Reputation-wise, The Ritz-Carlton, Boston probably has a lot of the same associations that travelers ascribe to the city itself. The Ritz brand brings to mind the classic, the traditional—and maybe too, the buttoned-up. But Boston’s not the same beast she was when Brahmins in frock coats and top hats could rule unchallenged. There’s now innovation-era whiz kids wearing Chuck Taylors and carrying fat VC-funded wallets. The look of luxury has changed. So has The Ritz, which just underwent a $13 million dollar interior redesign to its guest rooms, club lounge and ballroom, its first major overhaul since the hotel opened by Boston Common in 2001, when it moved from an address in enduringly upscale Back Bay to a rapidly redeveloping downtown. Now, as the many glittering high-priced high-rises can attest, the neighborhood’s a new epicenter of Hub affluence.
“We wanted to bring it up to modern-luxury,” says William Bunce, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, Boston. Out: Heavy draperies in heavy-handed hues like gold and red. (Ooh! Rich! Royalty!) In: Lighter colors, clean lines, updated technology and design details that integrate homages to Boston history without beating you over the head with a butter churn.
“Guests aren’t necessarily arriving in suits and ties; they’re wearing casual and comfortable, smart clothes,” Bunce says. “We had to adapt to that with a product that is high-end luxury but more approachable. The redesign is part of that narrative.”
Photo credit: Don Riddle Images (above and left), Greg Powers (right)
LITERARY AGENTS. The Ritz stands just steps away from the birthplaces of Edgar Allan Poe and Ralph Waldo Emerson, so the seminal American authors were written into its redesign. Nods to Poe can be found in the new Executive Suites, where eyes flock to a wallcovering from Brooklyn artist Jill Malek that is inspired by “The Raven,” and photos of the Boston Public Library, home to a bronze Poe bust, hang above an authentic reproduction of a Windsor chair from the Adams National Historical Park. Emerson’s naturalist leanings are on display in the city-view Luxury Suites, where antique mirrors have branch framings and glass globes over the dining table are inscribed with quotes from Emerson’s poem “Boston.”
Photo credit: Greg Powers
LIGHTENED UP. Gone is the staid stateliness of a State House office suite. At the new-look Ritz, damask-patterned hallways lead to 193 redesigned guest rooms that more closely recall the vibe of a high-end home on Nantucket. They’re swathed in creamy colors, blues and grays, with pops of white marble and other accents. Enhancing the residential feel, walls received new wainscoting and evocative abstract works from South End-based artist Jon Amburg, while proliferous USB ports and smart TVs add the creature comforts of home.
Photo credit: Greg Powers
COLONIAL QUIRKS. “We considered many different angles to approach the design, and landed on the idea of looking at the long-standing history of colonial craftsmanship in New England,” says Gonzalo Bustamante, studio leader at Rockwell Group, the firm behind the redesign. Forms and materials are inspired by historically hand-forged fineries, from the furnishings (like those that recall the saddle shape of 18th-century Windsor chairs) to more subtle design details: think leather stitching on headboards, leather straps on seatbacks and light fixtures in Old-World lantern shapes.