Scribbler in Seville

Updating a classic

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.

13 thoughts on “Updating a classic

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      I think they probably did what they were asked to do, but it does feel too “safe” to me. Having said that, American Bar is turquoise, so I think they went to town there…!!

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      Still worth it for a drink, though. Just to see a totally over-the-top building and the extraordinary extravagance of the Spanish royal family in those days. God knows if they got it through embezzling funds as some of the in-laws do these days…

  1. Mad Dog

    My own personal taste would be for hotels like this to be refurbished in keeping with the date that they were built – I find genuine old fashioned and traditional to be attractive.

    I was glad to see the jamón taking pride of place at the bar though 😉

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      God, that jamón was 90% fat. Bleurgh!!! 5Js though. I know what you mean about retaining the character, maybe that’s best. They certainly didn’t push any limits, that’s for sure.

  2. Fernando

    Nice chap behind the bar. Victor.
    He’s been working there as far as I can remember…
    Shame he’s a bético, though…

  3. Lesley

    Tame, tame, tame. But I did like the Mudejar bedroom.
    Shame that the whole place was done out in beige, with dark square-shaped furniture.
    Open any magazine on interior design and they are all exactly the same. Beige. Square-shaped. Dark wood.

    1. Fiona Flores Watson

      I’d like to see the Lesley Burridge take on the Alfonso XIII. I’m imagining feather boas, animal prints and sequins. Lots of bright colours, not a trace of beige. Am I right?

      To be fair, it’s not aaaaall beige (I actually quite liked the studded pouffes). There are some rather groovy turquoise leather chairs, a taster for the turquoise bar opening any day now.

  4. Pingback: Gala night at the Alfonso XIII « Scribbler in Seville

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