Founded in Back Bay in 1927, Ritz-Carlton strikes out for new, modern territory, designed by CMMI
Jill Connors -- Interior Design, 3/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
The Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common, which opened last September, is definitely not your grandmother's Ritz-Carlton. (That distinguished limestone landmark, now 75 years old, is currently being renovated.) The newest Ritz-Carlton in town is thoroughly contemporary, from interior design to broadband Internet access. "The other Ritz, across the Common, is already so traditional—we needed to make the new one different," says James F. Culpepper, AIA, the design principal for the project and a partner at the firm of Culpepper, McAuliffe and Meaders Inc. in Atlanta.
Since the Ritz-Carlton, Boston Common, occupies a brand-new multiuse high-rise (by CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares in collaboration with Gary Edward Handel + Associates), CMMI had to work within a shell where column grids, elevators, ducts, and mechanicals were already in place. In designing the three major public areas—lobby, bar, and restaurant—and the 193 guest rooms, CMMI strove for a "celebration of fine detail in furniture and materials," says Culpepper.
To counterbalance the lobby's long, narrow footprint and lack of windows, the firm created a contemporary cocoon. "It's elegant, with an instant sense of permanence," says Culpepper. Golden fabric panels lining the barrel-vaulted ceiling have a rhythmic elegance. Cream-colored travertine covers the floor, columns, and walls, interspersed with lacewood, an Australian oak. At the far end of the lobby stands a heavily veined gray marble fireplace in front of which a seating area invites visitors to sink into buttery yellow leather love seats and contemplate the flames flickering behind a frameless glass screen. The lobby also gives a first hint of the hotel as gallery. On display throughout is a $1 million collection by 40 contemporary artists who live or have studied in the Boston area. (Owner and developer Millenium Partners placed a similar collection at the Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park.)
The lobby's serenity gives way to the convivial spirit of the adjacent bar, where CMMI installed a wall of backlit onyx facing floor-to-ceiling windows onto the street. A marble stairway leading up to the second-floor restaurant incorporates one of Culpepper's favorite elements: panels of art glass that function as a baluster. If the bar's design is exuberant, the restaurant's fabric ceiling panels and blown-glass chandeliers are mannerist. More utilitarian, a stainless-steel run of Traulsen refrigerators and Garland stoves is visible beyond a marble buffet where diners serve themselves at weekend brunch.
In the guest rooms, CMMI relied on attention to detail and plenty of Baker furniture. "Exquisite custom pieces," says Culpepper. For example, most rooms include a captain's chest customized to hold a small U-Line refrigerator and a television set. The corridors of the four guest floors convey a contemporary refinement as well. For example, lacewood panels at the door to each room support graceful frosted-glass bud vases. "We avoided anything edgy that would be out of date in a few years," says Culpepper, clearly aiming for the staying power of that other Ritz, across Boston's famed park.
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