One of the glass atriums at the boutique hotel Ambiente Sedona, with its red rock views. Photo by: Jeff Zaruba. Source: Ambiente.

Ambiente Sedona Brings Landscape Hotel Design Trend to U.S.

Skift Take

Place what are essentially glass boxes amid breathtaking scenery. That's the "landscape design" trend in hotels. A great case in point is the new luxury hotel Ambiente Sedona.

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When Jennifer May and her father Michael Stevenson remodeled their restaurant in Sedona, they couldn’t get over how much people loved the view, which overlooks some of the most iconic red rock formations in Arizona.

“We would go have dinner there, and we would watch all of these guests that would come into the restaurant, and the first thing they would do was go outside and take a picture with that backdrop,” said May. “Because it looks like a mural — like it’s not even real.”

So one day, Stevenson came back from a dentist appointment and told May that their dentist offered to sell him the land right next to their restaurant, which was zoned for a hotel. 

Eight years later, the 40-room Ambiente Sedona is now open, as of February. The owners overcame hurdles from extensive efforts to preserve the land — rather than level it — and supply chain delays because of Covid. As an ultra-luxury property, it’s now typically priced as the most expensive hotel in the Sedona region — but also the one with arguably the most original concept. 

May calls the adult-only property a landscape hotel. This descriptor applies to a handful of European hotels, but the U.S. has none.

The goal? To make each individual guest room (or atrium, as they call them) as immersed into the landscape as architecturally possible. 

“I like to tell people, when you open your curtains in the morning, it’s like having Sedona on IMAX, right in your room,” May said.

Ambiente sedona hotel awn Exterior photo by Jeff Zaruba
External view of a guest space at Ambiente Sedona, an ultra-luxury boutique hotel in Arizona. Photo by Jeff Zaruba. Source: Ambiente.

Seeking Landscape Hotel Inspiration

May and her father looked for design ideas from two hotels in Europe, Vivood in Spain, and Juvet in Norway — both set in beautiful environments and reflecting an immersive, contemporary aesthetic. And both properties referred to themselves as “landscape hotels.”

Other landscape hotel properties include Sweden’s Bergaliv and, depending on one’s definition, Uruguay’s wine-focused experiences at Sacromonte.

“We wanted to Americanize our version of [the concept] — to make the rooms bigger and more luxurious and get in as much of a view as we could,” said May.

Ambiente sedona hotel Roof Fire Pit photo by Jeff Zaruba
A fire pit at a guest suite at Ambiente Sedona. Photo by Jeff Zaruba. Source: Ambiente.

Large-Format Windows

While some of the landscape hotels in Europe have one glass wall, for example, May wanted to see how much glass they could get away with in their rooms. 

“We literally wrapped the glass down the front and down the sides as far as we could, still leaving privacy in the back for the bathroom and changing area,” said May. 

The atriums’ glass has a bronze coating, too, so that in the day, guests walking by see a reflection of the nature that surrounds them, rather than the inside. At night, guests can use the motorized black-out curtains. 

Working with individual atriums on stilts has allowed Ambiente — which means “environment” in Italian and Spanish — to keep more of the earth below them intact, too, than if they built a typical two-story lodge. 

Drone Overhead ambiente sedona hotel photo by Jeff Zaruba
Overhead view of Ambiente Sedona. Source: Ambiente.

Aiming for Sustainability

Ambiente’s hotel attempts to be environmentally responsible in a few ways.

The hotel also has low-E glass — it essentially has a coating that boosts energy efficiency. Each atrium also has a water filter, so bottled water is kept to a minimum. 

The property uses high-efficiency heating and cooling systems. The hotel also uses local products, such as for all of its bedding.

ambiente sedona hotel Velvet Spa CO2 Soaking Baths_PC Jeff Zaruba
A wellness space at The Velvet Spa at Ambiente Sedona Hotel. Photo by Jeff Zaruba. Source: Ambiente Sedona.

Monsoon Season as Attraction

Turning Ambiente into a multi-property brand will come with challenges. While Stevenson has owned a manufacturing company for 40 years, the family is still new to the hotel business. On the surface, that may seem like a barrier. But May sees it as a plus. 

“As weird as it sounds, it was almost a positive that we hadn’t been in hospitality before,” said May, because it helped them come with fresh eyes and avoid re-creating what other area hotels offer. They’re making it a family affair, too. May’s sister, Colleen Tebrake, joined the company full-time as a brand leader about two years ago.

One experience they’re hoping to woo guests on is the monsoons that hit Sedona in late summer. 

“Even when it’s stormy it’s beautiful — people don’t realize how dramatically beautiful monsoons are,” said May. “And with our view, it’s like nature is putting on a show for you.”

Tags: arizona, boutique hotels, environment, future of hotel design, future of lodging, hotel design, luxury, luxury hotels, sedona, sustainability, sustainable tourism, ultra-luxury

Photo credit: One of the glass atriums at the boutique hotel Ambiente Sedona, with its red rock views. Photo by: Jeff Zaruba. Source: Ambiente.

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