Coastal Chic: The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa mixes a clean aesthetic and Southern charm


WHH_web_03_1733x1095By Nicole Carlino, Hotel Business Magazine | May 7, 2014

With a guest mix that heavily favors leisure travelers and vacationing families, The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa needed a renovation that retained the property’s familiar Southern hospitality while updating its aesthetic.

The resort tapped California-based Cole Martinez Curtis and Associates for the design of the multi-phase, $30-million transformation and San Diego based Joseph Wong Design Associates for architecture services. Prior to the renovation, the hotel had a very “Southern plantation look” with big columns, brass chandeliers and traditional wooden floors, according to Jeff Waddell, operations director for the resort. Colleen Neilson, project executive for Cole Martinez Curtis and Associates, noted that the challenge was to “keep the Southern charm of the region, with a much cleaner, more current view.”

Neilson noted that the inspiration for the redesign came from the region-the live oaks on the property, blues and greens in the color palette representing the nearby ocean, as well as colors of the sunrise. Added Waddell, “They did really well capturing the beach, coastal look, those great sunsets with vibrant colors. At our relaunch, Governor [Nikki] Haley christened us ‘coastal chic’ and she coined it really well.”

Situated within the Port Royal Plantation on the Atlantic Ocean, the renovation took advantage of the property’s outdoor space, including an enhanced arrival and resort landscape with eco-friendly flora such as live oaks, palmetto trees and native flowers, as well as a botanical conservatory. Three outdoor pools were refinished with new resort decking, private cabanas, furniture, lounge chairs, fire pits and fountains. In addition, all six restaurants and lounges were enhanced, including the addition of View 32, a new outdoor ocean-view bar.

The outdoors were also brought indoors, particularly in the lobby. In keeping with Westin standards, the designer added a two-story, oxygen-producing vertical garden of mounted wall planters.

“One of the requests that we were trying to accomplish was to get more energy into the lobby space,” said Neilson, noting that prior to the renovation, the lobby was very dark. The renovation team removed two large columns, effectively opening up the space. Additionally, the new lobby features check-in pods replacing a front desk-a Westin standard. “We took things away and opened it up to make it feel more inviting and intimate,” said Neilson.  “There’s a lot more activity than there was previously.” Waddell concurred, adding that it brings back a community aspect, which is important to the hotel’s leisure guests.

The lobby also has an artistic feature wall and comfort zones for seating. Design elements are apparent in the pops of blue in the furniture and use of driftwood, such as the chandeliers, Neilson noted that the team played off the beach theme with lighting in other areas, such as using beach glass in the lighting fixtures in the restaurant. “We tried not to bring it in a typical way,” she said.

Other upgrades include over 37,000 sq. ft. of upgraded meeting and event space featuring enhanced meeting technologies such as WiFi, digital signage and audio visual, as well as a new Westin-WORKOUT Fitness Studio.

A major challenge of the renovation was time. “One of the big catches was that we had a very tight schedule,” said Neilson. Waddell agreed, noting that it was essentially a two-year renovation accomplished in 14 months and the hotel did not close to guests. “To speed up the process of design and approvals, we used Westin’s standard casegoods package in the guestroom, but changed the wood finish to make it feel lighter and beachy,” said Neilson. She noted that some of the casegoods were made in Arizona and some were made overseas, allowing the renovation to work with different lead times for the multi-phase project. All 416 rooms and sites feature a soft, coastal-inspired colore palette with southern elements, Westin’s signature Heavenly Bed, a 42-in. flat screen TV, iPod docking stations and updated WiFi.

Waddell added that all of the work has paid off. “Overall, guest reaction has been that it hasn’t lost the charm but it enhanced the service level,” he said. “We definitely are experiencing better RevPAR satisfaction. It’s modern and rejuvenated.”