Malene Birger has always had the whole world as her workplace and home. Here, the Danish fashion designer behind such leading brands as Day Birger et Mikkelsen and By Malene Birger shares her own personal vision of her dream hotel – and how she would design her very own home away from home.
What kind of hotel do you look for?
“I look for hotels that manage to create something personal, and often there’s an individual person or family behind it – a travelled person living out his or her dreams. Hotel Esencia north of Tulum in Mexico is one such place. It’s modern and fresh, but still comfortable and cosy. Good design, good food, nice bars, beautiful green palm groves, beaches, pools and lots of activity – or no activity, depending on your mood.
You really don’t have to leave the premises. The hotel was created by a travelled American, an avid art collector. I have also always been a great fan of Anouska Hempel, who designed the world’s first ‘couture’ hotel, Blakes in London, in the late 1970s. She stood out from the crowd and took all us hotel-lovers by storm. The new owners have retained her style, but I think the spirit and energy seeped out when she sold the place.”
Are first impressions important?
“First impressions are very important. A hotel is first experienced from the outside, then from the lobby, the bar, the restaurant, and finally the rooms. The exterior is incredibly important: Do you feel like entering? Do you get inspired? I believe a hotel should beckon you – so you simply have to take a look, or drink a quiet coffee, enjoy the atmosphere, listen to the music and perhaps consider checking in.
“I love striped awnings, green plants and cosy outdoor lighting. It should be old-school, but in a modern way. Also, there should be white curtains facing the street in the restaurant, if visible from the outside. If the building has nice details and is historical and beautiful, you need to build on that.
“A hotel needs to be active, full of energy and should be used. It should be a second home where you dine, meet with friends in the bar, hang out. Creating a boutique hotel will cost more, but it will be an investment that makes a difference. The hotel will become an institution rather than just a place to sleep.”
How important is atmosphere?
“Good atmosphere comes from the heart and must come naturally. It’s about people, the staff, music, scents and lighting. For a period, a hotel is your second home. I would want to recreate the exact same atmosphere and enjoyment as when entertaining guests at home. They should feel welcome from the minute they arrive.
“The hotel needs patina, and I want to feel the good vibes from the second I step over the doorstep. Whether an expensive or cheap hotel, the feeling must be there. Patina and a sense of spirit are either already manifestly there due to the history of the building, or perhaps a new owner has managed to create it. That’s how a hotel experience becomes memorable.
“Hotel Sanders in Copenhagen is a good example of a very successful project. It makes you feel the hotel has always been like that, although it’s almost just opened. Around the world there are oceans of stylish and chic hotels, but those little gems of life, creativity and classic service are far and few between – those capable of attracting a good mix of leaders and followers who lend it a good reputation and define its DNA. Be cool, sweet, natural but never be snobbish.”