BLINK Design Group has taken on a unique challenge to bring a grand dame of resorts gently into the future with a stunning, timeless renovation of the JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa, as well creating interior design magic for the adjoining JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort Suites, a new all-suite family-oriented luxury retreat sharing the serene beachside setting on southern Thailand’s Andaman coast.
The brief called for a total renovation of the interiors of the original resort, which sprawls over a massive beachfront site at Khao Lak’s Takua Pa district. It has been one of Thailand’s most treasured and successful resort properties, famed in hospitality circles. The project encompassed the renovation of all existing 293 guestrooms plus the addition of 127 rooms which include guestrooms and newly-built pool villas. Other new facilities also include Sala Restaurant & Pool Bar, DRIFT Beach Bar & Grill and JW Grand Ballroom.
Moreover, the new JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort Suites comprise 52 stylish two-bedroom suites ranging from 89 to 111-square-meters with bright indoor and outdoor spaces, Southern Thai-inspired design, contemporary living areas and private terraces or balconies that overlook the natural tropical surroundings.
BLINK founder and Creative Partner Clint Nagata said the just-completed three-year project had been a thrilling challenge and one that allowed the design group to develop its philosophy of ‘placemaking’ on a grand scale.
“You have a very large and much-loved property that is famously successful, so there’s an element of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. BLINK’s challenge was to complement and build upon that success in a way that will delight its very loyal fans and appeal to new guests as well,” Mr Nagata said.
Mr Nagata said the resort featured a fascinating blend of predominantly northern Lanna architecture, with unique local southern and Islamic accents. This unique blend offered new challenges in placemaking; indeed, the project almost became ‘a tale of two places’, he said. “We were creating something true to its southern Thailand location, with all that region’s rich history and talented artisans and craftspeople have to offer.
“Yet we also drew inspiration from the opposite point of the compass, Thailand’s north, expanding on the hotel’s Lanna architecture to conceive a renovation that celebrated Lanna patterns, motifs and design in new and original ways.”
Mr Nagata added: “The challenge was bringing the resort up to date without trying to be trendy. ‘Timeless’ was our watchword, and we were very conscious of marrying the interiors with the architecture of the resort. Our palette was informed by the existing architecture, so there is a lot of beautiful timber flooring and ceilings, heavy teak furniture, red clay roof tiles and floor tiles.”
In the guestrooms and suites, a Lanna colour palette and patterns prevail. “There is an established architectural palette created from the red clay roof tiles and red clay corridor floorings throughout,” he said. Traditional Lanna textiles were recreated for the pillow patterns in the guest rooms, rain drums were custom cast from brass as coffee tables by local artisans, and vintage silk spindles taken from traditional Thai silk weaving looms were also mounted as artwork. “The bathrooms were all terrazzo before, so we have brought in Thai granite and abstracted the red clay tiles into a very contemporary feature wall so they are transformed and feel contemporary yet timeless.”
Mr Nagata commented the hotel’s lobby and much-loved Thai and Japanese restaurants, Ta-Krai and Sakura, were labours of love that kept a connection to what loyal customers knew and loved while infusing them with unique new touches and wow elements.
“We gave the lobby and an injection of colour and life. We took all the furniture and repainted and reupholstered it with tropical patterns mixing shades of green inspired by the local palm trees and the vivid blue palette of the bay.”
The aim for Ta-Krai was to instill the feeling of a comfy Thai house. “We kept all the ceiling and windows, and added H-frame wall panels,” Mr Nagata said. “We sourced rattan baskets and decorative items from the local markets. A mix of blue and white ceramic works were chosen for a showpiece display cabinet, and the raised area features custom mosaics in colourful local patterns.”
Sakura, the Japanese restaurant, featured a series of skylight panels that had grown tired. “We found a local tattoo artist, Luke Satoru, who is inspired by Japanese art, and he has turned the skylights into a stunning mural inspired by cherry blossoms,” he said. “It was all about avoiding cliche, so he took something very feminine and gave it a more masculine vibe. Cherry blossom pink is woven into the fabrics and accents, while the teppanyaki grill was redone in pink tinted glass and rose gold.”
With a collection of 11 dining and social venues, JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort & Spa and JW Marriott Khao Lak Resort Suites are a culinary destination in their own right. This portfolio of restaurants now includes DRIFT Beach Bar & Grill, a naturally uplifting space which celebrates the grill experience, utilizing premium meats and seafood inspired by regional Mediterranean cuisines. A cocktail bar compliments the relaxing vibe and beachfront experience. Sala Restaurant & Pool Bar meanwhile, colourfully showcases Thai and Asian comfort food in a family-friendly setting. The JW Garden grows organic herbs and other natural ingredients to be used in restaurants, cooking classes and spa treatments. Award-winning Olive Restaurant, a traditional Italian experience has also been completely made over.