Ritz-Carlton Montreal – the very first Ritz-Carlton in the world – was always a grand destination, but it has surpassed even its own standards since completing its redesign in 2012. Lead by Hong Kong-based designer J. Lee Rofkind, creative director of hotel specialists BUZ Design, the redecoration of the rooms and public spaces retained the property’s storied grandeur but updated it with new colours and materials. The guest experience was also enhanced with contemporary luxuries like roomier bathrooms and automatic blinds. We caught up with Rofkind about this exciting design experience…
What was it like working in Montreal? It was fabulous, it’s such a great city. One of my trips was during the jazz festival, which is just amazing. There’s something going on on every corner!
What was your overall vision for the Ritz-Carlton interior design? Our goal with the project was to make homage to the history but tweak it. It’s funny, when we started working on the hotel I remember so many people stopping the general manager in the halls and saying, “Now, don’t change my ballroom! I got married there!” or “We celebrate our anniversary there!” And after we were done, people kept walking off the street, and the first thing they would go to was the ballroom. They just wanted to make sure it was how they remembered it.
How did you reinvent the common spaces? We wanted to do a gentle refurbishment of the public areas, to tone them down a bit, to make them more contemporary but to keep the classic character. In the Palm Court, we were surprised because despite its name, there were no palms! So we came up with this idea of making it look like a conservatory with a glass ceiling, and we created shadows of palm trees above. We dressed it up with oversize furniture and transformed it into a tea lounge. In the ballroom, we introduced a new colour scheme – taupe and lavender with pink and slate accents, and with the antique gold trim – as well as a new carpet, but we kept the original light fixtures and moldings. We took a few tassles off the drapery, too – it was really over the top.
How did you transform the guestrooms? Those were fun. When the hotel was built it was one of the first in the world where each hotel guest had their own private bath. It was such a luxury then that the bathrooms were very teenie tiny. So in the renovation we used three rooms to create two, to make for much bigger rooms and bathrooms. The rooms are in light neutral tones, but we kept the old bergère chairs and refinished them, some in hot pink, some in deep purple for a pop of colour. Most of the rooms have a window seat – we added that but it looks like it’s been there for 100 years. We also added a very modern glass-topped desk. The rooms are very contemporary in the technology, too. We installed master switches so you don’t have to get out of bed to turn things on and off, as well as automatically controlled black-out blinds and night lights operated by sensor – as soon as you step on the floor the light comes on.
What’s your favourite spot in the entire hotel? Doesn’t everybody love the garden? We didn’t work on it, but I still love it so much – it’s so quirky with the ducks!
What’s the first thing you’d recommend that visitors to Montreal do? Rent a Bixi and ride all over the place. You can get from one end of the city to the other! And you have such great parks, and Mount Royal – and Old Montreal. Ride your bike down to the old city and spend the day there.
Hotel Ritz-Carlton Montréal, 1228 Sherbrooke West, (514) 842-4212
Montréal Sweet Deal Package available at http://www.tourisme-montreal.org/Offers/Fall.