Some properties inspire interior designers to dig a little deeper. The particular history, architectural heritage or cultural cachet of an establishment can demand extra special care and attention to ensure that a contemporary interpretation reflects both its past status and future glory.
Saint James Paris and Relais Christine, Paris, France
A prominent figure within the world of parisian hotel design, interior architect Laura Gonzalez prefers to avoid the conventional. Instead, she’s made her name with a stylistic vision of multiculturalism that results in strong, unique identities for her projects. And yet when Relais Christine called upon her to help with a remodeling, she discovered her passion for a more classic style–since “classic means timeless”. She was immediately fascinated by the hotel’s immense potential, with its many nooks and spacious stretches. “I immensely enjoyed bringing the building’s original character back using antiques: not just furniture, but woodwork, gildings, moldings, trimmings and the royal blue and burgundy colors that such a setting calls for.” At Saint James Paris, the challenge was a bit different, since the establishment already possessed a strong personality that was well-loved by regulars. “The idea was to uphold the spirit of this somewhat secluded spot and enhance its Parisian neoclassical architecture while simultaneously updating it. I reconceived it as a collector’s abode: each of its rooms features a number of artistic and architectural references, ranging from ancient Greece to Art Deco.” She has turned it into a showcase for the French art de vivre (art of living), working with textures, fabrics and tones to create an atmosphere that is colorful yet chic, open yet beautifully discreet.
The Grand Hotel Duchi d'Aosta, Trieste, Italy
While new to Relais & Châteaux, The Grand Hotel Duchi d'Aosta came into being in the 19th century, at a time when Trieste was the heart of Mitteleuropa and an essential stopover on any Grand Tour of the continent. When the new owner–a former design entrepreneur–called upon him, architect Egidio Panzera immediately understood the immense potential of the sleeping beauty. “I was thinking of the poems of Umberto Saba that evoked the complexity of Trieste; or reflections on the water painted by Egon Schiele,” he says. “In particular, I used them as a narrative thread in choosing textures and materials–Rubelli and Bevilacqua fabrics, old-fashioned fired glass, veined marble–and completely renovating the spaces.” He designed the new layout of the bedrooms, enhanced the identity of both the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Harry’s Piccolo and the historical Harry’s Bar, and opened the former palace to locals by creating a vertical art gallery in the staircase of the main building. He is now working on a new project for the pool and spa.
PURS Luxury Hotel and Restaurant, Andernach, Germany
Along the romantic rhine between Bonn and Frankfurt, in the west of Germany, the PURS Luxury Boutique Hotel & Restaurant appears to defy the passage of time. Championing a certain minimalist purity, the internationally renowned Belgian interior architect Axel Vervoordt transformed this former residence of the Archbishop of Cologne into a unique establishment, far removed from the usual conventions of a hotel. Eight years of work culminated in thissecluded destination, featuring just eleven rooms, each different from the last, as well as a gastronomic restaurant. “Axel Vervoordt did not immediately say ‘yes’, because he wasn’t in the habit of accepting projects for retail spaces,” says Eric Van der Pas, the architect who led the project. “But considering the magic of the estate and the determination of the owner, Rolf Doetsch, to make it more than just a hotel, he accepted the challenge.” The place is considered a Gesamtkunstwerk, or total work of art: each of its spaces is imbued with a very special atmosphere thanks to very precise material choices, including natural plasters, brushed cotton, patinated old wood and solid stone paving blocks, as well as timeless hand-crafted furniture and artwork from the owner’s personal collection.
Atrio Restaurant Hotel, Cáceres, Spain
At the heart of the extremadura region in Western Spain, the city of Cáceres is a cradle of ancient history. When chef Toño Pérez and sommelier José Polo opened Atrio, a hotel with one of the foremost gastronomic restaurants in all of Spain, they intended on showcasing this flamboyant past without going over the top. The duo met with architects from the Mansilla + Tuñón Arquitectos agency, whose approach aims to preserve heritage without relinquishing a spirit of innovation. “We wanted to safeguard the atmosphere of the historic building while creating a very contemporary concept,” says Emilio Tuñón Álvarez. “We inserted a series of minimalist structures made of white concrete and wood that play with the light.” Both indoors and out, the cozy atmosphere of slate, oakwood and granite from Cáceres enhances the elegant arrangement of furniture, combining Nordic classics and pieces specially designed by the architects.
Huniik, Merida, Mexico
When the cuban artist Jorge Pardo moved to Mérida, Mexico to conduct a massive renovation project on an assembly of abandoned haciendas, he was so enchanted with the city that he decided to settle there, finding it a fitting canvas for his singular approach combining art, design and architecture to produce global, immersive installations. “I met Chef Roberto Solis when he was considering plans for a new restaurant. He was wondering how to lay claim to a heritage building where a previous renovation attempt remained unfinished,” says the artist, who decided to become a partner in the project. To help the chef transport some fifteen guests off to Yucatec origins, Pardo decided to strip the walls, revealing the building’s original stonework. This organic setting calls to mind the Yucatan’s cenotes–caverns containing natural pools. To ‘adorn’ the dining area of this new Relais & Châteaux member, the artist designed all the furniture and light fixtures and had them fashioned by craftsmen using local techniques.