Photography courtesy of the Hotel Principe di Savoia
For the renovation of the public spaces and suites at the Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan it was important for designers Thierry Despont, Francesca Basu, and Celeste Dell’Anna to understand the hotel’s location, Lombardy flair, and rich history. "The major challenge was to create a sense of excitement and renewal, while at the same time, respecting the history and the tradition of the Principe di Savoia," says New York-based designer Despont.
The hotel, which overlooks Milan’s Piazza della Repubblica, has been notable since its opening in 1927 where celebrities and political figures alike would gather at the Winter Garden Bar (clientele included Josephine Baker and Aristotle Onassis and more recently Madonna and Mohamed Hosni Mubarak). The owner called on Despont to transform this space (now called the Principe Bar), perhaps the hotel’s most prestigious area, along with the lobby and lounge, blending contemporary Italian design with classical touches. "The inspiration was very much from the fabrics of Italian fashion collections and obviously the history of the hotel and bar, where so many celebrities, Italian movie stars, movie producers, and American movie stars have all come and gone," says Despont. He outfitted the bar with a cast glass bar, massive custom made glass chandelier, and intimate banquette seating surrounding the piano, while keeping the space’s original polychrome marble.
Meanwhile, the lobby and lounge have undergone dramatic transformations—excessive ornaments and heavy decorations were removed and instead, tinted mirrors, Italian fabrics, and painted paneling stand in their place; a chandelier inspired by Venetian glass blowing techniques is found in the new and spacious entrance rotunda; and the reception lounge is filled with green and yellow hues (reminiscent of Tuscan and Italian gardens). "The philosophy of everything taking place throughout the hotel was to renovate and restore life and comfort but to respect the history of the place at the same time," he says.
The nine new Principe Suites created by London designer Basu (in 2004, she redesigned the hotel’s 48 Deluxe Mosaic Rooms) also pay tribute to the hotel’s original style and heritage. A Neoclassical theme prevails—artwork of Italian landscapes and prints of librettos and fashion accessories hang throughout; curtains with rich tie backs hint at the nearby La Scala opera house; and decorative marquetry done Lombardy style is found in bedside cabinets and chests. And since Italy is known for mosaics, they were a must-have in the bathrooms where their bold colors contrast with white Lasa marble flooring and ruby glass and timber vanities. "We celebrate both location and inheritance as part of our approach to design," Basu says. "We therefore felt it was important to continue this heritage in acknowledging the design and style principles established many years ago, yet not imitating."
The same rings true for the renovated Imperial Suite. Locally based Dell’Anna kept the original wood paneling and complemented it with bright, residential touches found in an abundance of seating, artwork, and fabrics. "There is no past and present; everything is in the present and is a balance between culture and the modern style of living," he says.
Hotel Principe di Savoia
Owner: The Dorchester Collection
Architect of Record: Cesare Tenca
Architecture Firms: The Office of Thierry W. Despont, Ltd. New York (entrance hall, lounge, and Principe Bar) and CDA Design (Imperial Suite)
Architecture Project Teams: Thierry W. Despont, Matthew Maddalene, Zach Hemmelgarn, Luis Gonzalez, Claudia Hilse (the Office of Thierry W. Despont, Ltd), and Valentina Cuccurullo (CDA Design)
Interior Design Firms: The Office of Thierry W. Despont, Ltd. New York (entrance hall, lounge, and Principe bar); Celeste Dell’Anna Design, Milan (Imperial Suite); and Francesca Basu Designs Limited, London (Principe Suites)
Interior Design Project Teams: Thierry W. Despont, Matthew Maddalene, Zach Hemmelgarn, Luis Gonzalez, Claudia Hilse (the Office of Thierry W. Despont, Ltd); Celeste Dell’Anna; and Francesa A. Basu, Peter MacDonald, Anne-Marie Dahlstrom, and Kelly Joyce (Francesca Basu Designs Limited)
Contractor: GMC Italia
Purchasing Firm: JPS Purchasing Services
Lighting Consultant: Schwinghammer Lighting
ENTRANCE HALL AND LOUNGE
Side Chairs Leather: Cortina Leathers
Side Chairs and Accent Cushions: C&C Milano
Chandeliers and Wall Applications: Barovier & Toso
Banquette Upholstery/Barstools/Cushions: Cortina Leathers
Chandelier: Custom design by OTD in collaboration with Robert du Grenier
Glass Bar Front: Custom design by OTD in collaboration with Robert du Grenier
Floor Lighting: Foscarini
Artwork Silkscreen prints and work by Mimmo Rotella
Tenting at Bar and Curtains: Citielle
Purchasing Firm and Lighting Consultant: CDA Design
Engineering: Antonio Puritani
Lighting: Zonca and Lumis
Furnishings: Designed by CDA Design
Lighting: Francesca Basu Designs Ltd
Curtains/Desk Chair/Sofa Fabrics/Bathroom Seating: Rubelli
Cabinets/Desk/Headboard/Tables/Chairs/Bathroom: Vanity GMC
Wallcovering/Valance/Bed Cushions/Dressing Table Chair/Chaise Lounge Fabrics: Rubelli