Hotel Online  Special Report

J/Brice Design International Completes a $6 million Extreme
Makeover for Hilton Sonoma County in California’s
Wine Country
October  2004 - The Hilton Sonoma County in Santa Rosa, California marked completion of a $6 million renovation by the Boston and Los Angeles-based J/Brice Design International, Inc. “The new look and feel we created is all about California Wine Country. From the moment guests drive up there is a sense of retreat,” says Jeff Ornstein, J/Brice Design CEO and Founder, adding, “Jewel tones and natural finishes of its Craftsman Style architecture blend with the beautiful vistas and distinctive hues of Northern California’s foliage.” 

“Step inside Hilton Sonoma County and you first notice the lighting and how Craftsman-era architectural elements continue into the interior space. The theme extends to the large guestrooms with their generous bay windows,” says Ornstein, whose J/Brice Design, was awarded the “Best High-End Hotel Design of the Year” by Lodging Hospitality Magazine in 2004.  “The owners let us go above and beyond Hilton standards to provide a more memorable guest experience. Part of which including our commissioning noted artists from the region to create paintings and serigraphs of the local Wine Country vistas and vineyards to give guests an unmistakable sense of place during their visit.” 

Adds Ornstein, “We worked closely with management to position the property as a destination — not only for tourists and business travelers — but as a venue with an intimate wine-country feel  that is ideal for memorable social events and passages such as weddings and anniversaries.” 

“Renovation encompassed all 246 guestrooms, 8,000 square feet of meeting space, all public areas, pool resurfacing & furnishings, landscaping, and parking,” says General Manager Ken Murakami. Nectar the new restaurant, lounge and bar was also created as part of the renovation project.

“We are excited to present this fantastic new product to the marketplace. Our resort-like feel — spread over 13 acres with seven separate guest buildings — truly sets us apart,” says Debi Dobley, Director of Sales and Marketing.  “We also have the hillside view and the patio — great features you won’t find anywhere else in Sonoma County.” 

To position the hotel as an upscale property integral to the California Wine Country experience, J/Brice Design commissioned Zenaida  Mott, a leading California artist to provide original paintings and numbered serigraphs for the public spaces and guestrooms. Mott is a California native whose paintings are in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress. She has been a Featured Artist in, Art of the West magazine and Southwest Art Magazine. 
Celebrating completion of a $6 million renovation of the Hilton Sonoma County in Santa Rosa  are Steve Mendell, executive vice president of acquisition and development HEI; Bob Cowan, senior vice president of operations for Merritt Hospitality; Jeff Ornstein, CEO and founder of J/Brice Design, which was responsible for project design and managemen, and Ken Murakami, general manager of the 13- acre property with 246 guestrooms.

Nectar, its new restaurant with full bar and lounge is nestled into a hillside with panoramic views. Executive Chef Tai Olesky describes Nectar as offering, “progressive regional California cuisine.” 

Nectar’s dinner menu features primarily small plates for $7 - $13  Each item arrives on unique plates which, along with glasses, barware and silverware, are imported from Germany.  The dishware is cutting edge  - clean, chic, and new – in all kinds of shapes - square, triangles, oval. “They are not tapas but small entrees,” explains Olesky.

Olesky grew up in Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley, gardening, mushroom foraging, abalone diving, and fishing and hunting.  His menu features all that is fresh and locally grown.  “I use the best ingredients I can find from the farmers market, Farm Trails, and local producers. Pure, clean flavors are my signature,” says Olesky. 

Karim Lakhani, Senior Vice President of Food & Beverage, HEI/Merritt Hospitality, which owns and manages the restaurant, points out,  “Nectar was the drink of Greek gods — a source of nourishment and rejuvenation befitting of a  restaurant concept that offers an array of tasting pleasures utilizing fresh Sonoma County products accompanied by an eclectic wine and cocktail list at affordable prices.”

Renovation aside, notes Murakami, “Our biggest asset is our talented and loyal employees. Through Hilton we provided them with extensive retraining in all areas of the hotel operations — everything from the room attendants to managers. You can feel their pride and excitement.”

The Hilton Sonoma Wine County is conveniently located 50 miles north of San Francisco and Oakland, off Highway 101 at 3555 Round Barn Boulevard in Santa Rosa.  Over 140 world-class wineries, golf, shopping, attractions, and the Russian River are nearby. 


A partnership comprised of Olympus Real Estate Partners, Rockwood Capital Real Estate Partners and HEI Hospitality (the Partnership) acquired the branded Hilton hotel in July, 2003. Merritt Hospitality, an independent hotel management company and wholly-owned subsidiary of HEI Hospitality, manages the property. 

J/Brice Design International, Inc. of Boston and Los Angeles managed the recently completed, $6 million renovation of the Hilton Sonoma County in Santa Rosa California.  The firm, founded by Jeff Ornstein reinforced the Craftsman-era architecture throughout the interior space and emphasized the hotels relationship with its Wine Country destination through selection of color, textures and art. J/Brice Design International, Inc. designs new hotels and renovations for major hotel chains, real estate investment trusts (REITS) and real estate developers such as Donald Trump and Boymelgreen.

For information about Hilton Sonoma County or reservations visit, tel. 800-HILTONS or the hotel at 707-523-7555.


Pirozzolo Company
Dick Pirozzolo
781-235 9911

J/Brice Design International, Inc.
326 A Street Suite 1B
Boston, MA 02210

Also See: J/Brice Design International Awarded $21.6 Million Contract. Leading Boston Firm to Design Five Marriott Hotel Interiors / March 2004

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