MKV Design refurbishes historic Hotel Schweizerhof

The historic Hotel Schweizerhof in Bern, Switzerland has reopened following a two-year redesign and renovation by UK-based interior design practice, MKV Design, who are also behind the design of the recently opened Pascal Tepper Bakery in Dubai.

Behind the heritage façade, all the guestroom floors and a large part of the ground floor public spaces are new; however, the style is cosmopolitan and belonging to its location.

“Our aim was to create a hotel that was particularly relevant for 21st century business people,” said Maria Vafiadis, managing director, MKV Design.

“We  designed a hotel that is contemporary, but not fashionable, that is both luxurious and functional and which will stand the test of time. We believe that heritage hotel refurbishments should not be a literal interpretation of the past,” she said.

The lobby area was stripped out, and MKV redesigned the spaces at the front of the hotel. The main entrance was relocated to leave the lounge intact and, within, zones of seating were defined.

The seating along the front façade is now surrounded by a double layer of sheers that, by way of lighting, allow guests inside to see out but filters views looking into the hotel. The low ceiling and cluster of columns behind the reception desk remained, so MKV used this structure to create a series of cosy alcoves with comfortable tub chairs and bookshelves.

All the new architectural elements in the lobby are classical – the black and white marble floor, the classically coffered ceiling and the ornate metalwork, combined with a number of contemporary elements.

There is the alabaster reception desk and theatrical lighting above which hangs a digital art installation which looks like a galactic explosion – a reference to Albert Einstein who once lived in Bern.

Throughout the hotel, traditional materials have been re-fashioned into something new. Looking like the sculptural shape of the reception desk, a modern bronze panel in the entrance lobby reminds visitors of the traditional use of bronze in Jack’s brasserie.

Previously, Hotel Schweizerhof had just 89 relatively small guest rooms. In re-planning the guest floors, MKV produced 99 larger rooms, each with a luxurious four-fixture bathroom.

The guest rooms combine traditional architectural detailing with contemporary and classical furniture and fittings. The crystal chandeliers are original and the bedroom flooring, while new, is solid oak parquet laid herring bone-style; in the bathrooms, the floors are clad in Arabesco marble.

However, the bathroom fixtures are modern, from the largewalk-in showers, inset TVs above the bath tub, the polished granite top to the vanity counter and the accent wall of glass and stone mosaic.

Throughout the new public and guest areas, artwork has been placed. Paul Klee prints and placed alongside with original paintings from the hotel’s collection, complemented by abstract paper sculptures and the black and white photographs of Bern on the guest floor corridors.

The Bel Étage, the first floor meeting rooms and ballroom, were given a facelift. For the carpets, MKV has used a more abstract form over a modern stripe. Fabrics are luxuriant but unfussy; antique furniture is combined with original modern pieces.

“We have to think about the hotel’s customers of the future and, in order to preserve the individual soul of a grand hotel, designers have to gently move the design on to meet the expectations of the next generation,” said Vafiadis.

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