AS THE MAN BEHIND the Cheval Blanc Randheli in Maldives, The Setai in Miami, and the One&Only resort in Dubai, Jean-Michel Gathy has an alchemic ability to create stylish havens outfitted with the world’s most beautiful pools.
“Hotels and resorts are translations of a lifestyle,” says Gathy.
“As someone who specialises in first-class luxury hotels, I make sure to live and breathe the same lifestyle as my clients.”
While most hotel designers specialise in the exterior or interior, Gathy is known for being able to design a property from scratch — from the architecture and landscaping to the interiors. The result is a remarkably intuitive and seamless flow of the hotel’s spaces.
You are one of the most prolific hotel designers in the world. How did that journey begin?
I was lucky that early in my career, I met Adrian Zecha (then-Chairman of Aman Resorts), who gave me the chance to design the Amanwana in Indonesia in 1993. The process of designing a first-class hotel fascinated me and gave birth to a life-long career of designing luxury hotels.
One of your most famous designs is the Chedi Muscat in Oman. What strikes you when designing for that region?
Clients in the Middle East like playfulness. They see hotels as a place to go for families to have fun and enjoy themselves. They love large pools and lush gardens which reflect that sense of joy. We are currently working on a project in Saudi Arabia called Amaala, where we are turning the island part of the project into a magnificent outdoor art museum, with great diving.
Tell us about your favourite things to do in the Middle East.
In Oman, I take my car and drive around the desert. If I’m in Saudi Arabia, I’ll visit the Red Sea and the rock formations. When I am in Abu Dhabi, I love to take a boat to visit the small islands. I enjoy city life and restaurants in Dubai. For historical sites, I greatly recommend Jordan and Egypt.
After three decades in the business, how do you stay ahead of the game?
Hotels and resorts are translations of a lifestyle. As a designer, you have to have an intimate understanding of what makes your customers tick. As someone who specialises in first-class luxury hotels, I make sure to live and breathe the same lifestyle as my clients. This is how I manage to stay ahead of the game day after day.