Just as sights, smells and sounds have the ability to create moods and reactions, so do building materials such as stone and tile products. For this reason, architects and designers need to take a number of factors into consideration before selecting their design palette - especially when it comes to hospitality projects.

Whether it is a restaurant, hotel, spa or entertainment venue, patrons desire high-quality service and a welcoming environment. And the more upscale the establishment is, the higher the expectations. As a result, building materials need to appropriately match the status of the facility.

The abundant stone and tile collections available nowadays provide inspiration for creativity. Iridescent glass mosaic tiles are popping up more in spa and hotel designs than in years past - creating a soothing and relaxing atmosphere while still presenting a high-end image.

Moreover, vibrant shades and varying sizes of ceramic and porcelain tile - as well as exotic stones and metal accent pieces - are being implemented in places such as trendy restaurants for their ability to achieve a sleek and “hip” style. Of course, mainstays such as large-format tumbled marble tiles and granite countertops are also still being utilized in hospitality designs for their timeless and high-quality attributes.

Stone and tile remain staples in hospitality design today. For the renovation of the Mizpe Hayamim Hotel and Spa in Rosh Pina, Israel, 16- x 16-inch tiles of Grey Gold marble with a tumbled finish were employed for the lobby floor. Stone Supplier: Jerusalem Marble, Jerusalem, Israel

Blending into the Lush Environment

An example of timeless design can be found at the Mizpe Hayamim Hotel and Spa on the eastern slopes of Mount Canaan, overlooking the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee in Rosh Pina, Israel. The resort, which sits on 37 acres of fruit groves, vegetable gardens, an animal farm and winery and also includes walking paths, pools and streams, offers a range of health and cosmetic treatments as well as a serene environment for guests to reside.

Recently, a renovation was completed at the complex, which involved replacing the original tile floor with Jerusalem stone supplied by Jerusalem Marble of Jerusalem, Israel. The design objective was to maintain the homey and cozy atmosphere of the resort, according to hotel owners. Additionally, the material was chosen because the owners preferred to utilize local stone rather than importing. The varying shades of Jerusalem stone were also considered the most suitable option in keeping with the tradition and style of the hotel and spa.

In total, the project used approximately 15,000 square feet combined of Grey Gold, Jerusalem Gold and Ramon Cream marble from the supplier's Ramon quarry. The stone was given an antique tumbled finish for an Old World effect.

For the floor of the hotel lobby and dining room, 16- x 16-inch tiles of tumbled Grey Gold were employed. The material was complemented by 8- x 8-inch tiles of tumbled Jerusalem Gold, which were used for the floors of the hotel corridors and patio.

Tumbled Jerusalem Gold was also employed as flooring on the hotel suite level, but in 12- x 12-inch clipped corner pieces with an insert of tumbled Ramon Cream 3- x 3-inch accent pieces. The suite bathrooms feature tumbled Jerusalem Gold and Ramon Cream 8- x 8-inch tiles in a checkerboard pattern.

Outdoors, the exterior rooms are clad with Ramon Cream marble with a textured finish. The same material was used to form a distinctive pattern for the exterior paving, with tile sizes measuring 12 inches wide and having random lengths. Additionally, the pieces featured a fine-chiseled finish.

One interesting note about the project is that it was completed in only three days with 15 installers working around the clock. The key to success is attributed to advance planning - everything was ordered weeks ahead of time so that all of the material was on site at the start of installation.

A Non-Traditional Approach

Natural stone was also incorporated into the design for the Miami Institute for Age Management & Intervention, where the objective was to create a soothing atmosphere where clients could relax. Working closely with the Institute's medical professionals, the design team at Perkins+Will in Miami, FL, designed the facility with the end-user in mind. Located in the Sky Lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel, the medical spa has many high-profile clients who expect an elevated level of service.

“A very interesting client came to us,” said Marlene Liriano, IIDA, LEEDTM AP, Director of Interior Design at Perkins+Will. “Having worked with our firm a few years back, they were impressed with what we have done nationwide and here in Miami. They decided to retain us not only because of our experience in quality design work, but also because of our branding component in our Chicago office that they needed.”

With intentions of creating a comfortable space for elite clients, the designers combined natural stone with shimmering glass tiles and rich wood. “The client wanted the space to look like no other medical spa does,” said Lilia Gonzalez, RID, LEEDTM AP, Interior Design Project Manager. “Usually, you see typical river stone and bamboo. [This client] wanted something different that looked high-tech, yet natural. It's a soothing place with a little bit of mystery.”

Featured in the main corridor of the medical spa are 24- x 24-inch tiles of Lava Stone, which took about a week to install. “They actually wanted something outside the ordinary,” said Liriano. “They didn't want a marble or granite floor. They have very sophisticated clients, and they wanted something that [the clients] haven't seen before.”

In addition to the Lava Stone, Turkish limestone was employed for a wall in the main hallway. “We specified it with striations,” said Liriano, adding that pieces measured 12 x 24 inches. “It has very thin horizontal lines carved into it.”

The design director explained that due to the time constraints of the project, the limestone had to be air freighted to the job. “The primary challenge we had was that the client wanted to open very quickly,” she said. “We needed products on site to meet the accelerated schedule.” According to Gonzalez, the striated limestone gave the wall a textural tone. “We explored different things, and this material seemed to give it ambience.”

Further enhancing the spa design are columns clad in Oceanside glass tile, which were supplied by Innovative Surfaces of Miami. “We used a couple of variations of bronze colors,” said Liriano. “We really liked them because they remind you of nature. We designed with health and nature in mind.” Gonzalez added that the tiles possessed jewel tones, and complemented the rosewood veneer well. In total, the project was completed in approximately seven months, with the glass tile being installed in phases.

Restoring a Signature Hotel

Perkins+Will was also involved with the restoration of Hotel Victor - the last of the notable art deco hotels beings restored in Miami Beach. The historic structure sits in the heart of Ocean Drive adjacent to the Versace mansion, and provided unique design challenges during the restoration and renovation.

“This project started in 1999,” said Patricia Bosch, design principal of the Miami office of Perkins & Will. “It has taken three to four years [to complete]. We created a basement, which was a fairly interesting engineering feat - being that it is 10 feet away from the Versace mansion.”

The designer went on to explain that the building was originally built in 1938 by L. Murray Dixon, a famous Miami architect of the time. “He did about 10 hotels along South Beach,” said Bosch. “Historically speaking, there was not much left other than a mural by Lepan - one of the prominent muralists of South Beach who dealt with pastel colors and everglade themes. This influenced our color palette.”

The Hotel Victor and adjacent property had remained vacant until Perkins+Will was commissioned to renovate the eight-story historic building and design a new five-story addition. “The building was a shell when we found it,” said the designer. “There was terrazzo flooring that we had to restore. We had to pretty much survey all the existing terrazzo and chip away at it and recreate matrixes. It had to be done with exactly the same colors. We had a terrazzo company come in and do that.”

Additionally, there was marble wainscoting in the main lobby that was saved. “There was this pink marble throughout those walls,” said Bosch. “We had to take it off the walls to store and protect it. As this was being done, some did break and was hard to salvage. We went through a nationwide search to find where this marble could be from. The original quarry was in North Carolina - one slab remained. We could use that to finish. The quarry had been abandoned since the 1950s.”

In one area of the main lobby, the original metal wall sconces were also salvaged. “We restored them and put a pink back light,” said the designer. “Venetian plaster surrounds them, and the marble is on the bottom.”

Stone was also employed for outdoor areas such as the patio. According to Bosch, a material that she referred to as “Keystone” was used in 12- x 12-inch tiles for the patio. “It is quarried down south,” the designer explained. “Several quarries were utilized.” Complementing the stone patio outdoors, the bottom of the pool features a mosaic design, and black granite was employed as pool coping.

Given the nature of the 80,000-square-foot project, there were several challenges along the way, said the designer. “The building had to be brought up to code structurally,” she said. “We had to build 1 1/2-inch-deep pools [in the basement] that were 80 feet long to prove to the city that this was structurally sound. We had a company do structural testing for about a month. We put the building through agony to show it could sustain people. We also had to make sure that an addition to an historic building did not take away from its original premise.”

With the Hotel Victor's grand opening in March 2005, it has resumed its high-profile image as one of the hot spots along Ocean Drive. The hotel, which includes 90 luxury hotel rooms and two restaurants as well as various bars, lounges and open terraces, an upscale gymnasium and world-class spa facilities, has already been visited by celebrity guests, including entertainer Sean “P. Diddy” Coombs and Miami Heat star Shaquille O'Neal. Additionally, it was recently named “2005's Best Renovation” byMiami New Times Magazine.

Reflecting Texas Style

The world-class Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center has also drawn a significant amount of attention since it opened to the public last spring, offering 2.3 million square feet of luxurious space, including an exquisite lobby adorned with limestone and marble. The resort, which overlooks beautiful Lake Grapevine in Grapevine, TX, features 1,511 guest rooms, including 141 suites, five restaurants, retail shops and 400,000 square feet of meeting space. Taking hospitality to a new level, all of the restaurants, lounges and spas make extensive use of stone and tile.

The main goal of the project was to “represent the diversity and richness of various regions and cultures of Texas,” explained Paul Adams, project manager of Wilson & Associates of Dallas, TX - the project's interior architectural design firm. In regard to the size of the resort, he responded by saying, “Think Texas size - imagine the largest hotel you've ever seen and double it.”

Italian honed and lightly polished Dore Reale marble and Murgiano marble decorate the main lobby floor and lounge area, and the stone is complemented by Lueders Rough Back limestone for the lobby walls, arches and fireplaces. In all, there are seven lounge areas, all of which employ natural stone. “The stones were chosen for durability and consistency of color, due to the size and scale of stones used,” said Adams, adding that Mezgers of Texas supplied the limestone.

Stone and tile also take center stage at the various restaurants throughout the complex, where architects used stone and tile in distinctive patterns that gave a unique feel to each space, while also maintaining the overall theme of the resort.

For example, at celebrity Chef Stephan Pyles' Contemporary Southwestern restaurant, Ama Lur, the vibrant cooking and festive atmosphere is complemented by brightly colored ceramic tiles. The tiles can be found in a broad spectrum of colors, and they are used in a variety of formats. In the open kitchen area, standard tiles and broken mosaic pieces create a dazzling display of color and animation that can be viewed by virtually the entire restaurant.

The restaurant's Margarita Bar is also faced with brightly colored ceramic tile, creating a perfect environment to soak in Southwestern spirits and snacks as well as the sounds of the nearby Salsa band. The atmosphere at the Ama Lur has already been deemed a success, as it was named “Most Romantic Restaurant” by AOL City Guide - City's Best 2005.

Meanwhile, at the Old Hickory Steakhouse, an entirely different look was achieved through the use of African Multi-Color slate flooring and Juparano Dourado granite countertops. Here, the feel is more refined, although the rough texture of the slate - combined with distressed brickwork, wood beam ceilings and wrought iron railings - provides a rugged Texan appeal. In addition to floor tile, the slate was also used in a larger format for the staircase.

At Mission Plaza, yet another area of the resort, two varieties of Mexican stone create a rich warm feel in the space. The floor border, column bases and stair nosing are made from Adoquin Stone, while the fountain - the focal point of the room - is clad in smooth Cantera stone.

When it came to selecting the numerous amounts of stone for the project, the architect explained that the design team was challenged by trying to get the approval of a suitable range of materials without an excessive cull rate. “The samples we are given don't always represent the full range of materials,” Adams said. “We took the mock-up of the color range of materials, and eliminated the percentage of colors not desired. With such an exceptional team, we were allowed to be selective about the range and really get what we wanted out of it. Mezger and their installers did an exceptional job of reducing the percentage of undesirable colors in the lobby. We were very lucky. Everyone on board had a common goal for the project, which made it so successful.”

Of course, no resort would be complete without a world class spa, and the Gaylord Texan Resort fills this need with the same flair for style and elegance as the other hospitality spaces on the premises. The 25,000-square-foot Relache Spa was inspired by European concepts of luxury, relaxation and sophistication, and it features 14 private treatment rooms and a range of rejuvenating treatments and beauty services, including facials, massage and body wraps.

The spa's atmosphere of casual elegance and relaxation begins at the reception area, where a soothing environment is achieved with elements such as subtle lighting, abundant plantlife and warm woodwork. Naturally, stone is a critical design element, and the reception area also features an understated floor pattern of earth-tone tiles in a variety of sizes and shades. The reception desktop also utilizes a natural granite countertop, continuing the resort's overall theme of refinement and elegance.

Going beyond the public spaces, the guest rooms at the at Gaylord Texan Resort utilize natural stone in a range of applications, starting at the room entryways and continuing into the bathrooms. All of the guest rooms feature granite vanity tops, including varieties such as New Roman Gold, Atlantic Green and Tiger Skin, all of which are from China and were supplied by IGM.

In addition, the suites feature rich marble flooring and wall bases, as well as an intricate bath surround of marble tile, creating an oasis for guests in the privacy of their own rooms.

According to Robert Harris of Sigma Marble and Granite Inc., implementation of the stonework took approximately one year using mud set and thinset installation methods, with about 35 workers on the job at any given time. Harris said the only real difficult aspect of the job was the sheer magnitude of the project. “There was so much going on at one time,” he said.

Construction began in June 2001, and according to Adams, since opening, the Gaylord center has received rave reviews. “The hotel brought a lot of prosperity to the area,” said the architect. “Over 2,000 jobs were awarded, and it is conveniently located near the airport. People comment on the exceptional stonework job in the lobby.”