of country golf estates one finds in the British Isles. There are even bagpipers at sunset, and fire pits and hot chocolate out on the oceanfront lawn.
But like its urban sister, The Ritz-Carton, Half Moon Bay has just completed considerable enhancements to its 261 guest rooms and suites, as well as to the guest-room corridors and The Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge. (Next up for a redo are select meeting rooms, the lobby and the Conservatory.) Long known for its whitewashed decor, an earthier look has now taken hold.
Heather O’Sullivan, a designer for Whitespace Interiors, the firm that renovated the property, explains the update: “The wood tones evoke a cleaner, more tailored aesthetic and give a slightly more modern edge to the property. The warm, natural tones also add a richness and sophistication to the spaces while keeping them light, airy and inviting.” The guest rooms now feature pickled wood entry floors and driftwood-inspired night stands, while etched glass has been added to the fireplace in the Club.
The color scheme is now more closely aligned with the surrounding scenery. “The cool and fresh color palette is drawn from the hotel’s oceanside surroundings,” she says. “The addition of warm, sandy beiges and creams keeps the spaces well balanced and very residential feeling. Plus, the light coral accents provide a subtle and natural pop of color.”
“At the outset of the project,” O’Sullivan recalls, “we elected to experience the resort incognito, staying a weekend so that we could share similar experiences to those of the hotel’s loyal clientele. Our observations and interactions, not only with the physical property, but with the hotel staff, influenced our design functionally and aesthetically. There is an amazingly warm, friendly aura to the resort, and we wanted the interiors to capture that quality.”
The designer is well-aware of The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay’s importance not only to travelers but to locals who feel proprietary about the resort. “This property is special in so many ways,” O’Sullivan says. “The resort is frequented by guests from the Bay Area and is used almost as their own personal retreat or weekend cottage. So we aspired to keep a warm, approachable and elegant atmosphere to the spaces we designed. We were mindful that the property feel sophisticated yet casual and never intimidating or austere.”