Turning to Rosewood for a 'sense of place'

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In the vernacular of modern luxury, we hear a lot about the "unique," the "local," the "sense of place." And while the growing demand for those experiences has forced systemic changes at many luxury brands over the last decade, it's anything but new for Rosewood Hotels & Resorts.

Sense of place has been the guiding philosophy of Rosewood since its founding in 1979 by Texas oil heiress Caroline Rose Hunt, who renovated a Texas cotton magnate's mansion into the brand's flagship property, The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, which opened in 1980.

And it's a philosophy that continues to drive every aspect of its hotels, from site selection to staff wardrobes, as Rosewood continues its aggressive expansion across the globe, says Rosewood president Radha Arora.

The company this week announced it was developing its second London property, and its sixth in Europe, in the midcentury U.S. Embassy Building on Grosvenor Square, which was designed by master architect Eero Saarinen.

A rendering of the entrance to the second Rosewood hotel in London, in the Saarinen-designed U.S. Embassy building on Grosvenor Square.

"We look for destinations or properties that would complement the mantra of sense of place," Arora said in a recent interview. "It's the building that we look for, the destination that we look for. Where the affluent explorer wants to go, where they want to see it through Rosewood's eyes."

The philosophy, he says, has worked very much in the brand's favor as it has expanded from being a mostly North American-focused company to a global operator under Hong Kong-based New World Hospitality (now called Rosewood Hotel Group), which bought the company in 2011. Current plans call for doubling the brand's portfolio to 40 properties by the end of the decade.

"There are luxury hotels galore," Arora said. "How we differentiate our self is always a sense of place. But the translation is different. We really strip it down and get to the heart of it  without making it gimmicky or whimsical."

For example, he pointed to the brand's newest European property, the historic Hotel de Crillon in Paris, which Rosewood reopened just two months ago with variety of specially designed suites, including a Marie Antoinette suite with feminine touches, some that pay tribute to the bohemian poets and painters who lived the artist's life in Paris and others designed with a more contemporary flair by Karl Lagerfeld, the longtime designer of Chanel.

The hotel also has five restaurants, including a brasserie, a 28-seat fine dining restaurant and La Cave, a subterranean space that holds the hotel's collection of fine and rare wines, including labels from the beginning of the 20th century.

"The hotel intrinsically reflects the heart and soul of Paris," Arora said. "It radiates contemporary lifestyle."

Likewise, in London, the entry to Rosewood's first London hotel, in Knightsbridge, is through an archway that opens into a grand Edwardian courtyard. Staff wear traditional British uniforms and, of course, there's butler service.

"We want to demonstrate that we can put London back into London with this authentic destination," Arora said.

Much of the company's future growth will come in Asia. But with so much going on, how does the brand maintain that special sense of place and attentive personalized service that made the much smaller Rosewood a standout?

"It's actually not that difficult," Arora said. "It about who you pick to represent the brand.... The good news for us, we are not one of those brands that stipulates certain standards. We leave it to our managing directors.

"We let them translate the sense of place," he continued. "They hire the right people to deliver those authentic experiences. Then it's easy."

Corrections: Rosewood Hotels & Resorts was founded in 1979; it's flagship hotel, The Mansion on Turtle Creek, opened in 1980. In addition, Hotel de Crillon's fine dining restaurant seats 28 people. An earlier version of this article contained incorrect information.

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