The sky somehow seems to be upset, and though the bright colours act as a perfectly soothing counterbalance. The typical Viennese part in it? Listen to the designers of the room: Lilli Hollein - Director of the Vienna Design Week - and her husband Markus Eiblmayr. The following video guides you through their ideas behind the design of room 67. As the interview is in German, you can read the whole text version below.
Why did you actually decide to work with Altstadt Vienna?
LH: Working with a hotel in Vienna, one that embraces the theme of Vienna and design, was a strong desire of mine. These are themes which inspire me, and us, and the Altstadt Vienna is THE address to be in Vienna if you want to feel at home in the city. Bringing the right concept to existing rooms. In that regard, the Altstadt Vienna, from all of Vienna’s most cherished and design-savvy hotels, was perhaps the most obvious partner.
As for the collaboration, what guidelines did the owner and Altstadt Vienna give you?
LH: The Altstadt wants rooms that bear their authors’ clear signatures and have a special atmosphere. We both simply tried to assimilate the Austrian design scene, and in that way, be responsive to the wishes of our client. Through this approach, we have managed to add a very personal touch.
There is a common thread running through the multifaceted design of the Altstadt – the Viennese attitude towards life itself. How did you manage to integrate that into this room?
ME: I think what made the project so good was having this large room with the high ceilings, something which is actually quite typical for a house in central Vienna dating back to the turn of the last century. A large space you can work with, in which you can accommodate everything a hotel room needs without feeling cramped. That is one thing that makes the big apartments you encounter here so fascinating. If you just compare these with the hotel rooms in England, which are always so small and you can barely move, then you realize that this kind of size is something special. We then appointed the room with appropriate furniture which, though not typically Viennese per se, is reflective of the city and its attitude towards life.
LH: The fact that the floor plans are not standardized, and therefore no two rooms in the hotel are alike, presents the client with several challenges. Despite all of these different layouts, he must create hotel rooms that feature all the amenities you would expect of a hotel in this category. A challenging balancing act, though one which all room designers for Altstadt Vienna are more than happy to take on. How do I integrate a bathroom into a room, give the room a sense of lightness, elegance and local color, and then add a personal note? In this regard, I believe the owner pushes his designers in the very best ways possible. In fact, there is almost something playful about the process. It is precisely because of this, perhaps, that so many are able to chalk up some truly remarkable achievements.
ME: We should also add that, due to having such a spacious area at our disposal, we have the opportunity to stage the furniture as stand-alone objects within the room. No unattractive built-in solutions, other than, of course, the bath, and even that is hidden behind the mirror wall, which again expands the room. In this room, all furniture is mobile – and that is great.
You previously talked about “authors” we want to cast a spotlight on. What do you mean precisely? And could you tell us more about the main protagonists?
LH: As director of Vienna Design Week, I stand for international design on the one hand, but on the other my role is to promote and cast a spotlight on the design scene of this country. Which is why, to a certain extent, we conceived this room as a stage in its own right. It features this dramatic cloudy sky by one of the founding fathers of contemporary design – Piero Fornasetti – in this case, in the form of a cloudy wallpaper produced by “Cole and Son”. Though it might potentially drag you down emotionally, it actually doesn’t. We have also worked with a few set pieces by other design notables. Things take a more local twist, for example, with some mirror trickery courtesy of Adolf Loos: How do I expand a room? With a mirror! That is something we took advantage of here. The most personal piece in this room is the carpet, which Markus and I designed together.
It provides a marvelous contrast to the cloud wallpaper.On the one hand it has the green of Lake Attersee, on the other it picks up a whole array of colors from the room. We also encounter a number of important protagonists from the Austrian design scene – both current and former, such as Loos and Fornasetti. The Carl Auböck workshop is represented by standing lamps and lights on the night stands. The chandeliers from Chmara.Rosinke are verycontemporary. These in turn pick up the mirror theme in a very special way. We have also incorporated a number of items from the Interio collection, which Vienna Design Week created in cooperation with Interio. These include pieces by Austrian designers and furniture produced in Austria. We have a secretary from March Gut, something from Diwan and from Patrycja Domanska, and wall hooks by Patrick Rampelotto. With Raf Simon’s fabrics for Kvadrat and with Bouroullec, whose corniches we used for night stands, we also add a little international flair.
The Karak tiles in the bathroom are from an Austrian start-up working with a very special technique. They have been made by contemporary graphic designers, yet are at the same time an hommage to the history of Austrian design. The chairs by Marco Dessi, which he designed for Wittman, are also noteworthy. In this regard, guests can also host small parties if they wish, since there is definitely plenty of seating to do just that.
If we could briefly turn to the guest who is lucky enough to have booked into this room, whom do you see, and whom would you wish to see making themselves at home here?
ME: Since both of us are frequent hotel visitors, we wanted to make a room in which we would feel comfortable ourselves, with plenty of furniture and amenities that one might otherwise miss a lot. For example, a desk to sit down at, a chair where the two of you can sit comfortably together, storage shelves, perhaps an area next to the bed where you can sit down and relax, a good, warm light that radiates a marvelous atmosphere, etc. Perhaps it won’t be the technophile guests who will truly appreciate this room, since for them it might be just a little bit too analogue. But those who want to develop a true impression of the essence of Vienna, and how the city thrives through its combination of internationalism and local traditions, are certain to feel wonderfully comfortable in this room. Fundamentally, this is a room conceived for a couple. Everything is spacious, everything double, two people can easily live here without ever feeling cramped.
How united were you with this design, how did it work, so to speak, to work together as a couple here?
LH: You have to answer that now.
ME: We were actually in agreement from the beginning, in how we work and also what we choose for this job. A couple of things just came out of function. The location of the bathroom was predetermined. But then, of course, we were very careful to integrate it into the space in such a way that it was spacious and its own room. The furnishings themselves then emerged in the dialogue. I had a suggestion for it, Lilli had a suggestion for it: "What kind of lamp do we use, what colors do we choose, which desk did we decide on? Do we need the desk at all? Yes, we need the desk. How about the sofa, is there an additional sofa coming?" So it's been simple dialogues, but in which we were actually very much in agreement about how it should look, how we then want it to look in function, and how it should be used.
LH: We agreed on a lot of things, and even when we disagreed, we were a well-coordinated team.
ME: The best part was of course the collaboration on the carpet, which we really designed together. That was a really great collaboration, where we always had 20 different colorways and kept going.
LH: We even had one made for our home now.
ME: Because we want a room like that at home, too.
LH: It's not like we collaborate very often. Our last collaboration was about 18 or 19 years ago and that was at the very beginning of our relationship. It was just very nice to design a space together that you make available to other people.
ME: The exciting thing was that we both come from the same background, studied industrial design, and actually have very similar training, but do very different things. Lilli with the Vienna Design Week and I work for a large office furniture manufacturer in Austria. Everyone brought their experience from their professional environment to the project. It's also interesting that you can have a very playful or very pragmatic approach, which you then have to understand each other.
LH: We also have the experience that these two temperaments can be brought together when living together. That's an ideal prerequisite for hotel room planning, where the pragmatism and the passionate approach come together in one room.
The first collaboration in 18 years... does that mean the next collaboration will take place in 2034?
LH: That depends on the expansion of Hotel Altstadt Vienna.
ME: It is quite conceivable that the two of us will work together again on a special project. But I don't think it's the plan to work together in the future.
LH: It was not so traumatizing that we have to wait 19 years again, but I think it needs a special occasion. It was just a project that you're happy to do together, because it's a private issue. A hotel room is a private space for a limited period of time, and in this respect I find it very nice to have had a sparring partner for the planning.
ME: Of course, it also has something to do with mutual consideration. This naturally leads to very interesting solutions.
In conclusion, what can you tell us about your collaboration with the different “authors”? How did you approach the different protagonists and how did they relate to the project?
LH: In many cases, we had direct contact with the designers, all of whom participated in the project with a sense of great openness and joy – for example, gallery pieces or items from the Auböck workshop. The objects came from many different nooks and crannies, and from manufacturers of varying sizes. That includes the Karak tiles, which are just beginning to gain market momentum, as well as other manufacturers who have been in business for generations. The collaboration went incredibly smoothly. I believe that everyone we dealt with was very supportive of the idea that a Viennese hotel would constantly strive to create something special in Vienna, for Vienna. They were all enthusiastic about involving local producers. We should also add that we placed strenuous demands on everyone involved to a greater or lesser degree. Shortly before Christmas, faced with relatively short delivery times, participation in this project definitely involved some challenges.
ME: That is something I can absolutely confirm. The cooperation with the various businesses and suppliers was very good. Everyone had a very positive attitude towards the project, providing us with costs, delivery times, as well as all those things which naturally tend to take quite some time, very quickly indeed. But it was so important to be involved in person. We went personally to the different suppliers, looking for items, picking up patterns, then presenting them to our crew of collaborators. This particular project is very rare. A project in which you, as a designer, can immerse yourself with total commitment, since the client is supportive and appreciative of all that you do.
What is your point of view with regards to art at the hotel?
LH: This is a sensibility I developed after spending a lot of time in hotels since I was a child. There are some hotels where it is exciting to be a guest, while there are others where you simply learn to turn a blind eye to certain aspects. Including the terrible artwork on the walls, for example. When you are planning a room yourself, those thoughts are a significant factor. Because we decided on this dominant wallpaper, ultimately this wasn’t the place for a piece of art. Which is actually quite a shame. After all, our client can draw upon a truly remarkable art collection. But happily, guests of the hotel have the opportunity to experience something special in all the other corners and rooms of the hotel. Nonetheless, the design developed to a great extent from the idea of working with this particular wallpaper, and from its concept of finding ways to navigate away from looming storm clouds in our lives. Perhaps there is something deeply Viennese about selecting a grey, desolate cloudy sky as a theme. Things can only look up.
That said, Vienna’s detractors do claim that Vienna suffers through ten months of winter, then it turns cold. Here, however, the guest is the sunny protagonist within the room, always with something positive to contribute.
Thank you for the interview.