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The Destination: Splendido Mare, A Belmond Hotel

A look inside Belmond's first hotel renovation since its acquisition by LVMH. 

Portofino, Italy

Is there anywhere quite so cinematically glamorous as Portofino? From its humble beginnings as a 1920s fishing village, to a mecca for the global glitterati in the 1960s, its fans included Lauren Bacall and Ava Gardner, Groucho Marx, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.  

Splendido Mare, A Belmond Hotel, the smaller sister hotel of the famous Hotel Splendido, has just re-opened after it received a renovation to capture the simpler days of its youth. Carried out by young Paris design agency Festen Architecture, the renovation is the first in the Belmond hotel group since it was bought by LVMH.  

Festen used nautical notes in the redesign to reference the harbour’s history, such as varnished wood, rope patterns in the marquetry and sailor knots. It also echoed the pastel colours of the Ligurian buildings with a palette of amber, terracotta and sea green, symbolic of the iconic facades.  

“We like to work on the transformation of classical spaces - delving into a storied past to conceptualise its future," reflects Charlotte de Tonnac, co-founder, Festen Architecture. "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," she adds. 

Each of the 14 rooms and suites feature locally sourced, hand-varnished wood, traditionally used in the fishing and sailing boats that dot the harbour. Rope patterns in the wood are handcrafted by renowned textile designer Véronique de Soultrait. The nautical knot is the emblem of the hotel and is referenced through the bespoke designed glassware and crockery and the individual room keys. The 7,000 terracotta tiles, handmade by local Ligurian craftsmen and laid in the restaurant, feature the undulation of the water to create a feeling of walking on the sea.

The traditional ligurian colours are used to accent the archways and ceilings, while pastel colours, symbolic of the region, have been used to decorate the facades and window shutters for generations. The design of the wooden floor is inspired by the church of San Giorgio in the town.

The bathrooms are inspired by the neighbouring ‘Santa Margherita’ beach cabins, white and yellow geometric tiles form bold striped walls enhanced against a pure white marble floor.

Mid-Century modern Italian antiques adorn the bedrooms, like fruitwood armchairs by Paolo Buffa and Gio Ponti – which Festen picked for their graphic style. Walnut armchairs by Ulrich Guglielmo and table lamps by Oscar Torlasco create a sense of nostalgia, especially for many Italians who grew up around similar pieces. 

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.

All materials were locally sourced and handmade including Carrara marble in the bathrooms and slate on the terraces. The furnishings are layered with soft Italian fabrics by Loro Piana and Rubelli and the wall lamps are from Murano Glass.

Rooms have been named to reflect various element of the design inspiration, with La Marea (tide), Fioco (jib), Gozzo and Riva (boats), La Baia (bay), Aurora (new dawn), Libeccio (southwesterly wind) and Tramontana (northerly wind).

"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," adds de Tonnac.