Archive for April, 2010

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Inspiration: Renaissance Hotel, Malmo, Sweden

I dream of a fab­u­lous apart­ment in Europe, a home base from which to absorb all the won­ders of the Con­ti­nent. Usu­ally in this dream my get­away is in Paris, but that may have changed after my recent stay in Malmo, Swe­den. An enchant­ing small city, Malmo has it all – Old World charm, cut­ting edge design, his­tory, shop­ping and excite­ment all wrapped up in a bite sized pack­age.  And the inte­rior of my fan­tasy apart­ment now resem­bles the Rosen Suite (Rooms 245 & 246) at the newly-opened Renais­sance Hotel.

This hotel really is swoon-worthy! Vibrant color envelopes you, but never over­whelms. Isn’t this bed­room amazing?

The bed is as com­fort­able as it is beau­ti­ful. The assort­ment of pil­lows includes poly and down, and the dec­o­ra­tive pil­lows in embroi­dered silk (“Ambon” from Osborne & Lit­tle) are purely deca­dent. The enor­mous wardrobe has funky details and looks like it might open into another world entirely. The desk area fea­tures an ergonomic task chair with pearly insets in the legs and an iPod dock.

The Rosen Suite includes a sep­a­rate liv­ing area with two win­dow walls, a pur­ple sofa, two slip­per chairs with ottomans, another tele­vi­sion, desk area, and a sec­ond full bath­room. Did I men­tion the espresso machine?

Let me gush over these bath­rooms – they are under­stated luxury.

The Duravit under-mount sink and quartz top (at a decent height), com­bine with the zebra­wood veneer cab­i­netry for a fresh look with all the prac­ti­cal­i­ties. The van­ity area fea­tures plenty of stor­age, ter­rific light­ing and a makeup mir­ror. Aro­mather­apy toi­letries are high qual­ity and have amus­ing names (which I for­got to write down!). The fix­tures are from Hans­grohe, and those sleek mar­ble floors are heated (dou­ble bonus!).  A live bam­boo plant and mod­ern art round out the com­fort­ing design.

From our suite, there was min­i­mal street noise and no noise at all from neigh­bor­ing rooms. Smaller rooms in the hotel are equally styl­ish (I peeked around the clean­ing staff). High ceil­ings, exposed beams and columns appear through­out , as befits a repur­posed old building.

The hotel’s pub­lic spaces are so much fun!  The din­ing room is to die for — teal leather chairs and dark wood with gor­geous wall­pa­per. The front desk area, lobby, and open con­cept bar are so col­or­ful it makes you smile to see it — unless you are an all-beige fan.

I love this hotel, want to buy the Rosen Suite and bring it with me to every place I travel!

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hotel Skeppsholmen – modern Swedish style

I will admit it — I am a sucker for a beau­ti­ful, unique hotel expe­ri­ence. And so our Swedish adven­ture began at the Skepp­shol­men in Stock­holm. The web­site was inter­est­ing with intrigu­ing but incom­plete room pho­tos — enough to draw you in, with­out reveal­ing all. A ren­o­vated bar­racks build­ing dat­ing from 1699, with min­i­mal­ist mod­ern fur­nish­ings and pos­si­bly the coolest sink ever. I was hooked.

The hotel exem­pli­fies the adage: loca­tion, loca­tion, loca­tion. Set on a tiny island near Stockholm's cen­ter, it is adja­cent to, but removed from, the bus­tle of the city.

The mod­ern art museum is across the small road.

Room 166, extra large with sea view, did not dis­ap­point. But from my per­spec­tive — there are a few points where design was allowed to over­rule prac­ti­cal­ity. Given the tran­si­tory nature of the hotel expe­ri­ence, hotel design­ers have free­dom to incor­po­rate fun and fash­ion­able ele­ments that might not trans­late well into the every­day res­i­den­tial environment.

Room 166

First the pos­i­tives: a fab­u­lous bed, the Dux­i­ana, renowned around the world for com­fort. Absolute quiet — we never heard any sound from nearby rooms, and with win­dows closed, total peace. With win­dows open, quiet susurra­tions of city noises and seag­ulls from across the water. That bath­room — love the sink and faucets! I used that Vola lava­tory faucet in an Atlanta pow­der room ten years ago and still adore it.

The slightly less pos­i­tives — the long rec­tan­gu­lar bath­room is wrapped in choco­late brown tile, a bit cave-like, and like the rest of the room, woe­fully under­lit. Aside from the desk lamp, there is no task light­ing. Inter­est­ing lit­tle lamps are scat­tered around the room, but here too design trumped use­ful­ness. My iPhone flash­light pro­vided bet­ter read­ing light. Inter­est­ingly, the hotel prides itself on its mod­ern light­ing, and the pub­lic spaces really show­case excit­ing con­tem­po­rary fixtures.

The only true absur­dity — the translu­cent blue slid­ing panel bath­room door, inex­plic­a­bly located directly in front of the toi­let. Design delight — yes. But com­pletely use­less as pri­vacy bar­rier — be sure you are stay­ing with some­one close, because all your bath­room endeav­ors will be on view. The room fea­tures a seat­ing area along with a desk and chair. The Tac­chini Italia fur­ni­ture, in an olive-on-blue abstract map fab­ric, is per­fectly scaled for a 5 year old, but under-scaled for any­one taller. The mini loveseat opens out into a sin­gle bed, although bed­ding for this is a spe­cial request.

some of the fab light­ing in the pub­lic areas of the hotel

The Skepp­shol­men offers a few "green" touches I have not encoun­tered else­where. Bags to send out your laun­dry are brown paper rather than plas­tic. The toi­letries are some­what larger vol­ume and ours were only half full on arrival. It's hard to tell if leav­ing them for us to fin­ish before replac­ing is a con­scious green choice or an over­sight by house­keep­ing. The staff at the hotel are won­der­ful. We arrived just ahead of the Ice­landic vol­cano ash cloud which shut down flights across north­ern Europe. The hotel was able to secure train tick­ets for our con­tin­u­ing jour­ney. The restau­rant is small but bright and invit­ing, the menu selec­tions lim­ited but well pre­pared. An off-menu request was gra­ciously accom­mo­dated by the chef. The break­fast buf­fet is exten­sive and fresh, and lunch/ din­ner options are very nice and patio din­ing is lovely. Over­all, a remark­able hotel is an amaz­ing loca­tion offer­ing the blend of mod­ern and his­toric that I so adore. Worth the visit and the price.

Adden­dum: due to the vol­cano sit­u­a­tion, we unex­pect­edly returned to the Skepp­shol­men for two more nights.  This time we took room 270, also extra large with sea view, in the sec­ond build­ing. The bed­room here has a door to close off the liv­ing area, more like a suite. The bath­room is much smaller (no tub), and the water from the rain­fall show­er­head drenches the entire floor.  On the plus side, the translu­cent door is not directly in front of the toilet!

The sec­ond build­ing is even qui­eter than the first, although it requires a dash out­side to reach the main build­ing where recep­tion and din­ing are located. Both build­ings are equally charm­ing. Mind your head while on the third floor – preser­va­tion restric­tions pre­vented mov­ing any walls or mak­ing any changes to the ceilings.

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Inspiration: Svenskt Tenn

Sven­skt Tenn, on the Strand­vagen in Stock­holm, is the lovely retail arm of a com­pany founded in 1924 by Estrid Eric­son and designer/architect Josef Frank.  The shop show­cases what I think Swedish design is all about, and I found it both approach­able and inspiring. These pic­tures only hint at the fab­u­los­ity of this place – the col­ors are excit­ing, the com­bi­na­tions chic and interesting.

The store fea­tures a broad selec­tion of tex­tiles designed by Frank, con­sid­ered by many the father of Swedish Mod­ernism. He designed more than 200 tex­tile pat­terns between 1909 and 1950, of which 40 are cur­rently avail­able through the Svenkst Tenn web­site. An avid botany enthu­si­ast, Frank used nature's col­ors and shapes to bring the out­doors in. Given Sweden’s grey win­ters, these fab­rics surely were as warmly embraced then as now.

This club chair, in Josef Frank’s Celo­to­caulis (green on linen), com­plete with the sheep­skin draped over, is the one pic­ture that for me defines today’s Swedish style – opti­mistic but practical!

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