Alia Akkam • July 17, 2020
During the 1920s, a European-inspired residence, complete with a cantilevered marble staircase and doors from a 19th-century Spanish cathedral, was built in Dallas. In 1979, years after the glamorous soirées died down and visits from politicians and writers ceased, the local, family-owned Rosewood Corporation began converting the sprawling abode into a restaurant and hotel, today’s iconic Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek.
That historic transition officially ushered in Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, which is devoted to opening one-of-a-kind residentially informed properties, including Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands and Las Ventanas al Paraíso resort in Los Cabos. By the time Rosewood celebrated its 25th anniversary, the northern California golf paradise CordeValle was part of the family, as was the legendary Carlyle in New York.
In 2011, Hong Kong-based New World Hospitality acquired the company, which is now under the Rosewood Hotel Group umbrella. Led by CEO Sonia Cheng, the third-generation heiress to her family’s jewelry and real estate conglomerate, Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has expanded rapidly in recent years and now boasts 28 hotels across 16 countries, with 18 more in the pipeline.
Given Cheng’s roots, it’s not surprising that Rosewood has looked well beyond its robust North American footprint to Asia. Beijing opened in 2014 as the brand’s first foray on the continent and now there are other Chinese locations in Guangzhou and Sanya, in addition to outposts in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Myanmar. Along with upcoming hotels planned for Chengdu, Shenzhen, Ningbo, and Taipei in the Greater China area, Hoi An in Vietnam, and Hermana Mayor in the Philippines, there are also European projects underway in Vienna, Munich, Venice, and London. In 2021, Rosewood will unveil its first South American property, the Rosewood São Paulo, developed by entrepreneur Alexandre Allard and brought to life thanks to powerhouse design duo Jean Nouvel and Philippe Starck.
While in the midst of extending its global reach, Rosewood is not sacrificing its guiding “A Sense of Place” philosophy, first espoused all those years ago in Texas. “This means that the local sensibilities of our destinations inform the experience offered at each property,” explains Rosewood Hotels & Resorts’ president Radha Arora. “What is paramount to us is growing the recognition of the brand as one that represents a differentiated approach to luxury—a more modern and progressive experience that reflects the way we travel today.”
Shunning formulaic design is one way of achieving this. Consider the 2017 restoration of the Hôtel de Crillon, an 18th-century Parisian marvel that brought together a bevy of design talents, including architect Richard Martinet and artistic director Aline d’Amman Asmar (who oversaw the interiors alongside Tristan Auer, Karl Lagerfeld, Chahan Minassian, and Cyril Vergniol), for what Arora deems “a perfect balance of conservation and transformation.” The renovation of Rosewood Miramar Beach, which opened last year in Montecito, California, comes courtesy of London’s Richmond International and Newport Beach, California-based Diane Johnson Design, and calls to mind a family retreat surrounded by bungalows. For Rosewood Bangkok, also a 2019 newcomer, Taipei’s Celia Chu Design & Associates wove the design around the idea of a well-traveled Thai family housed in a stunning architectural feat by KPF.
Chu, principal at her eponymous practice, took the opportunity to illuminate Thai culture, with wall panels crafted from glass scales overlaid with gold leaf in the same shape as the roof tiles of the city’s Grand Palace. She also wanted “the sacred element of water, featured in Thai rites and rituals symbolizing peace and harmony, to be a pervasive theme,” beginning with the waterfall at the entrance. Local artwork also tells “its own narrative, like chapters of a book that flow from room to room,” says Chu, pointing to the reception desk, which comprises a handcarved antique panel and three laboriously crafted new ones to match.
The Rosewood Hong Kong arrived last year as well, envisioned by tonychi—the New York studio that was the mastermind behind the Rosewood London and is currently revamping the Carlyle—as a harborside vertical estate. Awash in greenery, it melds materials such as bronze, limestone, marble, oak marquetry, and coconut wood. Situated at the 1910-founded Holt’s Wharf, which is now known as Victoria Dockside, a mixed-use complex developed by Cheng’s father and grandfather, the hotel holds special meaning. Alison Chi, managing director at tonychi, says that Rosewood Hong Kong interprets “the collective tastes of the family, spanning lifetimes and connecting the past to the present.” By dreaming up living room-like salons for every floor, curios and unique objects “are not dissimilar to what you would find in a family home,” she adds.
That sense of engaging familiarity is also on display at Rosewood Little Dix Bay on the Caribbean island of Virgin Gorda, a brand fixture since 1993. Meyer Davis tackled the resort’s revival over several years, delving in more deeply than originally planned after Hurricane Irma damaged the site in 2017. The New York-based firm wanted to amplify a more holistic definition of midcentury design, one that captures open floorplans and honors Little Dix founder Laurance S. Rockefeller’s vision of earth in balance. “Good resort design means guests can experience Mother Nature where they are, even if it’s indoors,” says cofounder Gray Davis. With suite furniture oriented toward the views and “colors and textures echoing the surroundings, guests [never] feel separated from nature,” adds cofounder Will Meyer.
Prioritizing this form of distinctive, layered storytelling is a must, says Arora. “Guests are increasingly seeking meaningful and transformative experiences, no longer concerned with the opulence and pampering of the past.”
Photos and renderings by Owen Raggett, Ken Hayden Photography, and courtesy of Rosewood Hotel Group
This article originally appeared in HD’s June 2020 issue.