Designer Reveals What Makes Sandals Resort So Romantic
By Tim Cotroneo
In 1995, Sarah Hartman was hired to join one other interior designer working on the Sandals Resorts portfolio of eight Caribbean properties. Today Hartman serves as the Director of Interior Design for Sandals Resorts International’s billion-dollar operation that includes 23 hotels located on 7 Caribbean islands.
Hartman has the enviable task of bringing out the best in resorts perched on some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The question is, “Will Hartman share the secret ingredients as to what makes Sandals synonymous with the word romance?”
When she’s not conjuring new design ideas from her Miami-based office, Hartman is visiting Sandals all-inclusive resorts in Jamaica, Antigua, Saint Lucia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Grenada, and Turks and Caicos. As Sandals prepares to enter its 40th year next year as the Caribbean’s leading vacation destination for couples, Hartman was asked to reveal the design foundation behind this legendary brand.
Q: How did you begin working with Sandals?
Hartman: I answered a newspaper employment ad about 25 years ago. At the time there was one other Sandals designer. Now we have 20 people working on our design team.
Q: There are 15 Sandals Resorts in total. For today, let’s talk about Sandals Emerald Bay Resort in Great Exuma. What message do you try to get across when guests first enter this resort?
Hartman: Each of our resorts has a unique personality. Emerald Bay is all about showcasing the island of Great Exuma’s extraordinary water color. When a guest first enters the lobby, their eyes stretch to our amazing pool and then on to the ocean. You can’t help but get caught up in this clean feeling of blue.
Q: How would you describe the resort’s landscaping and the accommodations?
Hartman: Architecturally, the indoor/outdoor environment is a contemporary plantation style. You’ll see villas and beach houses as you walk through the resort. The resort has a casual beach resort feel, but at the same time there’s a very up-market cool vibe.
Q: Is there a connecting theme as a guest walks the property?
Hartman: Definitely. Our guests absorb the colors of the resort. The blue, the teal, and the white. The ocean looks back at you. You feel a reflection from the ocean and the clear blue sky. This setting inspires romance. At Sandals, we like to think that once you arrive at one of our resorts, “love is all you need.”
Q: As a designer, what jumps out at you when working on a Sandals project?
Hartman: I feel the environment, and the style of the island. Whether we are working on a suite, a restaurant, or a spa, our team always focuses on bringing the interior and exterior together.
Q: Getting back to the Emerald Bay lobby, what makes this entrance unique?
Hartman: The Emerald Bay lobby features beautiful woodwork that is characteristic of the Caribbean. You’ll also find handmade carpets and handcrafted seashell artwork. It’s luxurious, clean, and authentic.
Q: Emerald Bay sits on 500 acres. Can you talk about what a guest experiences as far as landscaping, flowers, and gardens?
Hartman: Emerald Bay is one of Sandals prettiest resorts. When you walk along the pathways leading to a restaurant or the beach, you’re met by reflecting pools, and there are red, white, and peach hibiscus flowers everywhere. You’ll also notice coral stone accents, and the landscaping is meticulous.
Q: What can guests expect as far as Sandals accommodations?
Hartman: Emerald Bay offers 22 different room layouts. The suites feature natural stone floors, mahogany furniture, Caribbean artwork, spacious bathrooms, plantation-style shutters, awesome balconies, and gorgeous views. The rooms have a Caribbean laid-back luxury feel.
Q: Swimming pools and the beach are important elements in the Sandals success story. What makes Emerald Bay a special island experience?
Hartman: Most of our pools feature handmade tile, ranging from Balinese limestone to Italian porcelain. In fact, you’ll find that our pools have murals and custom patterns on the floor. In the evening, guests enjoy having a cocktail by one of the fire pits lighting and warming the pool area. Just sitting under the stars is an experience. Of course, our resorts are known for their beautiful beaches and calm water. We offer various forms of beach seating, umbrellas, and shade options. Sandals takes pride in our commitment to the environment and marine life.
Q: From a cultural standpoint, how does a Sandals & Beaches Resorts located in Jamaica, Barbados, St. Lucia, Antigua, Grenada or Turks and Caicos differ from the Bahamas?
Hartman: Often you’ll find architectural differences that match the island upon which you’re vacationing. The major difference is in the staff and how each island offers different personalities. Regardless of the island destination, guests can anticipate exceptional service provided by our Sandals staff. That’s what makes each resort special.
Q: Do you have a favorite Sandals Emerald Bay Resort design story?
Hartman: My first thought is the Emerald Bay pool that you see upon arrival. This pool is truly one of a kind. We’ve situated five of the resort’s 11 restaurants around or near the pool. There is also the easy access to the ocean. Day or night this area delivers amazing views and provides our guests with the best that the island of Great Exuma has to offer.