Photos courtesy of Belmond
By the Sea in Portofino
Lushly forested hillsides topped with churches, castles, and the odd outrageously gorgeous villa punctuate Portofino’s sapphire-blue harbor jumbled with pastel townhouses. Cars are forbidden, and practically every child has a towering cone of pistachio gelato from San Giorgio. The town is so tiny, the main square is called la piazzetta—little piazza. And tucked into a prime corner of the piazzetta is this storied fishing village’s crown jewel: Splendido Mare, a Belmond Hotel. More understated townhouse than the glitz-fest you might expect from the place that invented la dolce vita, it’s both laid-back and sophisticated, thanks to a stunning redesign from Charlotte de Tonnac and Hugo Sauzay of Festen Architecture in Paris. With only fourteen rooms, this chic ode to Italian modernism meets maritime won’t stay under the radar for long.
The design’s brilliance is its subtlety, which allows rich textures, precious modern pieces, serious antiques, and charming details to shine from seemingly every corner. It’s an approach that works beautifully for home interiors of just about every style; here, four easy design takeaways from a quietly luxurious Ligurian hotel that feels like a private home.
Bring the Outside In
Portofino is, at its core, a fishing town. Sauzay and de Tonnac embraced details of the traditional gozzo boats and sleek Rivas you spy bobbing in the harbor. Warm woods throughout the hotel reference the wooden boats most directly, while sofas and the headboards on the beds come trimmed with rope, and fresh white linens remind us of the sails that dot the harbor. And everywhere there are little bursts of sage green—the exact hue of the surrounding hillsides.
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Polished wood and gentle curves warm the mid-century modern aesthetic, especially in the snug bar (there are seats for three at the counter) tucked behind the hotel’s exquisite restaurant DaV Mare. (Order the Stinger cocktail after supper—it’s a scrumptious muddle of Cognac and mint liqueur—and ask for a sip of the local Lalla Luisa digestivo while you’re at it.) The combination of wood paneling from floor to ceiling and the dark marble tabletop mimic the interior of a well-appointed boat. Rich leather accents pop up where you least expect them—coasters for cocktails and outrageously chic GioBagnara clocks by each bedside—always in the same burnt-orange shade that complements the terra-cotta tiles underfoot.
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WOOD PIECES WE LOVE
A Neutral Palette Lets You Mix in Distinctive Details
The cool, subtle envelope keeps every detail unified, from the handblown Murano glass light fixtures and Gio Ponti furniture to the sumptuous Loro Piana upholstery and abstract Gabriele Capelli paintings (the place is resolutely Italian). The result feels intimate—it’s like staying at the cozy, smartly curated townhouse of a dolce far niente–loving contessa. You want to run your fingers over every surface, flip through each book, and open all the drawers to see what treasure might be hiding inside. Our favorite detail: the porcelain. Each bespoke Bernardaud plate, saucer, and espresso cup is printed with a nautical rope pattern that loops around the edge of the dish in Splendido Mare’s signature sage green.
Let Your Imagination Run Wild
The hotel’s bright beach cabanas and the exuberance of the surrounding vegetation (not to mention the outfits of passersby) gave the designers license to have fun. One of the most striking blink-and-you’ll-miss-it details we adored is the terra-cotta flooring throughout the entryway into the restaurant, DaV Mare: Each tile curls around the other, mimicking how the sun swirls and dapples across the sea outside. Once you notice the series of swirls, your eye picks up the motif throughout the hotel.
Let Natural Materials and Beautiful Colors Sing
Sauzay and de Tonnac rely on linear Italian modernist elements crafted of natural materials like parquet floors, marble countertops, polished wood furniture, woven textiles, and leather. Bathrooms, sleek with Carrera marble, have panels of colored tile inspired by the red, yellow, and green shades of the nearby beach cabanas. Marble surfaces are topped with vases of all shapes and sizes, many of them splattered with paint. Even the water tumblers are marked with colored lines and deliberately mismatched on the table, making breakfast and lunch feel deliciously casual.
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