Where were you when the Euro came into general circulation on New Year’s Day 2002? I was celebrating New Year’s Eve in Seville with Mr. N and a group of friends. After hanging out with the hordes in Plaza Nueva and following the Spanish custom of eating 12 grapes for luck as the clock struck midnight, we headed to the nearest ATM to take out some brand-spanking new Euros. Although I have plenty of memories of the trip, I have very few recollections of the hotel we stayed at, the Alfonso XIII. We spent very little time hanging out at the hotel itself which seemed staid and boring.
I was intrigued to hear about the 2012 revamp of the Alfonso XIII spearheaded by Inge Moore and her design team at HBA London. In 2013, it was deemed Best Urban Hotel in Spain by Conde Nast Traveler. Clearly, the aging Grand Dame hotel I remembered had found a new lease on life.
At an event sponsored by shelter magazine, House & Garden, I was lucky enough to hear Inge talk about her design inspiration for the Alfonso XIII. She said she was influenced by several glamorous facts related to the hotel and its location – the age of travel, the matador culture, the home of literary legendary lover Don Juan, the Moorish historical past and Andalusian flamenco dancers.
The hotel was built in 1929, which was during the heyday of consumer travel. Prior to the 1920’s, travel was something only the rich did. With the advent of cars, ships and trains, many more people started travel. Travel was glamourous and, frankly, should be so again. This hotel is definitely high on the glam factor.
For example, check out the room below with its four poster bed and elegant chandelier. I’m also loving the pure decadence of the textures in the room – crystal, silk, velvet, leather and crisp cotton. I’m pretty sure Don Juan would agree this room is pure seduction.
The hotel uses lots of leather in homage to the matador culture. For example, the headboards are made of leather. Below, the intricateness of the decorative work on the white chair are evocative of the delicate embroidery on a matador’s trousers.
Alfonso XIII is red hot in more ways than one. The common areas make liberal use of the scarlet of matador capes and flamenco dancers’ skirts. Scarlet is the colour of passion, adventure and romance, in Seville as elsewhere.
Restaurant chairs in red leather combined with the Moorish influenced design on the backlight screened walls, pillows and pendants. This restaurant decor blends together as effortlessly as the varied aspects of Seville itself.
A portrait of the eponymous Alfonso XIII hangs in the bar, probably fitting because Alfonso was a big promoter of tourism in Spain as well as of having a good time. He had 6 children with his queen and another 6 illegitimate children.
The guest rooms are a reflection of the area’s Castilian, Andalucian and Moorish heritage.
You can see how this hotel is inspired by its history and surroundings. The genius, however, is in the subtlety of the application.
According to Inge Moore, luxury hotel guests expect a special experience to remember. They no longer expect or want impersonal rooms lacking individuality which blend in their memory with a dozen other hotel rooms.
No doubt, if we stayed at the Alfonso XIII again, this time I would remember it better! In fact, I may not even leave the hotel.
photo credits: Starwood Hotels, Tim Beddows