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Island | Resort & Spa


Island in resorts and spas is manifested by an isolated bed centered within the bedroom space, not confined to a bathroom.


Researcher Marta Mendez identified Island as an archetypical practice in single-family houses; in these settings the object that is isolated can be a bed, a bathtub or a piece of furniture.1 In resorts and spas the object is beds.

The function of the bed has diversified beyond sleeping as a spot for lounging, taking, working, even eating, and beds have left the bedroom, reverting in a way to their origins as altars or podiums where revered people rest and entertain. The bed as central focal point stems from the early 19th century “‘Idler’ which was draped with silk or velvet… placed on a dais in the centre of the room in which the hostess reclined to receive guests, who would gather round for conversation and adulation.”2 Furthermore, M. MacLean Helliwell suggested that, “even the turn-of-the-century girl… regards her room less as a sleeping place than as a sort of combination boudoir, library, reception and sitting-room. Here she sews, reads, studies… receives her feminine friends, and frequently brews herself a private pot of tea.”3 The Modernist and Minimalist periods of the 20th century maintained a detached bed, commoditizing it to such an extent that they serve as concepts and design features in night clubs and restaurants, resorts and spas.

The scale of Island is much larger in resorts and spas than in private residences, as these beds are designed to be used by several people at once, particularly in public areas. Ron Arad’s guestroom for Hotel Puerta America (2005) creates an Island by pooling light beneath the bed, refuting the visual weight of black fabric in a white interior. Conversely, the substantial bed in the lounge of the Spa at Mandarin Oriental (2003) is illuminated by the cove lighting of a barrel vault, under which it is centered.4 Although there is other furniture in the room, the floor-to-ceiling decorative wrought iron and flanking fireplace and windows with views of the city, accentuate the Island’s significance. In both examples, the Island dwellers are both isolated and celebrated amidst all activity in the room. Scale and furnishings, along with its isolated placement in space, emphasize Island as a coveted form.5

end notes

  1. 1) Marta Mendez, “Theory Studies: Archetypical Practices of Contemporary House Design (MA Thesis, Cornell University, 2008), 39.
  2. 2) Margaret Campbell, “From Cure Chair to “Chaise Longue”: Medical Treatment and the Form of the Modern Recliner,” Journal of Design History 12, no. 4 (1999): 328.
  3. 3) Elizabeth Collins Cromley, “Sleeping Around: A History of American Beds and Bedrooms: The Second Banham Memorial Lecture,” Journal of Design History, vol. 3, no.1 (1990): 9.
  4. 4) Guestroom, Hotel Puerta America [2005] Ron Arad; Madrid, Spain in “Womb with a View,” Hospitality Design Magazine 27, no. 8 (Nov. 2005), 89-93; Spa Lounge, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental [2003] BBG and HBA; New York City in Spa Design (Koln: Daab, 2006), 165-166.
  5. 5) Evidence for the archetypical use and the chronological sequence of Island in resort and spa was developed from the following sources: 1920 Lobby, Arizona Biltmore Hotel [1929] Albert Chase McArthur; Phoenix, AZ in “Four Hotels: Taken in Context,” Architectural Record 168, no. 1 (July 1980): 118-121 / 1960 Cocktail lounge, Colony Motor Hotel [1960] Irving Salsbert, Ralph LeBlanc and Maxwell Co.; Swampscott, MA in “Hotel on a Hill,” Interior Design 31, no. 8 (Aug. 1960): 88-92 / 1990 Lobby, The Palace of the Lost City [1992] WATG; Sun City, Bophuthatswana in “African Extravaganza,” Hospitality Design Magazine 15, no. 4 (May 1993): 38; Restaurant, Bellagio [1998] Jerde Partnership International, Atlandia Design, Thomas Design Group; “Bellagio,” Hospitality Design Magazine 21, no. 2 (March 1999): 114; Lobby, The Royal Towers at Atlantis [1998] WATG; Paradise Island, Bahamas in “The Royal Towers at Atlantis,” Hospitality Design Magazine 21, no. 5 (July 1999), 59; Lobby, Hotel Excelsior [1999] BDA SRL; Rome, Italy in “Gold Key Winners: Suites,” Hospitality Design Magazine 21, no. 8 (Nov. 1999): 78; Lobby, Venetian Resort Hotel and Casino [1999] WATG; Las Vegas, NV in “Merchants of Venice,” Interior Design 70, no. 12 (Oct. 1999): 216-217 / 2000 Spa Lounge, The Spa at Mandarin Oriental [2003] BBG and HBA; New York City in  Spa Design (Koln: Daab, 2006), 165-166; Steam Room, ESPA Center at Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel and Spa [2003] Behles & Partners; Interlaken, Switzerland in “Swiss Haiku,” Hospitality Design Magazine 26, no. 6 (Aug. 2004): 68-69; Guest Room, Hotel Puerta America [2005] Ron Arad; Madrid, Spain in “Womb with a View,” Hospitality Design Magazine 27, no. 8 (Nov. 2005): 89-93; Spa, The Standard Miami [2006] Shawn Hausman; Miami, FL in Spa Design (Koln: Daab, 2006), 46-47; Lobby, Grand Hyatt Hotel [2006] Ai Design Group; Atlanta, GA in “Casual Elegance,” Hotel Design Magazine (Feb./March 2006): 16-19; Pool, Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Banff Springs [2006] Kerry Busby Interior Design; Calgary, AB, Canada in “Trend Lines: Spas,” Hotel Design Magazine (Jun./July 2006): 20; Sauna, Tschuggen Bergoase Spa [2006] Mario Botta; Arosa, Switzerland in Margherita Spiluttini, Relax: Interiors for Human Wellness (Boston: FRAME Publishers, 2007), 22.

bibliographic citations

1) The Interior Archetypes Research and Teaching Project, Cornell University, (accessed month & date, year).

2) Goldfarb, Rachel. “Theory Studies: Archetypical Practices of Contemporary Resort and Spa Design.” M.A. thesis, Cornell University, 2008, 98-103.