September 10, 2017

Jeffrey Beers Gives Puerto Rico's Iconic El San Juan Hotel a Luxe Renovation

Jeffrey Beers' renovation of the El San Juan Hotel respects the original design and heritage of the iconic institution while infusing it with a modern luxurious vibe—replete with four bars and an exclusive VIP lounge.

by Nicole Haddad photographer Eric Laignel

El San Juan HOtel by Jeffrey Beers
El San Juan Hotel by Jeffrey Beers; Photograph by Eric Laignel.
Jeffrey Beers: El San Juan Hotel, Puerto Rico
El San Juan Hotel's Cana Restaurant in Puerto Rico
is helmed by Chef Juliana Gonzalez; Photograph by Eric Laignel.

NYS: We are so excited to hear you renovated the iconic El San Juan Hotel in Puerto Rico. How was Jeffrey Beers International tapped to do this?

Jeffrey Beers: Our re-design of Fontainebleau Miami had caught the eye of co-owner León, Mayer & Co. Interestingly, both properties were designed by Morris Lapidus.

NYS: Tell us about the history of the property!

Jeffrey Beers: Following our first visit to the property, my team and I were struck by the property's rich connection and history with iconic performers. Throughout the 60's, Puerto Rico was very popular with American tourists because jets had halved traveling time by earlier prop planes. Puerto Rico offered a reliably warm climate and hotels with casino gaming and exciting nightlife. The El San Juan Hotel was the supreme of headline entertainment. Stars included Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, among many others.

NYS: What design tactics did you employ to keep its memory alive while giving it a fresh modern look?

El san juan hotel by jeffreey beers in puerto rico
El San Juan Hotel's Ocean Villa in Puerto Rico; Photograph by Eric Laignel.

Jeffrey Beers: The revitalized El San Juan Resort is a private enclave where two opposites coexist seamlessly; the old and new, day and night, enveloped in beautiful historical details. We brought back the original elegance, opulence and energy to the resort, by enhancing what is there and at the same time inserting new, modern elements to contrast against the old. It is a place you want to be both day and night.

NYS: What went into the design of the lobby and VIP lounge?

Jeffrey Beers: The lobby is quite unique as it has five bars, each with their own different décor and vibe. They include El Cafecito, Chandelier Bar, Wine Bar, Gold Bar and Chico Caberet.

Chioco Cabaret El San Juan Hotel
El San Jua Hotel's Chioco Caberet in Puerto Rico; Photograph by Eric Laignel.

We were focused on bringing the lobby back to its glory days of the 1960s by honoring the original layout and interior architecture, while adding elegant and modern furnishings and design elements. For example, we redesigned the Wine Bar to be more elegant, subtle and inviting, modernized the wine display, as well as added a signature JBI glass light fixture to create a luxurious feel to the space.

El San Juan Hotel's Gold Bar
El San Juan Hotel's Gold Bar in Puerto Rico; Photograph by Eric Laignel.

Adjacent to the bar, we also created a VIP seating area where guests can enjoy a drink in an intimate area, which has been carefully designed to feel like an extension of your own living room. Details include Rosario Fernandez's photographs of models donning vejigante masks, intricate glass backlit alabaster chandeliers, hand-tufted rugs, and sheer curtains.

NYS: How did you modernize the guest rooms?

Jeffrey Beers: We wanted the guest rooms to be more modern than the public areas, as well as to reflect the surrounding nature. Through a selection and layering of materiality, we gave the rooms a relaxed and understated feel.

El San Juan Hotel in Puerto Rico.
El San Juan Hotel in Puerto Rico; Photograph by Eric Laignel.

NYS: We hear the Pool Villa and Ocean Villas are particularly special. Can you describe them now and how they have changed?

Jeffrey Beers: Leading directly to the main pool area, the Pool Villas have a relaxed and resort-like aesthetic.

The beauty of the surrounding sea inspired the feature elements and color palette. Using natural materials with modern, clean lines, it is an elegant haven for the guests. The integrated, soft lighting adds to the serene feel of the room, and the textural materials and soft colors enrich the ambiance.

Without compromising the relaxed and playful design of the room, we subtly added another layer of materiality to emphasize the prestige of the Ocean Villas. Residential accents, including ceiling beams and stainless-steel light fixtures, make guests truly feel at home. Luxurious yet unimposing materials, such as warm-toned stone, imbue the rooms with a relaxed atmosphere.

NYS: Tell us about the design of the Cana Restaurant helmed by Puerto Rican Chef Juliana Gonzalez?

El San Juan Hotels Wine Bar
El San Juan Hotel's Wine Bar; Photograph by Eric Laignel.

Jeffrey Beers: To offer a modern and fresh dining experience, we designed the resort's main restaurant to feel warm, airy, and contemporary. We achieved an authentic and relaxed look by pairing modern dining chairs and tables with natural teak wood and blackened metal finishes. With a mixture of communal and individual tables, as well as outdoor lounge seating, guests are encouraged to take their time and enjoy their dining experience.

NYS: What was your favorite aspect of renovating the El San Juan Hotel?

Jeffrey Beers: El San Juan is a unique property that represents a kind of theatrical social glamour seldom found today. It was imperative to us that the redesign embrace the spirit of Morris Lapidus, lacing together stunning historical details with fresh and innovative materials. Lapidus was talented, prolific, and flamboyant, but he also created hotels that were about the guest. He created an environment where the guest could be the star—not the hotel or its design. As a hospitality design firm who is greatly influenced by Lapidus, my team and I design for the guest, to craft as best we can a unique and stimulating environment with a genuine sense of narrative.

NYS: What are you working on now?

El San Hotel's Reception in Puerto Rico.
El San Hotel's Reception in Puerto Rico; Photograph by Eric Laignel.

Jeffrey Beers: We are very excited for the fall unveiling of the redesign of SEQUOIA, an iconic restaurant in Washington D.C. Our goal was to create a "gallery" filled with one-of-a-kind art pieces and installations, while maintaining a welcoming and warm atmosphere for the guest.

It has also just been announced that we are the interior-designers for 277 Fifth Avenue, a new 55-story residential tower by architect Rafael Vinoly. Our warm, understated interiors complements the architecture with a refined palette of natural materials—including white oak floors and kitchen cabinets, Italian marble counters, and custom-designed walnut vanities—all exactingly detailed.

El San Juan Hotel's Ocean Villa
El San Juan Hotel's Ocean Villa's Bathroom; Photograph by Eric Laignel.
EL San Juan Hotels Porte Cochere
El San Juan Hotel's Porte Cochere; Photograph by Eric Laignel.

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