After years of shuttered decay and a seven-year rebuilding programme, Lausanne's grande dame hotel, the Royal Savoy, has officially re-opened, with Interiors by MKV Design. Located in a beautiful private garden with set-piece views over the city to Lake Geneva, the original Art Nouveau building has been restored and sensitively modernized with architectural interventions revealing themselves as guests move through the building towards the glazed extension at the rear. From here, an entirely new building that has virtually doubled the footprint of the hotel becomes apparent, connected to the old building by a discreet, fully glazed walkway. The original building retains some of its early features, it is decoratively dressed and a little quirky in places; by contrast, the new building is sleek, streamlined and cleanly planned. Yet the two are clearly close kin, an elegant parent and a sophisticated off-spring.
The Original Building - a Grand Chateau Reinvented
The existing property has six floors plus the ground floor, a lower ground level and, soon to be completed, a huge rooftop bar. Once a refuge for exiled royals and aristocrats, as well as a playground for rock stars and other celebrities, the hotel now impresses in its re-rendering of a gracious retreat for contemporary lifestyles.
On arrival, the newly infilled porch at the front of the hotel, with its vaulted ceiling and inlaid mosaic to the floor, sets the tone. A large concierge desk takes pride of place positioned in front of an opaque decorative glass screen which serves to obscure the lounge behind. The lounge is the heart of the 'chateau,' a grand double-height space revived as a showpiece, glamorous but in a pared-back vernacular that we prefer today. New plaster mouldings, in a style similar to the original, have been introduced while elegant hand stencilling replicates the simplest of the earlier decoration to the walls. Among the remaining original features are finely-detailed stained glass windows overlooking the lounge, now joined by a fascinating display of historic local art and antiques from the owner's personal collection and a centuries-old tapestry which embellishes a corridor wall leading to the lounge.
Furniture is designed with Belle Époque flourish and furnishings are plush, in a sophisticated color palette of warm neutral tones and azure blue accents; a magnificent modern glass chandelier and illuminated ceiling coffers lined with gold leaf wallpaper add further drama. There is new herringbone oak timber flooring, as was previously used extensively throughout the hotel; on colder days, a new stone fireplace warms the space. Another custom-designed glass screen, this one translucent, curvaceous and overlaid with a bronze Art Nouveau fretwork stands at the far end of the lounge.
A signature of so much of MKV's work is the company's thoughtful space planning which achieves a natural flow through rooms and entire buildings. Hotel Royal Savoy is no exception. Directly on from the lounge is the bar, initially obscured from view in the lounge by the screen but then revealing itself as an impressive light-filled space. This is thanks to an imposing new double-height 'glass box' conservatory that has replaced an aging glass rotunda, which looks out on, and opens up to, the freshly landscaped terraces and garden.
To one side, a new cigar lounge spans the length of the glazed wall. With dark wood panelling, inviting fireplace and sumptuous armchairs the lounge is a quiet and deeply comfortable spot to enjoy a postprandial cigar. Modern abstract artwork by a local artist and collections of books provide pleasant diversion.
Restaurant Brasserie du Royal, under the guidance of Michelin-starred signature chef, Marc Haeberlin, and executive chef, Julien Kraus, is an elegant, light-filled dining space. It compromises four interconnected rooms, providing quite different settings, both formal and informal, and allowing management to easily close off a room at quieter times of day. Old and new effortlessly merge. A modern open kitchen, for example, is juxtaposed with classic furniture detailed with a Swiss-embroidered motif and, while decorative lighting is contemporary and glamorous, an historical wall mural depicting a rural idyll has been relocated from the entrance lobby to provide a hand crafted ornamental feature in the central room. Demonstrating inventive reuse of space, a disused corridor alongside the restaurant has been transformed into a 'Corridor of Senses' - a promenade into the restaurant, lined with chill cabinets displaying regional wines, cheeses and cold cuts and with the names of the local vineyards spelt out in the delightful mosaic floor.
Ballrooms & Meeting Rooms
Hotel Royal Savoy now offers numerous function and meeting room options but such is the skilful planning and the integration of old and new parts, that the building quietly absorbs these spaces, never allowing them to overwhelm the dining and guest areas. The interior décor of the existing ground floor function and pre-function spaces combines cream and royal blue tones the plush appliqué curtains, complemented with decorative glass chandeliers and a contemporary graphic carpet design. The lower ground floor meeting rooms have a distinctive ceiling feature formed from recessed shards of illuminated alabaster. The new lower ground ballroom is now the largest function space. It can be divided into three rooms and opens onto a terrace with steps up to the garden.
Guestrooms in the Original Building
The 101 bedrooms in the historic building have been completely refurbished and updated. As befits the venerable old property, room shapes and sizes vary with bathrooms, bedrooms and dressing areas built out to tuck into the building forms. The new interiors are refined, with subtle tones of French grey and dark oak, a modern Nouveau style rug on herringbone oak flooring, and classic furnishings by renowned manufacturers. Photographs of the Royal Savoy as she once was add and intriguing insight the hotel's past. Most bathrooms include both a walk-in shower and bathtub. Walls are clad in Perlino Bianco marble, and the floor, vanity and bath surround in anthracite stone while the shower floor is finished in hammered and brushed black granite.
Guestroom corridors are enhanced with large black and white photographs of moments from sporting history referring to Lausanne's inheritance as the location for the International Olympic Committee's headquarters. Many of the historic guestrooms offer charming balconies within the highly decorated eaves of the early 20th Century façade.
The New Building - Guestrooms + Suites
The 96 bedrooms in the six-storeyed new building are more contemporary in style than their older cousins, while sharing most of the key elements with the original rooms. Bathrooms are finished with Crema Marfil walls, honed anthracite flooring, polished anthracite vanity tops and bath surrounds and Nero Assoluto on the shower floor. Many of the guestrooms benefit from generously-sized terraces looking onto the historic trees which grace the garden. Imposing grey leather padded bed heads, dark timber cabinetry with cream leather padded doors and a mirrored bathroom wall which reflects the treetop views through the fully glazed wall to the terrace combine to create an exclusive experience.
A three-bedroom rooftop penthouse delights in wrap-around glazing and a roof terrace offering panoramic views of the city and lake in one direction and the historic hotel in the other. The apartment includes a gym and a spa room with a whirlpool sauna and two-person massage treatment area. Its master bedroom feels especially opulent with an outdoor whirlpool on the terrace.
A Destination Spa
Housed in the lower ground level of the new wing and opening up to an outdoor sunken terrace and garden, Le Spa du Royal provides an urban wellness oasis that is unique in Lausanne and is open to both local people and hotel guests. The 1500m2 space includes a beautiful swimming pool which flows from indoors into the gardens, eight treatment rooms, vitality pools, hammam, sauna and steam rooms, a "Ladies only" spa, two relaxation rooms, a hair studio and a state-of-the-art fitness facility. The spa is a resolutely modern feature of the hotel, with dark and silvery toned finishes including Nero Assoluto marble flooring, iroko and oak timber and mosaic tiles, softened by copious shear curtaining.
"We took our cues from the old building and honoured its history in our design thinking but we have, in so many respects, created a new hotel," stated Maria Vafiadis, managing director of MKV Design. "Our aim has been to reinstate the ambience of the previous establishment within a contemporary hotel in a way that is relevant and exciting for guests today and which will enable our client to unlock all sorts of potential from both the old and the new buildings."
Photography: Robert Miller