Following a complete renovation by Paris design agency Festen Architecture, the Splendido Mare reopened this spring. The first Belmond Hotel to be renovated under the Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) ownership, the opening of The Mare reflects the allure of Portofino, Italy.
“Every detail has a sense of place, and all materials were sourced locally and handcrafted,” Michela Nicosia, hotel manger, said. “Hand-varnished wood, traditionally used in fishing boats, is incorporated through the rooms and suites; rope patterns are woven into the marquetry of the headboards, and even the colors – a palette of amber, terracotta and sea green – are symbolic of the Portofino region.”
Inspired by its maritime heritage, Festen Architecture reinterpreted traditional craftsmanship in contemporary ways, complemented with antique objects and custom furnishings. References to the harbor’s nautical history can be found throughout the property. Each of the 14 rooms and suites features locally-sourced and hand-varnished wood, traditionally used in the fishing and sailings boats that dot the harbor. Rope patterns are woven into the marquetry of the hand-crafted headboards by textile designer Véronique de Soultrait. The nautical knot is the emblem of the hotel and is referenced through detailed touch points, from the bespoke glassware and crockery to the individual room keys. The 7,000 terra cotta tiles, handmade by local Ligurian craftsmen and laid in the restaurant, feature the undulation of the water to create the feeling of walking on the sea.
“We like to work on the transformation of classical spaces — delving into a storied past to conceptualize its future,” Charlotte de Tonnac, co-founder of Festen Architecture, said. “For Splendido Mare, we are cherishing its humble beginning as a guest house for fishermen and the cinematic setting of Portofino. The redesign evokes a stylish home where contemporary and vintage pieces co-exist to provide a timeless feel. We want guests to feel comfortable — at ease — but also feel the historical spirit, and we want them to feel the coherence we try to create between the design of the hotel and its surroundings.”
With all materials locally-sourced, the traditional Ligurian colors of the harbor buildings are used to accent the archways and ceilings. The pastel colors are symbolic of the region, which have been used to decorate the façades and window shutters for generations. The design of the wooden floor is also inspired by the church of San Giorgio in town.
Mid-century modern furnishings celebrate the iconic 1950s era that defined Portofino’s glamorous history and an important time for Italian design. Each guest room features antiques, including fruitwood armchairs by Paolo Buffa and Gio Ponti, selected for their graphic and joyful style. Walnut armchairs by Ulrich Guglielmo and table lamps by Oscar Torlasco evoke a sense of nostalgia, as these pieces were commonly found in Italian family homes. The furnishings are layered with soft Italian fabrics by Loro Piana and Rubelli, and the wall lamps are from Murano Glass.
One of the suites is inspired by Ava Gardner, who was a frequent visitor to the guest house when filming “The Barefoot Contessa” in 1954 with Humphrey Bogart.
Eight rooms have been named to reflect each element of the design inspiration. La Marea (tide), Fioco (jib), Gozzo and Riva (boats) reference the nautical heritage, while La Baia (bay), Aurora (new dawn), Libeccio (southwesterly wind) and Tramontana (northerly wind) call on the surrounding beauty and natural phenomena that shape the bay.
“Portofino has long been a favorite summer getaway, with its brightly-colored houses dotting the shoreline of clear blue waters,” Nicosia added. “With opportunities to go hiking, diving and boating, as well as meander through the quaint shops and cafes, there is something for everyone to enjoy.”