Split Personality: Inventive takes on local materials help this Israeli destination play a dual role as an organic retreat and an urban nightspot.
By Mary Scoviak
Despite its idyllic setting amidst the wineries of the Jerusalem Hills, Cramim Resort & Spa isn’t just a voice in the wilderness when it comes to design. This 156-room luxury resort heralds some provocative ideas about how hotels package and deliver their interior experiences.
Israel’s state-owned Isrotel hotel group wasn’t buying into the mandate for seamlessness. Its leadership wanted the newest member of the Exclusive Collection to combine two visually distinct concepts: a casually elegant organic look for the lobby, rooms, restaurant and spa that would appeal to health-conscious leisure travelers and oenophiles; and a sexy, urban ambience that would attract city dwellers (Jerusalem is a 10-minute drive; Tel Aviv is only 30 minutes away) to the Gentlemen’s Club and bar. The challenge for the design firm, Studio Gaia, was to tell that design story without losing the plot.
By manipulating natural materials with different finishes and installation techniques, the designers created a sense of continuity that could be modulated to match the mood of the spaces. Wood goes au naturel in the linear slats that separate the walk-through showers (Studio founder Ilan Waisbrod cites a car wash as the inspiration) from the soaking pool in the spa, as well as the spa’s display cases and the restaurant’s furniture. Cut into interesting shapes, the wooden tops of the guest room tables work like sculptures. A stacking technique using sawn boards of irregular lengths strategically punctuated by LEDs gives a whole new meaning to the term “focal wall” in the bar.
Waisbrod and his team (Yuni Rosita, Maral Sarisozen and Xyrus Diego) also carried through key concepts, applying twists to make them relevant to the guest market. Take transparency. In the dining room, the massive wrap of windows suggested the feeling of a gazebo. So, the line of the furnishings is low to keep the view uninterrupted. But the ceiling serves as a secondary gazing point with its laser-cut pattern of abstracted grapes, vines and leaves.
Turning to the guest rooms, the designers maintained the feel of openness with a glass wall that separates the sleeping and bathing areas. A roller shade affords the desired level of privacy. The theme picks up again in the hand-painted glass ribbon that hovers over the display kitchen and the backlit oculus that filters a verdant glow onto the swimming pool.
Colors and textures flow from the palette of the hills and vineyards, moving from neutral hues and smooth fabric in the core of the hotel and guest rooms to deep grape and stone gray upholstered pieces combined with leather seating in the club and bar. “Integrating the inside and outside, the spa/wellness resort environment with the night scene destination added complexity, certainly,” says Waisbrod. “But, for this or any project, the starting point is connecting with the surroundings. If a hotel doesn’t do that, it doesn’t feel real. And fake doesn’t sell to any market.”
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