Goddard Littlefair recently completed the first phase of an extensive refurbishment of the Hilton Hotel, Budapest, encompassing the principal public areas - the reception, lounge, lobby bar and executive lounge, along with three sample bedroom treatments and linking corridor areas.
The hotel, which is part of the Danubius Hotels Group, is located on a stunning site at the centre of the Hungarian capital, directly alongside St Matthias Church. The new interior - representing the first full revamp of the hotel since 1977, when it was originally opened - brings a new light and elegant contemporaneity to the common parts via a palette of refined silvers and golds with accent colours, together with dark timber; brass inlays; black and white granite; a wide range of bespoke furniture and fabrics - a hallmark of Goddard Littlefair schemes - as well as a number of stunning art installations, specially-commissioned for the project from local Hungarian artists and specialist maker studios.
The Hilton Hotel, Budapest is sited on the western, 'Buda' side of the Danube, which bisects the city and separates the mainly medieval, hilly 'Castle Quarter' of 'Buda' from the 'Pest' side of the city, where the architecture dates more from the period of the Austro-Hungarian empire, including many fine neo-classical, baroque and art nouveau buildings. The hotel was originally designed and constructed in the late 1970s by the Danubius Hotels & Spa Co, which was then a state-run entity and was built around and partly incorporates both a 13th-century Dominican cloister and the baroque façade of a 16th- century Jesuit College. In 1992, the Danubius Hotels & Spa Co was listed on the Budapest Stock Exchange and it is now a major hospitality specialist operating across the region, with upwards of 20 hotels in Hungary and a portfolio that also includes major hotels in Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, as well as one in London.
The brief to Goddard Littlefair was to redesign the hotel completely, including all public areas (except for the 'Icon' restaurant, which had been refurbished just prior to commission). The works were to be phased, so that the hotel could stay open throughout. The first phase is now complete. Phase two, to complete later this spring, is comprised of 136 bedrooms on the north side of the hotel, along with a new separate, lower ground floor entrance for group check-in, whilst a final phase will encompass the ballroom, gym, meeting rooms and the remaining 264 bedrooms on the hotel's south side, together with the presidential suite.
Although the original location of the main entrance has been maintained, the space-planning of the new reception area was completely changed. To prevent bottle-necks, the single monolithic desk which previously sat directly opposite the entrance has been replaced by three smaller desks, set over the right of the space on timber bases, with surrounds in antiqued black granite and frontispieces in halo-lit dark timber with a geometric-pattern gold metal inlay, along with white desk lamps on right-angled brass stands at each end. The wall behind reception is inlaid with a series of vertical panels in silvered glass, interspersed with larger feature panels directly behind each desk, which were hand-painted in an art nouveau style with a wisteria illustration by Hungarian specialists Rákosy Glass in an art nouveau style. The dark timber and gold metal combination is repeated in a plainer rectangular configuration for the wall treatment to the right hand side of the reception hall.
The reception space is lit by a series of large, triple-tiered, scallop-edged chandeliers, set into ceiling troughs. Flooring is in highly-polished white granite, with a thin frame surround in antiqued black granite, matching that of the desks, along with a taupe and fawn rug, bespoke-designed by Goddard Littlefair in a geometric pattern, located in the seating area to the front of the space, where the silvered glass wall panels are to be found again, along with a number of retail display units. The furniture here is a mix of 3-seater sofas, armchairs and wing-back chairs, arranged around incidental tables.
The over-arching colour scheme for the public areas is made up of a neutral base with layers of gold and silver plus accent colours for different areas, ranging from blues and greens to mustards and pale purples, whilst the remaining material palette includes granite, dark timber, walnut and verre eglomisé. The colours in the reception are slightly more restrained, with punchier blues and plusher velvets used to distinguish the lounge area.
To aid circulation, the group check-in has been moved to the other side of the reception space and is now located against the left-hand wall. To overcome an existing floor level change immediately beyond this area, a series of bulky ramps was removed and has been replaced by a hoist, which can be used both for wheelchair access and in order to aid deliveries to the lobby bar, located directly behind. The lobby bar features fabric-wrapped walls and a geometric blue and green patterned carpet, with the bar itself clad in leather with timber and glass detailing.
The lounge effectively forms a direct continuation of the reception and is located at the top left of the open-plan L-shaped entrance area. The stunning, double-height space features a halo-lit leather screen to rear, bespoke-made by a London maker, which draws the eye through and is inset into a timber wall with gold metal inlay, as in reception. The space is visually dominated, however, by a striking gold and silver glass sculpture that hangs from the ceiling and is made up of dozens of individual glass pieces, designed by Hungarian artist Sándor Oláh and fabricated by local glass specialists Belight.
The striking carpet here is again in a bespoke geometric pattern in grey and white, also designed in-house by Goddard Littlefair, with stand-out armchairs in teal velvet along the left wall of the space. Standard lamps have a right-angled brass base and are larger-scale versions of those used on the reception desks.
Above and to the right of the space, a mezzanine area is discreetly announced by its gold-patterned metal balcony, which delineates the business level quiet zone, with the pattern linking both to a series of screens directly below and the pattern used for the reception desks. A bespoke water-pattern carpet in this mezzanine section was inspired by the River Danube.
To the rear of the lounge area an existing stair has been dramatically-reworked and features new cladding in bevel-edged white glass around the central column, together with a new gold metal balustrade, echoing the mezzanine business area. The stair treads themselves have been re-clad in a bespoke carpet, with the underside painted white to match the column. Drama is added by two woven panels (created by András Gönci of Arax), set against the existing stone walls, with one reaching more than 9m in height.
Executive members of Hilton Hotels are allowed access to a special executive lounge on the hotel's third floor, which is made up of a reception, dining area, buffet and pantry, plus a series of soft-dining tables and seats arranged alongside the window, with stunning views back over the Danube towards the Hungarian parliament building.
A seating area at the centre is visible to other hotel guests from above. Glass, sculptural lighting and screens add drama. 'Ceilings were quite low in this area', Kristy Unger added 'and we didn't want to use downlights, but we did need to maximise translucency'. Wall mirrors added extra light through reflectivity, whilst furnishing, in velvets and textured leather, is subtly colourful in greens, smokey blues and mustard-yellow. The curtains feature a pattern that subtly reflects the stained glass window.
The executive lounge also extends into a nook area located within the hotel's tower (which has medieval sections, but is mainly part of the original 1977 building, with stained-glass window treatments referring both to this and the St Matthias Church alongside). It features double-height timber bookshelves with verre eglomisé mirroring at the back and a carpet inspired not only by the Danube on this occasion, but by the particular way the river parts and flows around Margaret Island at its centre.
For the mock-up bedrooms, the approach was to create a classic modern look that took on the colours of the public space interiors palette, but used them in a simple, elegant and slightly softer way. Flooring is in timber-effect ceramic, along with carpeted areas, whilst fabric panels are used for the bed headboard and the television wall. Mirrors reflect light back into the space, which also features dark timber and faux leather wall panels, with doors in a textured timber-effect laminate. Oval bedside tables with wall lamps are bracketed to the walls with an antique metal effect around the top and real metal edges around the joinery work.
Photography: Gareth Gardner