The unique look of these European hotels
French couturier Yves Saint Laurent once said, “fashions fade, style is eternal.” This point of view is well-suited for designing a top destination hotel. To be considered “best-dressed,” properties not only have to have a signature vibe but this unique look cannot go out of fashion by the time the next travel season rolls around. There is no better destination to experience hotels that have stood the test of time than Europe, a continent so rich in history and culture, it might as well be considered the birthplace of impeccable style. With their world-class design sensibility, unique approach to interior décor and stylish amenities, these four European properties have been and always be the chicest gals on the block.
Il San Pietro di Positano
An Italian style icon on the Amalfi Coast, Il San Pietro di Positano, pays homage to the founding family dynasty without feeling dated. Opened in 1970 by Carlino Cinque, Il San Pietro (picture on top) was picture-perfect from the start: hugging the stunning cliff-side, with breathtaking views of the azure Mediterranean, and offering private rides to Positano on a Fiat Jolly cabrio. Today, guests can use the property’s private dock to embark on a yacht towards Capri or go swimming near the dolphin-shaped Li Galli island. Carlino’s great-nephew Vito Cinque is now Il San Pietro’s general manager. And every winter, he takes on a new renovation so that the hotel can remain a top dream destination. “Renovating is not a necessity, but we like a challenge,” Cinque said. “The spirit and taste of Il San Pietro is in my DNA.” In 2015, Cinque brought on Fausta Gaetani to individually redesign most of the 57 rooms, including room 22, which is actually rooms 23 and 24 combined. It used to be Carlino’s original residence. In addition to designing the furniture, Gaetani enlisted local artisans from Rome and Florence to create custom, handmade ceramics, lamps and tiles to match the hotel’s signature blue-and-white coastal splendor. Designing a hotel can be similar to creating a couture gown, where what’s on the inside is just as important as what we get to see on the outside. To that point, the property’s most recent renovation is the expansion of its kitchen, carved right into the rock. The open-concept design by Andrea Viacava features an intimate chef’s table, food shelves that can be adjusted depending on the chef’s height and a cutting-edge sanitation system akin to a surgery room. Of course, there are views of the ocean to be enjoyed by the hotel staff, a few of whom have known their now-boss Vito Cinque since he was a young boy. “It’s a way to show gratitude to the people working for you,” Cinque said.
Saint James Paris
When talking about style, you’d be remiss not to start in Paris. In a city of the palace hotels, the Saint James has managed to make a bold statement of its own. The property’s stylish legacy began even before the neo-classical chateau was constructed in 1892, as the site where well-heeled Parisians used to embark on Montgolfier hot-air balloons. In 2008, the Saint James gave designer Bambi Sloan carte blanche to redesign every corner of the property. Sloan’s theatrical design recaptured the hotel’s fin de siècle exoticism with modern luxe, including the recreation of Montgolfier balloons out on the terrace. These grand hot-air balloons reappear as a decorative motif throughout the hotel. Its style can best be described as an anachronistic reverie, where it’s easy to envision every guest, from the 19th century onwards, as being spellbound to reside here eternally. Thanks to Sloan’s daring vision, every one of the 48 rooms at the Saint James is uniquely dressed with whimsical fabrics, rare furniture and vintage portraits that the designer hunted down from Parisian antique shops and flea markets.
Berlin is not a city where you’d imagine waking up to wild antelopes gracefully chasing each other while ostriches mingle nearby, perfectly unbothered. But there’s always a certain element of fantasy when it comes to Das Stue which conjures up plenty of safari daydreams. The boutique hotel is located right next door to Berlin’s sweeping Tiergarten and world-class zoo, offering views of the animals from the rooms, the bar and the terrace. This month, the hotel completed its own private entrance to the Berlin Zoo. The experience is touted as being “a contemporary Noah’s Ark shipwrecked in the Garden of Eden.” Spanish architect and designer Patricia Urquiola is responsible for its impeccable interior décor. The hotel is set to resemble an elegant living room, perhaps belonging to Marlene Dietrich. With the sound of ice swirling around cocktail glasses, the Das Stue bar is infinitely more glamorous than any other hotel bar, catering to accented jet-setters well into the evening hours. In the winter, guests can keep warm out by the terrace-turned-igloo outfitted with luxurious faux-furs, or by taking a dip inside the indoor piscine, heated year-round. The 78 rooms are all equipped with modern amenities, including remote-controlled blinds on the panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the zoo. The hotel’s largest Bel Etage suite comes with two bathrooms and original photographs by Helmut Newton, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Irving Penn. Not to mention, your choice between an Audi limo or sports car to take your around town to Berlin’s other see-and-be-seen establishments like Grill Royale, Soho House, TheLiberate, Tausend Bar and the galleries on Postdamer Straße.
The scent of lemon, cedar and amber welcomes you at Ett Hem, a boutique hotel that feels more like your sophisticated friend’s townhouse in Stockholm. The signature fragrance was created by Julian Bedel, founder of Argentina’s perfume lab Fueguia 1833, after he fell in love with Ett Hem’s immaculate interiors and intimate home feel. Built in 1910 but renovated in 2012, Ett Hem features the epitome of tasteful décor, both elegant and relaxed. Every detail was carefully considered by British interior designer Ilse Crawford. Additional creative guidance was provided by owner Jeanette Mix, whose own personal collection of art, photography, and books can be found throughout the house. Crawford’s dream home-style resulted in a dining room designed for cultured dinner parties, a grand piano in the living room for stately entertaining and a charming kitchen with freshly-baked desserts every evening. But Crawford’s vision is even more fully-realized out on the garden glasshouse: a cozy, leafy respite perfect for sipping morning coffee. All 12 rooms have Kiehl’s bath products, a Dodocase’d iPad 2 and like any true 21st-century home, access to Netflix. One of the best rooms is #5 which comes with its own fireplace and freestanding marble bathtub. Even if you’re not willing to wear anything else but a plushy bathrobe during your stay, Ett Hem encourages you to sneak downstairs and relax in the Swedish sauna and hot stone slab at least once.