This week, the Alfonso XIII hotel in Seville reopened after a major refurbishment. This landmark luxury hotel, one of the most famous in Spain, had been closed since the end of May last year.
When I first heard about the refit, I wondered if they would go all designer minimalist, with bare rooms accented by statement lamps and crazy artwork. Many hotels with old facades here in Seville – the EME and Fontecruz in Seville, for example – have chosen to go down the largely monochrome with jewel-coloured velvet sofas, metallic lamps and bold patterns road, with mixed success.
The Alfonso XIII has trod a careful path – the majority of their clients are people who prefer traditional decor and comfortable rooms, rather than a rustic wooden four-poster and a clothes rail.
All the famous tiles of the public areas remain – notably, the entrance hall and public areas on the ground floor, and the staircase.
As you can see, the colour palette is neutral, but with modern accents such as the square lamp, graphic rug and studded square leather pouffes. The studded theme is repeated throughout the hotel, a nod to Seville’s medieval era as seen in the Alcazar.
Some fabrics are a little more interesting print-wise – among the fabrics used are Ralph Lauren. Quite bold, but in a conservative way, if you know what I mean. Classic contemporary.
The new tapas bar, formerly the Bar Alfonso, has a bold red theme (popular with hotel tapas bars, as it’s such an Andalucian colour – passionate and fiery: the EME’s is similar).
With the imposing portraits it feels appropriately regal. While the serious-looking aristocratic gentlemen (when your hotel is named after a king, you can’t very well not have a likeness of hhim) were not to my personal taste, I loved the oak bar, embroidered leather sofa – made in Spain – hurrah! – and the studded wooden panel down one edge of the bar.
The outside terrace is one of my favourite spots (until the much-anticipated new American Bar – turquoise Art Deco, no less – opens), with its gauzy curtains and shady hideaways.
But of course the most important feature for most guests is their own personal space – the bedrooms. These come in three themes: Andalucian, Castillian and Moorish. The first is the photo shown at the top of this post. Here is the Castillian.
What stood out most in these newly decorated rooms, for me, where the shaped headboards, and the white walls, which replace the fancy silk wallpaper and give a much more clean, modern look. Furniture is either specially commissioned for the hotel, or reconditioned antique, with original wood and new leather, such as this chair.
Walls are hung with black and white historic photographic prints, and contemporary art. But they also have chandeliers, which I thought looked totally out of place.
The Moroccan ceiling lamps were much more in keeping.
Most interesting, for me, were the Mudejar rooms, which have retained their elaborate plasterwork mouldings around the beds, and have brass Moroccan wall lamps on either side. Mudejar is the Arabic style which was employed by Moors who stayed behind in Spain after the Inquisition, outwardly coverting to Christianity, and using their traditional skills to create countless beautiful structures around Spain.
These, along with the inlaid tables and mirrors have the Mudejar rooms a much more tangible character, although I wasn’t too keen on the upholstery fabrics.
Other details I liked included the wardrobes, which are fitted out in black and red with handy (studded) drawers, and look (to my mind) like Louis Vuitton trunks – of which I have 15, naturally. They’re also inspired by Morocco, the hotel group’s regional president told me.
The bathrooms are the same as ever, with the metallic tiles, but with new taps.
All in all, I think the design company, Hirsch Bedner, which did the Landmark in London and Mandarin Oriental in New York, have successfully updated the Alfonso XIII’s look, giving it a fresher feel but without putting off the purists.
Personally I had hoped to be rather more blown away, but then it doesn’t cater to my taste. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite touches; those studded leather pouffes and gorgeous wool rugs.