His portfolio is full of award-winning projects like the 2015 Gold Key Award for the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, or the renovation of the Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai and The Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli, in Italy. Billy Quimby, 42 years old, is one of the youngest Principals at BAMO. Originally form New York, he relocated to San Francisco in 2000 where he started to work at BAMO and developed his knowledge about interior design related to hospitality industry. After few years spent at this well-known design firm, his restless curiosity brought him to Los Angeles where he worked as an architect for a residential design-build firm. In 2008, he moved back to San Francisco and returned to BAMO. Here, with an expanded vision, he was able to extend his expertise from architecture to interior architectural design and bespoke installations.
In this interview Billy Quimby shared with us all the details about the revamp of the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago and his thoughtful vision on the importance of good design and architecture in the hospitality industry.
You are working on the renovation of The Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago. Could you tell us more about this project?
This is the first time that the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Chicago has fully renovated its public spaces since it originally opened in the 1970's. The hotel resides in an iconic building and is one of the most recognizable luxury hotels in the city. It is a huge responsibility for us to renovate it. The hotel has 434 keys, gorgeous views of Michigan Avenue, the Gold Coast and its iconic neighbor the John Hancock building, and has extremely large spaces. You won’t find any hotel with the amount of large-scale spaces that this hotel has anywhere else in Chicago. We started with phase one of the project, which was completed in 2016. Here our focus was on the addition of the new Ritz-Carlton club lounge, gym, soft guest corridor renovation and 5 new keys along with suite bathrooms. For the new Ritz-Carlton club lounge we took five room keys and turned them into a sophisticated and relaxing space. For the gym, we transformed some of the older meeting rooms that had views overlooking Lake Michigan into a fitness center that took advantage of the amazing window fronts. Phase two renovations are focused on the renewal of the SPA and all the public areas from ground floor arrivals to the 12th floor reception through meeting spaces. One of our goals for The Ritz Carlton project is to reconnect the hotel interior to the building where it resides. The whole building has a modern aesthetic and if you looked at a pictures of what the hotel was before the renovations and what it will be today there is a clear contrast to the spirit of the outside. So, now we are focusing on bringing this modern detailed language inside the hotel.
What are the most in-demand traveler requests nowadays?
Guests now are looking for more experiences. A hotel has to provide a sense of purpose; a sense of place and it has to feel connected to the local culture. I think that some of the bigger brands are struggling with this new philosophy and they are watching these young boutique hotels coming up with new ideas. For us, at BAMO, it is easy to tap into this mentality because we have always built projects around very unique stories. Before starting any new venture we normally do a lot of research on the city we are going to operate in to learn what is happening locally. Then we melt what we found into our story. Chicago has a rich history of architecture, art and design and we are trying to integrate this cultural abundance of the city with the story of the hotel. In addition to that, what I have been noticing in general in the industry is that guests now want to know the hotel has curated local experiences to offer, and we need to integrate these experiences into our design.
How is technology affecting the hospitality industry?
Some of the earliest hotels I was working on in India were much more willing to experiment with technology and I think that some larger luxury brands are now starting to fully incorporate it. In my opinion, not every client is receptive to technology. I think there has to be a balance. Hotels in general have a wide range of guests from different ages and cultures and it is hard sometimes to find a platform that can suit of all of them. In general, I think that people are more dependent on their devices, so one of the most basic level as designers we need to ensure that it's effortless for them to use and recharge them in the hotel.
What is your process for starting a project?
I usually start with images that appeal to me. I am an architect and I have a license as an architect in California and also a very strong sensibility for the interiors, the planning and the detailing. For me every project is an opportunity to create a unique detailed design vocabulary, and to create a unique and exclusive language. So before starting any project I always wonder how do I build the scene around the inhabitants that you hope they will experience?
What kind of experience are you looking for when you build a project?
The Ritz Carlton project started with an existing building. So we decided to play with ceiling heights and lighting to create a new experience. We came up with a design plan that would lead people to look up, to look higher. At the ground floor we installed huge marble portals that frame the way to the elevators and persuade the guests to look up. In India, we spent time integrating layers of patterns, materials to provide guests a multi-sensory experience. The Four Seasons Resort in Dubai was a combination of traditional and modern elements. As a result, the outside is a reflection of the traditional architectural culture. The inside instead has a huge component of contemporary and details laced with subtle traditional references. It was very challenging because we needed to understand what was acceptable in this particular culture as well as advance a sophisticated design that we hoped would be admired as the first Four Seasons there. As an International company we always have to deal with different cultures, which is challenging as well as a great opportunity to learn and expand our mindset.