The Alpina Gstaad, the first new hotel in Switzerland's most discretely glamorous destination for over 100 years, has opened to reveal an exquisite and sensitive interpretation of chic Swiss Alpine living by HBA London.
Already hailed as "the birth of a new classic," The Alpina Gstaad embraces legend, location and Swiss provenance in equal measure with modernity and a generous array of idiosyncratic delights. This is the thoughtful luxury and individuality of a very special private residence melded into an extraordinary hotel through a design vision informed by the past while understanding the future of the luxury hotel experience.
The entrance lobby sets the scene for what is to come with its envelope of warm rustic timbers, hand-crafted pieces and exquisitely detailed finishes. Timber planks to the walls and ceilings have been reclaimed from old Swiss chalets and individually crafted to fit their new location; the reception table is hewn from a single alpine ash tree trunk - all that remained of a long since felled tree.
Above this, a cluster of hanging glass pendants form more than a delightful display of lighting; they are also a unique library of poetry since each one has a Swiss verse etched into it. Rugs are of hand-tufted unbleached wool with all the naturally occurring variations that come with truly organic materials and the structural columns are clad in embossed leather, converting their mass into something more delicate and refined.
The intent to create an experience that is comfortably connected with the location is exemplified in the fireplace which is surrounded by Alpine boulders individually selected and picked from the local rivers where centuries of rushing water have shaped and polished them. Another fireplace of similar scale and also flanked by stone is to be found in the lounge upstairs, connecting the two spaces and achieving a pleasant sense of flow. In between, a sweeping staircase is both contemporary in style and an ample demonstration of the Swiss tradition of impeccably meticulous detailing. Clad in timber, the staircase has anthracite steel railings and a glass balustrade around which the highest grade saddle leather has been hand-stitched on-site. Above, an intricately painted antique ceiling provides a visual feast for the eye and is a feature quite different from anything else in the hotel. Behind the staircase, a slatted wooden screen draws upon the "gimmwand" building style of the local Saanenland farmland properties and allows an enchanting lattice of diffused light to fall upon the area.
The lounge is a very social space with huge armchairs, a luxurious combination of linen, wool and leather upholstery, and - continuing the narrative of the entrance below - leather-clad columns and a weathered timber envelope. The palette of the fabrics is soft with punches of burnt red colour and lots of stitching and embroidery details in the best of Swiss tradition. The bar is uniquely crafted. Its hammered bronze facia captures the lights and its top is cut length-wise from a local forest pine leaving a naturally textured edge. Standing apart from the wall, the double-sided bar gives the barman a dramatic stage on which to display his cocktail-making skills. Another uniquely designed piece is the D.J. station - a beautifully crafted consul table by day, it transforms into a fully-functioning station by night replete with the latest equipment.
Restaurant Sommet is "the heart of the home," welcoming, nourishing and sociable with interiors that manage the fine balance between providing a showcase of regional traditions and culture and offering a contemporary and very comfortable experience through daytime and evening. All joinery is within the fine tradition of Swiss cabinetry, from the antique ceiling planks which are exquisitely decorated in a manner typical of the area to the large timber beams that clad the walls and which, as in other public areas, are in perfect dovetailed formation around the room. Wrought iron and saddle leather are widely used, the former in the lighting, the latter upholstering the banquettes and chairs. Yet, the ambiance is fresh and light thanks to crisp white linens and numerous potted plants and herbs as well as the uplifting wrap-around views of the Bernese mountains. Outside, a terrace with a fire-pit is the setting for al fresco dining and a sense of complete immersion in the Alpine world.
The Cinema is another exceptional experience at The Alpina Gstaad. Located deep in the building like a hi-tech secret, it is a luxuriously intimate space equipped to support both presentations and screenings as well as guests' own plug-in content, or by way of a sliding pocket wall to open up to the adjacent function room and become part of a larger event. All the furniture is free-standing allowing the room to be adapted to different occasions. There is seating for 14 people in generously over-sized armchairs and sofas with ottomans and individual reading lights, as well as bean bags for children. Upholstery is in rich brown leather, charcoal-toned wool with Swiss stitching details covers the panels that line the room concealing storage areas, and there are even blankets for late-night audiences to nestle under.
A further unexpected delight designed by HBA London is the Kids Room - a unique indoor adventure for toddlers and children from the minute they tumble through the door. In the spirit of a mini-chalet, the area is replete with Alpine timber, the traditional Swiss colour palette of red and white and joyful scaled- down furniture. There are masses of activity and relaxation offerings, including a tree house and slide in front of a simply coloured mountain scene, a blackboard wall, a reading area, an arts and crafts zone and a media centre as well as an area for children to take a nap.
No two guestrooms are the same. While they all share the qualities of understated luxury, spaciousness and great comfort that sets The Alpine Gstaad apart, they differ in their aspect, features and detailing. As in the public areas, the guestrooms are clad in timber. A custom-designed, hand- tufted carpet covers the floor apart from the timber-floored entrance lobby inside the door. Each room has a beautiful and unique carved ceiling, some in a rustic manner, others in a more contemporary style. Some rooms are tucked under the eaves, creating an especially chalet-style experience. The guestrooms are refined and residential in ambiance with an interplay of textures and a soft colour palette, enlivened with accents inspired by the bright red fruit of the Barberry bush, which flourishes in this Alpine terrain, and by rich chocolate brown. Fabrics include knitted cashmere, wools and linen; details are inspired and captivating, including impeccable hand-crafted stitching to the upholstery and touches of embroidery which provide delicate counterpoints throughout. These guestrooms are warm in winter and fresh in summer.
Many rooms also have a unique cocktail cabinet. Made from individually selected antique Swiss cabinets with their traditionally carved and painted exteriors, they are a charming guestroom feature. Their pretty exteriors however belie their clever internal planning which integrates a sink, drinks storage, Nespresso machine and a fridge. Another delightful feature in some of the rooms are working fireplaces above which a convex mirror by Ochre plays with the reflections of guests as they pass. The majority of the furniture is bespoke. Guestroom art includes original pieces that re-work natural and reclaimed materials into something new, giving them renewed meaning and value. All the rooms have magnificent views, some to the mountains, some to the meadows, and have large outdoor terraces from which to enjoy them.
There are 56 guestrooms in total, 31 of which are suites, and supreme amongst these is the duplex, three-bedroom Panorama Suite on the fifth and sixth floors. This exceptional suite extends from the north to the south elevations of the building, and, thanks to its six skylights, offers stunning views of the glacial mountains to one side and Alpine meadows to the other. It is both a luxurious self-contained retreat and exclusively connected with its location. The living spaces flow from one into another, beginning with the natural wood-burning fireplace with its floor-to-ceiling stone chimney piece and collection of elegant seating. From here, the lounge continues in the style of a very lovely residence, opening out onto a large terrace; on the other side, hidden from view, there is a kitchen.
The master bedroom is a sumptuous experience with its wood burning fire, walk-in dressing room and a bathroom that contains a large free-standing tub, over-sized shower-heads and TV inset into the mirror. An elegant staircase leads up to the suite's extraordinary top floor that reveals a spa, Jacuzzi, a fitness and massage area, a central wood-burning fireplace and a bedroom, as well as a veranda providing breath-taking birds' eye views of the panorama outside. Once again, the concept of "gimmwand" has been transposed into the space and, through this timber lattice work, light filters and plays with the interior world of the spa.
Other areas of The Alpina Gstaad designed by HBA London include: the ballroom, meeting rooms, Cigar Lounge and Wine Room as well as expansive outdoor terraces.
Photos: Reto Guntli