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A Century of Elegance Renewed: Hotel Maria Cristina Unveils "New Look"

Tuesday Dec 4, 2012

London, England - The legendary Hotel Maria Cristina, a Luxury Collection Hotel in San Sebastian, reopened its doors in July 2012 following an extensive $25 million, nine-month restoration. The design of the interiors, led by The Gallery at HBA London which is dedicated to high concept bespoke interior design, enhances the elegant, feminine presence that has characterised the hotel since it opened a century ago.

Now, the hotel's interiors evoke the élan and striking presence of all the leading ladies that have graced the environs of the hotel and in this way rekindle the heart of its legacy as the home of its namesake, Spain's revered Queen Consort Maria Cristina.

A beloved landmark in the city since it was inaugurated in July 1912 by the queen, the hotel has been centre stage to the San Sebastian International Film Festival since 1953. Hotel Maria Cristina was built during the Belle Époque when haute couture was born and women's liberation was growing in importance.

This provenance, alongside the fluid Art Nouveau detailing by its original architect Charles Mewès, has formed a beautiful canvas for the next chapter. The designers' vision for the refurbishment was sympathetic to the building's status as a listed structure; refined feminine touches were added within the hotel's existing framework to create a sense of comfortable and abundant luxury.

Inge Moore, Principal, HBA London and The Gallery, commented, "For Hotel Maria Cristina, named after the Spanish Queen Consort and located in a city with the stunning Art Nouveau architecture, creating a design narrative around powerful women felt right from the start, from the queen consort herself to the female stars of stage and screen who had stayed and played there. So we designed to reinvent the particular glamour, opulence and celebrity that has characterised this hotel. The femininity of Hotel Maria Cristina is now seductive and elegant as well as confident and forceful."

With soaring ceilings, intricate mouldings, towering marble pillars and a polished grey and white marble floor, the dramatic yet graciously styled reception area of Hotel Maria Cristina provides guests with a promise of the delights soon to unfold.

The designers softened the lobby’s hard surfaces by creating a layered composition of details. New millwork trim adds fine nuances, and a sophisticated champagne and platinum palette provides an understated background for the mocha and copper touches found in the velvet upholstery and hand-tufted wool rugs. Silvery silk curtains frame the passageways, and behind the reception desk, a padded leather wall and an oversized painting of Queen Maria Cristina form a stylish introduction.

The adjacent corridors in the lobby have intimate seating areas nestled next to immense arched doorways. Pale coffee-toned velvets, the softest ecru leather lounge chairs, and cerise accents in the abstract damask carpet all add cosy warmth beneath the lofty ceiling and its procession of crystal chandeliers.

A second entrance area now has the intimate feel of a residential library; with its handsome mahogany bookshelves, it is a comfortable haven for guests to escape into a book or surf the internet. Paintings of traditional seascapes and Belle Époque personas mix with contemporary art, while collections of glimmering mirrors reflect the glamorous décor.

A hub en vogue with both locals and guests, Dry San Sebastian bar - a joint collaboration between Hotel Maria Cristina and Dry Martini Group - has been transformed into a gracious and stylish venue where lingering over a morning cappuccino can lead to a day of relaxing with friends and into an evening of glimpsing the glitterati while sipping a martini.

Previously featuring masculine oak panelling and shades of deep blue, the room sparkles through the walls’ subtle tones of soft powder blue and bronze that are offset by cool white trim, and a lacy rosette patterned carpet. A majestic crystal chandelier, silk wall lights and twinkling mirrors enliven the ambiance, inspired by the city’s cinematic roots. The back of the leather chairs have also been hand-stitched with the hotel’s insignia.

Hotel Maria Cristina’s 107 luxurious guestrooms and 29 suites are dressed in a pastel palette inspired by the fresh spring tints of macaron patisseries, Mouchous, which translates as "kiss" in the Basque language. Hues of lavender adorn some of the rooms and others are styled in shades of sky blue, while chocolate tones enrich the suites. Strong in form yet unabashedly romantic, the design of the guestrooms revels in the feminine spirit. Plush tufted headboards are framed in mouldings which trace a curvaceous outline.

To create contrast, hung on the wall above are contemporary paintings whose intense strokes inspire emotion and have an ethereal spirit that could be construed as a floral abstraction or hazy reflections on the water. Shapely velvet-covered chaise longues perch upon deep wool carpets inspired by Art Nouveau detailing.

The five-fixture bathrooms don a classical black and white style; elegantly striped curtains enveloping the tub, a teardrop pendant light forged from black iron leaves, and nested glass-top tables together create a residential feel. In the separate WC, the original, exquisitely veined marble was retained and coordinates perfectly with the new marbles of the tub surround and vanity counter.

A round backlit mirror and polished silver tones help complete the sophisticated aura. For the guestroom corridors, the designers commissioned a photographer to capture images of San Sebastian’s picturesque landscape and ornate Basque architecture.

The suites are placed in the hotel’s most desirable spaces - the turrets on each corner of the building. Each floor celebrates inspiring women from different decades, starting with the 1910s on the first level and rising to the 1950s on the fifth storey. Guests are greeted in the entry hall of each suite by a "walk of fame" with photos and quotes honouring the illustrious stars who visited the hotel during the respective era.

For example, the rooftop suite on the fifth floor is decked-out with its own full-blown fascination with the Fifties. The images in this suite celebrate the shared qualities of the Belle Époque and the 1950s, when feminine glamour was explored and cherished as the West moved from austerity to prosperity. Its walls are hung with large format black and white photographs of models
synonymous with leading European couturiers who had their images splashed across the pages of 1950s Vogue magazines.

Curved walls and an antique marble fireplace provide a refined backdrop for the elegant Art Nouveau décor in each suite’s living room. A large photograph of a fashionable woman from the period becomes the muse of the space, while design elements such as a dazzling crystal chandelier, oak parquet flooring, an asymmetrically slung leather sofa, and button-tufted poufs set a debonair scene.

The renovation of Hotel Maria Cristina is part of a larger strategy to invest in the restoration of Starwood’s most celebrated Luxury Collection hotels. The reopening of Hotel Maria Cristina follows in the footsteps of Hotel Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Seville, which underwent a meticulous multi-million dollar refurbishment - with the interior design also led by The Gallery at HBA London - and re-opened in March this year.

HBA creates inspired, brand-defining hospitality design experiences that are a fusion of tradition and innovation, craft and cutting-edge. The company’s portfolio spans more than 80 countries and, from 13 studios around the world, its designers blend incomparable industry experience with a passion for artistic exploration. The studio is housed in a former theatre in London’s Notting Hill Gate.

The Luxury Collection® is an ensemble of hotels and resorts offering unique, authentic experiences that evoke lasting, treasured memories. For the global explorer, The Luxury Collection offers a gateway to the world’s most exciting and desirable destinations.

Each hotel and resort is a unique and cherished expression of its location; a portal to the destination’s indigenous charms and treasures. Magnificent décor, spectacular settings, impeccable service and the latest modern conveniences combine to provide a uniquely enriching experience.

Originated in 1906 under the CIGA brand as a collection of Europe’s most celebrated and iconic properties, today The Luxury Collection brand is a glittering ensemble of more than 80 of the world’s finest hotels and resorts in more than 30 countries in bustling cities and spectacular destinations around the world.

The Luxury Collection includes award-winning properties that continuously exceed guest expectations by offering unparalleled service, style and class while celebrating each hotel’s distinctive heritage and unique character. All of these hotels, many of them centuries old, are internationally recognized as being among the world’s finest.

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