HKS transforms a hurricane-damaged Mexican resort into a luxurious, refined hideaway that celebrates the country’s rich artisanal heritage. Photograph by Benny Chan

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After Hurricane Odile tore through and ravaged Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula in 2014, Esperanza, an Auberge Resort, was in need of significant renovations. Auberge Resorts Collection engaged global design firm HKS to bring back its luxurious interiors and enhance the property. Inspired by the subdued palette of Esperanza’s cliffside setting and Mexico’s rich artisanal heritage, HKS transformed the already beloved hotel into a romantic, enchanting destination that harmonizes with nature and showcases the local culture.

Esperanza, named for the word that means “hope” in Spanish, debuted in 2002 and quickly earned its reputation as a captivating location. Twelve years later, when damage from the hurricane’s howling winds and surging waves forced Esperanza to shut down, “We were offered an unprecedented opportunity to rebuild,” says Mark Harmon, founder of Auberge Resorts Collection. More than just a refresh or repair, “This was a chance to reinforce the position of the hotel as a romantic hideaway.” To accomplish this goal, Harmon entrusted HKS director of hospitality interiors, Mary Alice Palmer, who is based in Dallas.

Romantic hideaway with color and culture
Given six months to redesign, renovate, and reopen the resort—which includes 57 guestrooms, an oceanside restaurant, indoor/outdoor bar lounge, a new ceviche bar, pool, and spa—Palmer’s team developed an eff icient guiding concept that focuses on two elements: color and culture.

In place of the festive, salmon-hued scheme that characterized the resort before Odile, Esperanza’s new muted palette draws from the surrounding landscape and the sea—grays, beiges, and blues—allowing the driftwood-hued buildings and glass-tiled pool to meld almost seamlessly with the coast. Palapas comprised of thatched palms atop ebony-stained eucalyptus columns punctuate the property, while cantera stone tile (the pool deck), poured concrete pavers with inlaid pebble patterns (the lobby and restaurant terrace), and large stone pavers (the spa path) off er a variety of textured walking surfaces. These materials complement the hotel’s rough stone walls—preexisting elements that echo the rocky cliff from which they arise.

Throughout the property, shades of ocean blue play against more neutral elements. In the lounge, an antique wooden bar features a wavelike pattern refinished in a weathered aqua. Above float handblown glass pendants reminiscent of green-blue sea glass, while outside, the terraced infinity pool, framed by native vegetation and redone in Pacific-blue glass tiles, flows down toward the sea.

To impart a sense of culture, Palmer’s team worked with artisans and manufacturers in Guadalajara to custom design all furniture, art, and accessories—from the woven leather-backed teak chairs in the ceviche bar and lounge to the decorative straw sun hats and weathered wooden dressers in the guestrooms. “Using leather, embroidery, ceramics, woodwork, and other materials,” says Palmer, “these pieces represent traditional Mexican artistry and reinterpret it with a fresh, natural color palette based on Esperanza’s unique cliff side location.”

In guestrooms, welcoming gray-cushioned white oak chairs, cream-colored bedding, and bright walls create a neutral yet luxurious backdrop, highlighting the Sea of Cortez as its focal point. Taking advantage of the hotel’s spectacular site, each room boasts ocean views from an ample private terrace, complete with comfortable banquette seating and either a hot tub or hammock. Wood-like porcelain-tile flooring continues from the room onto the terrace—blurring the boundary between inside and out and rendering the room as an extension of its stunning natural site.

Candles and hope
As the final transformative detail for Esperanza, Palmer’s team introduced a crucial romantic element—candles. As evening arrives, hundreds of candles illuminate the property. Hurricane lanterns line walkways, staircases, and terraces.

Candles adorn restaurant tables and parapet walls, and a fire pit lights the outdoor lounge. When retiring for the night, guests find their rooms via paths that are softly lit by a range of flickering candles. It is this level of attention to detail that has led returning guests to lavishly praise the new, award-winning Esperanza.

While candles abound, the most symbolic glowing element at Esperanza is the sculptural bonfire that distinguishes the outdoor lobby. Modeled on driftwood, the glowing flames recall the beacons that signal sailors at sea to guide them, keep them safe, and give them hope. Likewise, Esperanza’s bonfire greets visitors as they enter the resort, signaling their arrival in a uniquely romantic and hopeful realm. After all, as Harmon says, “Everyone looks great in candlelight.”

who Architect: HKS Hospitality Group. Project team: Nunzio DeSantis; Mary Alice Palmer; Robert Stovall; Katey McKaig; Olga Acosta. Contractor: Red Group. Lighting: Granville McAnear. Engineering: Red Group. Landscape: Girvin Associates. Graphics: HKS.
what Paint: Sherwin-Williams. Flooring: Porcelanosa. Carpet/ carpet tile: Armadillo. Lighting: Mauricio Preciado; Kublaikan. Doors: Red Group. Window treatments: Tritex Industries. Upholstery: Perennials; Sunbrella. Tables: Tables and More; Casa Pericos; Cempacucil. Drawers/ casegoods: Tables and More; David Luna; Cempasucil; Casa. Architectural/custom woodworking: Tables and More. Planters/accessories: Adrian Guerrero; Elena Columbo; Cempasucil; Richard Bettinger Studio; Casa Pericos; Sophie’s Home. Signage: Mauricio Preciado. Plumbing fixtures/ fittings: Waterworks.