AHL INSIDER

Juan Carlos Gutierrez

Creative Director of Hotel Esencia

Juan Carlos Gutierrez

– follow Juan Carlos –

On what feels like a secret stretch of the Mayan Riviera, sits the magical Hotel Esencia. Originally built as the private hideaway home of an Italian duchess, the property has slowly and sensitively grown into its 50 acres of Mayan jungle which the property comprises. 

It has thus developed into a captivating modern hotel with 42 suites and two villas. Walking the property, beneath a lush and twisting canopy of jungle, peppered with beautifully designed dwellings and natural pools fed by underground freshwater rivers, a sense of magic captivates you. The landscape envelopes you in perfect privacy. And even when the hotel is full, because of the beguiling surroundings you may feel you are totally, and blissfully alone. 

Beyond the landscape is a beautifully designed property with a strong aesthetic identity. At the heart of this originality is owner Kevin Wendle and Creative Director Juan Carlos Gutierrez, who has developed an aesthetic style for Esencia that is both understated yet striking. The design aims to reflect the hotel’s ethos which is “to offer a top quality experience without pretentiousness, a subtle yet manic attention to detail, allowing our guests to be themselves” says Gutierrez. And yet, despite the intense detail that goes into it, the result is effortless. 

With several brand new suites having just been completed, A Hotel Life’s Design Editor Ruby Kean chatted with Juan Carlos about the ever evolving pursuit for the perfect hotel and what is on the horizon for Esencia.

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Ruby Kean: How important is it to keep refreshing and reviving the spaces within the hotel?

Juan Carlos Gutierrez: There is something about coming back to the places you love and finding nothing has changed, it is just as you left it last time — like you are coming back to your own beach house after a long winter. So we are careful to maintain this feeling. However, it is also great for our guests to come back or even first time guests to discover and know that we take care of the property and think carefully about how to surprise and delight them every time. So yes, I would say it is important and high on our value scale.

Hotel Esencia
Hotel Esencia

Ruby: What was the concept for the new ‘Wellness’ suites?

Juan: They say a crisis is a masked opportunity. Current physical distancing policies and safety precautions gave us the idea to create a new category of suites with personal space both indoors and outdoors. This gave way to the idea of health being at the center point in current life: working out, relaxing, eliminating stress. 

We decided to offer a spa in your own room with a private fitness studio. We added a steam room feature, plus our guests can take some sun in the rooftop solarium — exercising or relaxing outdoors, all while in perfect safety and isolation. The suites each have their own ‘Mirror’ or Peloton bike on request, TRX suspension training gear, personal Technogym weight sets, and yoga mats.

 

Rooftop Wellness Suite
Rooftop Wellness Suite

Ruby: How does the ethos of the hotel tie into the design of the space? 

Juan: We created the atmosphere of a home — for example, our main house with its salon is treated as our guest’s own living room. We also don’t have any signage, and our guests don’t need to sign anything after a meal or a drink at the bar.

 

Hotel Esencia Master Beach Suite
Hotel Esencia Master Beach Suite
Hotel Esencia Penthouse Suite
Hotel Esencia Penthouse Suite

Ruby: The hotel is sprinkled with beautiful artworks and furniture. Tell me about the collection at the hotel, what is the story there?

Juan: The hotel’s public rooms and some guest rooms are furnished and decorated with the owner Kevin Wendle’s own private collection of original Mid-century modern furniture by Pierre Jeanneret, Serge Mouille and Charlotte Perriand. Other pieces include drawings from the 1950s, by Botero and Eduardo Santiere, a Pop Art print by Andy Warhol, and a couple of Picasso ceramic vases. We also champion younger, up-and-coming artists using their pieces to decorate special places in the hotel. 

 

Hotel Esencia
Hotel Esencia

Ruby: What about your process — how important is it to work with local artisans and crafts people? 

Juan: The estate’s provenance as a place of leisure for nobility is the guiding inspiration for a modern reimagining. While preserving the many qualities of the hotel, every detail was redefined and reinvigorated. The strong architectural features of the hotel are reinforced by an entire collection of furniture designed especially for the hotel, as well as interior accessories like hand-woven rugs, bed throws, custom tableware, and ceramics. All are subtly paying homage to mid century design and art in Mexico and more generally places of leisure from California to the French Riviera to Acapulco.

We work as much as possible with artisans and craftsmen. Our policy is that, if it can be custom made, following our designs, and in many cases handmade in Mexico, that’s the way to go. We want our guests to discover Mexico in a non conventional way, and feature amazing quality and craftsmanship that is hard to come by, but well worth the effort.

 

Hotel Esencia Main House
Hotel Esencia Main House

Ruby: What do you want your guests to feel when staying at the property? 

Juan: We actually don’t strive to achieve hotel status or traditional perfection. It is our desire for our guests to feel they are guests at a friend’s home, while being a reference in world-class hospitality, creating and redefining authentic, memorable guest experiences in a unique and relaxed luxury environment. We are blessed to have a property with a heritage, a happy heartfelt service culture, and unparalleled natural scenery.

 

Hotel Esencia Main House
Hotel Esencia Main House

Ruby: What does the future hold for Esencia?

Juan: The owner’s recent acquisition of ‘Château de Curzay’ in France opens a new chapter in the Hotel Esencia story. But the ethos behind the new project will be exactly the same: to ‘open’ the owner’s home to friends and guests. Naturally, the over 300-year history of the property will dictate a lot of the creative decisions in terms of design and decoration, the guest experience and the atmosphere in general, but just like Hotel Esencia Mexico, it will have a relaxed luxury atmosphere, and you can expect world-class service just as friendly and natural.

Hotel Esencia Jungle Suite
Hotel Esencia Jungle Suite
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