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Wed 4 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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Public view

Public areas set a relaxed tone for one of the latest resort hotels to open in Dubai.

Public areas set a relaxed tone for one of the latest resort hotels to open in Dubai.

One of the newest hotels in Dubai has taken up residence right on the beach. The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina had a soft opening in May as it welcomed its first guests into a space getting the last of its finishing touches.

As a brand, Westin is proud of its architecture and interiors. This particular hotel is low rise, at least compared to the towers near by, but offers a wide range of design concepts, from what the Westin describes as a neoclassical exterior, to its relaxed modern interiors.

The property has a total of 294 rooms, including 24 suites, as well as a spa, a health club, four bars and four themed restaurants.

With 1,200 metres of private shoreline and a 238-berth marina on the way, five swimming pools and a water sports centre among other water sports focused additions, the emphasis on resort is clear.

Colours, textures, lighting and display art are combined to build an atmosphere in an interior spread out in a more or less symmetrical fashion around a central core.

The different public spaces, whether lobby, retail or food and beverage all have to provide variety for the guests, while building on a common theme and keeping within the branded image of the hotel.

The look and feel of this interior starts in the lobby: a large open space broken up by a few screens near the reception desk and by furniture placement elsewhere.

The spacious opening gambit includes a massive balcony that looks out over the hotel's all day dining restaurant and is especially notable for the height of the atrium and the chandelier that dominates the lobby's air space.

The lobby is a key component in what the Westin describes as an area conveying ‘a feeling of openness and space, while soft touches in the forms of sound, light, scent and carefully selected planting and flower displays will lead the guest to immediately feel relaxed and refreshed'.

It seems a guest's first impressions count and what the Westin is branding as a ‘sensory welcome' is a combination of environment and atmosphere, in which the interior design has an important part to play.

"We are aiming for an arrival experience like no other. Using soothing scents, signature music, calming botanicals and atmospheric lighting, every detail is designed to help our guests feel refreshed and energised, even after a long journey," said Michael Scully, complex general manager for The Westin and its next door neighbour Le Meridien.

"From the moment our guests arrive they should feel the Westin ambience and this not only includes our stunning interiors.

Our associates are trained to react instinctively to our guests' needs, to ensure a customised and personal level of service that will leave our guests energised in mind, body and spirit," said Scully.

Habitalia Design Group was behind the development of the interior design, with the Dubai extension of this Italian family business, Studitalia Décor, taking care of operations on the ground and completing the interior fitout.The companies worked on the designs for the public areas, rooms and the themed bars and restaurants.

"The strong architectural personality and monumental character of the hotel gave us our starting point for planning the interiors," said Massimo Bertelli, designer with Studitalia Decor.

Having such an eclectic exterior, we decided the interiors should be equally dynamic, so that the whole project would guide the guest through a journey in time.

"The interiors have been designed to provoke continuous feelings of ‘deja vue' in the guests, as familiar objects are given a new, modern twist, but still evoking their traditional charms.

This duality is best presented in the lobby area, where a reception balcony, familiar in shape, is made extraordinary by its monumental size and unique marble patination," he added.

Although the design has many connections with the architecture and the spaces ‘make sense', the finished product does have an unusual pedigree, thanks to a change of brand during the design process.

"At the time we started the design and when we had completed 99% of it, we didn't know that it would be a Westin," said Bertelli. "So that's why this hotel is not completely Westin, which as a brand is more pale and monochrome.

We had a meeting with the Westin people from New York and we adjusted the design to suit the brand, but we couldn't change everything.

Bertelli cites examples such as changes in the design of the pre-function area, which was adjusted to be much more like the banqueting hall than the original design.

"Before it was completely different, with more of a purple colour," said Bertelli.

As well as moderating the spectrum of colours used throughout the hotel, the Westin designation added a greater emphasis to the contemporary styling of the design.

This came to life in design decisions such as removing the classical curves of the reception desk legs and replacing them with a cleaner-lined contemporary look. Other classical flourishes were swapped for options with a simpler appearance and a lower-key collection of colours.

Bertelli says the interior design was influenced by the architecture of the hotel, which he describes as eclectic, because it doesn't conform to the classic traditions of Italian design and its ideas of geometric proportions."The idea was not to do a really classic Italian style in the public areas, our design key was to use materials and element that in some way remind guests of classical Italian or French design," said Bertelli. "But of course we tried to review them in a modern more contemporary way.

"For example, in the entrance area the counters are in marble, so a classical material has been used, but the proportions are quite contemporary. You can even see it in the chandelier at reception.

It is a classical Italian chandelier from Murano, but is using the Murano glass in a different shape. In elements like these you can really read or design style.

Murano was also the source of the large chandelier that is the centerpiece in the lobby space. Although this may represent the traditional design language of hotels, in this case the outcome is quite different.

The chandelier hangs high in the atrium, providing a focal point for those in the lobby and also those circulating on the floors above. A team of ten flew in from Italy to install the light over a period of a week.

"It's really a piece of engineering, not just art anymore," said Bertelli.

Beneath the massive chandelier is another key feature of the lobby area, a three-dimensional floor mosaic.

"The mosaic was developed because of a requirement form the operator, who wanted people to be able to see through the area to the windows of the restaurant and out to sea beyond," said Bertelli.

So they told us not to put anything in the middle of the atrium. Since we could not use any furniture in the middle as a feature, the only solution was to think something to use in floor."

The true effect of the feature can only really be appreciated from above, Guests circulating in the corridors of the atrium are in a better position to enjoy the depth the visual trickery of the mosaic offers than those who have it directly below their feet.

Colours and the ideas of lighting are carried over from the public spaces into the restaurants and bars that open up off the corridors and stairwells. Spice Emporium is the hotel's Asian style restaurant and as with other areas, the Westin name brought with it a change to the original colour scheme.

"In the Spice Emporium we were again using more purple colours, but this changed to greens, browns, chocolates and cream," said Bertelli.The restaurant makes a feature of some of the cooking process, with kitchens in the middle of the main room, directly in front of the massive sliding entrance door.

The door is made form a special aluminium construction and is surprisingly light to move. Dark colours and subdued lighting combine to make it a rich environment.

Slate floors are complemented by touches of timber, including carved wooden leaves that decorate the ceiling. White paper light fittings offer a touch of brightness. Recognisably Asian objects decorate shelves and the surroundings to complete the look, which also includes a dash of red in the colour scheme.

The overall impression is one of warmth and it is a result that Bertelli is particularly pleased with, claiming it as his favourite space.

A slightly different look is achieved in the Oeno wine bar, though it still features the same palette of colours and has the same feel. The venue provides guests with a space designed to be stylish but accessible to a wide demographic.

The space is narrow and high and has been divided into two levels with the addition of an upper floor.

"The client brief was just for a bar," said Bertelli. "Our first idea was to have the big mosaic on the wall, to create an element that was close to Italian style.

Standing out among the continuation of dark colours, warm woods and metallic shaded tiles, is the use of stainless steel. A double-height stainless steel wine rack fills one wall near the entrance and the staircase leading to the upper level is constructed from steel, with layers of glass bolted together to act as treads.

"We couldn't have done this staircase in concrete, it would just be too heavy," said Bertelli.

Bertelli used the glass to add a touch of the ‘70s to the design. That decade also makes a guest appearance on a wall at the end of the bar. There, back-lit perspex squares in a selection of colours are interspersed with timber panels and provide alcoves to display decorative glassware.

Funky furniture from leading Italian design houses, such as Edra and Cappellini, complement the space and give it a chic edge.

A curved half-height wall topped with fitted lamps breaks up the main space and offers those who want it some hint of separation from the open area in front of the bar. A baby-grand is squeezed in under the stairwell to add the live entertainment option. More seclusion is available in two tasting rooms.

RELATED LINKS:Hothouse design, Remembering basics (or why a piece of glass is not enough), A home, away from home

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