OPEN WATERS

ICRAVE’s vision for Serafina Beach Hotel channels aquatic inspiration into a property with physical and visual room to breathe.

The first hotel to open in Puerto Rico after the 2017 storms, the 96-key Serafina Beach Hotel is definitely on a boutique scale. That didn’t stop Lionel Ohayon, founder, ICRAVE, from creating a design that embraces both volume and white space. For Serafina Restaurant Group’s first hotel, Ohayon was determined to capture the expansive quality of the ocean and its transparency.

The main answer to Ohayon’s self-imposed design challenge was, naturally, to emphasize every square foot of available space. A double height lobby seems even loftier with a floor-to-ceiling mural and delicate pendent lights hung on almost-invisible supports. In the guestrooms, organically shaped mirrors reflect light, but also make the rooms seem to double in size.

Restricting the color scheme was the next step in crafting a hotel that draws more from its natural surroundings than beach culture. “We held ourselves to a limited palette and chose to leave existing white space between focal points. In addition, we explored vast shades of gray to add dimension,” says Ohayon.

The finishing touch? The way Ohayon encourages guests to see through the design. Glass tiles behind the bar play up the undersea vibe, and suggest the wall behind them. Screens conceal and reveal what’s behind them in the lobby. Light shades are almost sheer, so when they’re mounted in clusters, the effect is very much like bubbles in the water.

Making that magic happen around a natural disaster wasn’t easy, but Ohayon notes that the hotel’s building materials were all onsite prior to the storm and that the storm glass already installed held. Even with giving the employees time to get back on their feet, the hotel debuted just five months after the storms.