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#Thatmomentwhen one of the most famous hotels in Europe gets sold and you start panicking that it’s the end of an era until you realize that everything’s going to be just fine and it’s just the owners, not the management, that are swapping keys.
That panic was all over us earlier this morning when saw a press release with the words “Gritti Palace” and “closing” in the headline. Could one of Starwood’s two flagship properties in Venice really be leaving the Luxury Collection?
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File this under things-we-never-thought-we’d-write / bombshell news: Four Seasons Hotels will take over the management of Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, the iconic hotel at the tip of the Cap Ferrat peninsula on France’s Côte d’Azur, as of May 8. Yes, that is May 8 – as in less than three weeks away.
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The latest involves two words: renovations and residences. Comprised of several wings, the hotel has been around since 1876, and there is plenty of opportunity to explore some of its history as you wander through the public spaces, the gardens, or stay in one of the historic suites if you’re lucky. From next month, the Authors’ and Garden Wings of the hotel will close for an expected seven months to “restore the historic heart of the property to its original splendor”.
That includes all rooms and suites (above a photo of the Joseph Conrad Suite), as well as restaurant Le Normandie and the Author’s Lounge. We don’t have renderings or details yet of the end result, but will share them when we do. In the meantime, if you want to make Mandarin Oriental your permanent home, you will be able to a few years from now.
The other week, we gave you the gossip on the G-Rough, Rome’s newest design hotel (and Design Hotel), which opened on March 23 – or rather, on its intriguing location in Piazza di Pasquino. But enough gossip; today it’s time to go inside.
Like many other Rome hotels, G-Rough started out as a house – a 16th-century palazzo, to be precise, that was a family home for generations before being converted into apartments.
Unlike many other Rome hotels, though, it has cleaved to its original function. The 10 rooms take up the space of the 10 apartments (the bathroom’s where the kitchen used to be in each apartment, for example, and the doors on each floor are intact). And instead of either tarting up the premises to “hotel standard” or meticulously degrading it to “shabby chic”, the G-Rough has stripped it back to its origins. “Rough luxe”, they like to call it, but we don’t think that quite explains it. Totally original and historically fascinating is more to the point. But no, that doesn’t sound as good.
See, this is how they designed it: G-Rough held a “demolition party” one night, and invited local designers, artists and trendy locals (the owner is a seventh-generation Roman, he knows them) to do what they wanted with the hotel. Wallpapers and paints were stripped, leaving behind only pallid traces of original color from the 1940s on the walls (each room has a different color scheme, and some mix it).
Tiled floors were left untouched (the palazzo’s protected status demands this), but ceilings had faces painted on the beams, other walls had pencil drawings done, and one even has its hallway decorated with hundreds of adhesive nail files (which probably seemed like a good idea at the demolition party, a couple of proseccos down).
As we told you before, the building originally opened as a bath house – Marcel Proust’s favorite, no less. In the 1970s, a newbie designer called Philippe Starck turned it into a nightclub, and it swiftly became the place to party in Paris. Then, it fell into disrepair, occasionally hosting artist residences. And now, it’s a hotel. Or, rather, hotel, restaurant and club, according to Paris Match. (Starck’s famous black-and-white checkered club flooring is now part of the restaurant.)
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Cast aside all mental images of Radisson Blus and chain hotels – this is a delicate 9-room, family-owned place in a 16th century palazzo. Palazzo Ricasoli (built by one of the main Florentine families) has been a hotel before – in the 19th century it was the oddly named Grand Hotel de New York. Now, it’s equally grand but a lot more Italian, with the rooms curated by local designer Piero Brarda.
This isn’t your average hotel – the palazzo is still owned by the family who built it, and your host is Baroness Maria Teresa Ricasoli Firidolfi who, amazingly, promises to treat you as if you’re at a friend’s house. There’s a butler and a concierge, who’ll do everything from unpacking your luggage to booking your Uffizi tickets.
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Ottawa, Canada's grand dame, The Fairmont Château Laurier may be redecorating its guest rooms, but all is very well and as original as possible throughout the historic public rooms of the hotel.
From the indoor, art deco pool to the Yousef Karsh portraits (most famously of Winston Churchill) in the Reading Room, the Château Laurier seeks to preserve all the little details, as well as the grandiose, and serves in places as a kind of time capsule to the days of its 1912 opening (which sadly coincided with the sinking of the Titanic, an event which claimed the life of the man who commissioned the hotel built, Grand Trunk Railway president Charles Melville Hays).
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Last month – was it really so long ago? – we showed you the view from the rooftop terrace of the Alma Historica, Montevideo’s newest hotel (it opened in January), and its first luxury boutique property. Appetites whetted? Hopefully so, because we promised to go inside. Let’s do it.
The Alma Historica is a restoration of a centuries-old palazzo with a couple of new floors (and that roof terrace) tacked onto the top. Where most hotels in Montevideo seem to be either new and slightly boring, or old and on the road to decay – if, admittedly, often in a rather beautiful way – Alma Historica is different. It’s embraced its roots, and its location on one of the historic core’s central squares, so the vibe is old school, with a hint of Victoriana – but adds an injection of very modern luxury. And it works beautifully.
The feel may be that of stepping into a posh house 100 years ago, but the theme is Uruguayan pride. All rooms are named after homegrown heroes, from artists to footballers. All the furniture was sourced locally. Even the bathroom soaps are made in Montevideo – and filled with local ingredients, like eucalyptus, lemon and yerba mate (which makes the national tea-ish drink), and red berries with seeds.
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Tripadvisor reviews haven't been very kind to Ottawa, Canada's historic Fairmont Château Laurier in recent years. The popular sentiment seems to be "time for a major renovation" and, luckily enough, that's exactly what the hotel has in mind. Better than that actually; the Château Laurier is in the midst of such a renovation of the guest rooms, replacing the former "grandma's guest bedroom" aesthetic with something much more modern, fresh, and bright.
Redecorated rooms finally offer lots of power outlets (including a desk with built-in console and bedside table lamps with outlets), Nespresso coffee makers and a variety of Fairmont proprietary tea blends, and bathrooms are equipped with both an ultra-flattering light-up mirror and a makeup mirror, not to mention toiletries from Le Labo's Rose 31 collection.
Only a small number of the hotel's 429 guest rooms have been redecorated with the fresher look, so guests should request one during booking or, at the very latest, during check-in.
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The historic Venetian Gothic tower, first built in 1893, has been under major restoration and renovation for the past two years We first profiled the plans for the building back in 2013 when contributor Nina K. Hahn peeked at what Harstone Plunkard Architecture and Roman and Williams had in mind for the place, as well as snapping what the spot looked like before it went under the knife.
Yet throughout the renovation process, the teams have kept much of the building’s 19th architectural elements such as the bas-relief woodcarvings on the fireplaces, stained glass windows and marble staircases.
Keep reading for a look at how the building used to be and for a sneak peek at the all-new guest rooms!
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The new look
There are some things you don’t mess with. Vindictive people. Authoritarian governments. Icons – especially icons beloved of millions of people.
Sadly, the Madonna Inn, that icon of kitsch in San Luis Obispo lost the memo on that last one. Because in a breathless blog and Facebook post it revealed it’s getting rid of its famous bedspreads. You know, the vintage ones with mad patterns – paisleys, pomegranates, horses, bits of leather – those really famous, unique bedspreads that are integral to the crazy decor of the hotel.
What are they replacing them with? Crisp white sheets. A couple of cushions (sorry, “throw pillows”). And that most infernal item of chain hotel inroom décor: the utterly useless velvet stripe that goes across the end of the bed. Or, as the Madonna Inn says, “bed scarves”. They also say:
Pay for your room what you think your stay was worth. A brave initiative that was recently tried in Paris and now has made its way across the Channel and up to Scotland.
Cringletie House, a castle hotel in the Scottish Borders outside Edinburgh, has just launched a “20 in a bed” promotion. And before your minds end up in the gutter, know that it’s simply the opportunity to invite 10 couples to stay – in individual rooms – and, basically, let them know how they’re doing.
The stays are bed and breakfast, and there’s no set fee – they simply want your opinion, and you’re free to pay as much as you think it’s worth.