Los Patios: Danish Design in Granada

For the last five years, our family has ventured to Central America during our children's winter break. It's a time for us to soak up plenty of sunshine and warm weather, while seeking out unique facets of local design and culture. Nicaragua left a lasting impression on us and we found ourselves in awe of the radiance of the city of Granada.

After a stay at a remote beach resort, we made our way into the city. Outdoor cafes were bustling and the energy of this artistic community was thriving. We absorbed stretches of colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, and brightly painted dwellings with lush internal courtyards. The ornate metalwork on doors and gates was a sight to behold.  

We chose to hang our proverbial hat at the stunning Los Patios Hotel, owned and operated by a husband & wife team who came to Granada in 2007 with the intent to establish a hotel that spoke to the colorful local landscape and their native Scandinavian aesthetic.  

The design of Los Patios hinges on the incorporation of bold black and white graphics, as shown in the cement floor tiles. From the patterned floors, simple yet richly colored walls rise up to meet timber-beamed roofs. Cool white stucco grounds these powerful design elements and open shelving keeps the storage elements accessible and light.

Custom architectural elements make the space look anything but ordinary, such as the positive/negative construction of the stairwell which was achieved by highlighting the simple interaction of stairs and walls with stucco and wool paneling. Cabinetry is given a modern, minimal approach through the use of concrete and weathered wood faces.

Lofty ceilings provide plenty of vertical space for adventurous, eye-catching pendants to dangle, such as this corner feature in our guest room. Like the rest of the hotel, our room brings together South American artistic traditions, like embroidered textiles made into pillows, and marries them with contemporary touches such as quilts made by hay from Denmark.

At the heart of Los Patios are eight sun-soaked patios that blur the boundary between indoors and out. You can chose to sway in a darling hammock or soak in the pool, get lost in a book on a lounge chair or cozy up for a nap on the shaded couch. 

Every nook of Los Patios oozes with visual and textural intrigue and the sight of bright sun dancing on it's colorful walls is a memory I'll happily revisit on a chilly San Francisco day.




Layered London Interiors by Kit Kemp : Charlotte Street Hotel

Kit Kemp, Design Director of Firmdale Hotels, is known for creating spaces that grab your attention and leave you longing to linger. She is the master of the quintessential boutique hotel, curating hyper-customized environments where contrast and layering are essential, and art and antiques have a strong presence. With eight hotels in London and a few spots in New York City, her unique vision continues to expand.

I had always wanted to visit a Kemp-designed hotel, so while visiting London we planned a high tea at Firmdale's Charlotte Street Hotel with my husband's aunt and uncle from Switzerland. His "tante", Michele, has great taste and has introduced me to some great designers like Sarah Lavoine, whom herself has designed gorgeous boutique hotels in Paris.

We enjoyed the tea service in Oscar Bar, a vibrant, mural-lined room that gives a nod to a time in English history when authors like Virginia Woolf were active. I was in awe of the attention to detail that went into the concept of the space, making it unique to this hotel alone.

Kit collaborated with Wedgewood for a series of tea cups, saucers and pots with motifs pulled from "Mythical Creatures," a pattern she originally designed for Chelsea Editions, a textile collection celebrating the rich tradition of English embroidery.  I appreciate her ability to see a clever motif and play with its application in new ways, from an embroidered cloth to a quaint tea cup. 

After tea, my husband's aunt and I introduced ourselves to the manager of the hotel and he kindly gave us a tour of the common areas and main suites. He generously spent over a half hour sharing insight into Kit's design philosophy and attention to detail and her low-key, friendly relationship with her employees. 


Kemp is committed to an awareness of where her products are made and contributes to the communities in which artisans reside. She is also focused on reviving skilled craft from local workshops in England. Her young daughters even jumped into the design of the Charlotte Street Hotel with the idea to take scraps from all of her projects and have a local studio make patchwork animals with them. We took home two adorable puppies for our children made from the remnants of some of my favorite fabrics. 

Galbraith & Paul's textiles, one of our favorite Philadelphia-based textile lines, were used on several chairs in their cozy den and library.  

The rooms we toured were just gorgeous and personally touching, as they featured many lines that I consistently use in projects; companies who are not just design partners, but also friends. For instance, the grand headboard in this room was covered in "Fathom" by Christopher Farr Cloth, a line that Kit has collaborated with for some of our go-to fabrics.

Each guest room showcased the power of layered graphics and textures, bound by a common thread of color. 

As the hotel manager continued our tour, I pointed out several appearances by Seema Krish textiles and told him of our close relationship with the phenomenally talented San Francisco-based designer. He told us he's preparing to move to New York to manage a new Kit Kemp designed hotel where Seema's fabric will also be featured! 

Upon our glimpse around the accommodations at Charlotte Street Hotel, it was clear that no two rooms are alike - each fabric finds a unique application in a layered conversation of color, texture and print. As Kit has so appropriately named her book, "Every Room Tells a Story." 

The contemporary cocoon: Hotel chavanel

Not far from the museum-flanked banks of the Seine lies the Madeleine quarter, a historic Parisian enclave known as a destination for exquisite accoutrements. Nestled in this busy thoroughfare is the Hotel Chavanel, which emerged from recent renovations with a fresh take on how comfort meets stylish design. The Lotus Bleu team made this cozy and alluring getaway our home away from home for a week this past January, and the story of the design details and considerations that went into this space are truly inspiring.

Passed down from her hotelier father, owner Sophie Charlet has successfully kept the momentum of this family-operated business. Lotus Bleu's principal, Jeannie Fraise, and her husband have a long history and deep friendship with Sophie and her brother, Jean-Claude, so our time at the hotel doubled as a cheery reunion with old friends.

"A haven of hushed tranquility and well-being - an island of blissful serenity."

"A haven of hushed tranquility and well-being - an island of blissful serenity."

The lobby of Hotel Chavanel is a dichotomous environment that directly links the busy street scene to the calm sanctuary of the hotel. The rumble and noise is cut-off as the doors close behind you, though you are still visually aware of the buzzing world beyond the large floor-to-ceiling windows. Once inside, you are met with a mirrored wall lined with white birch trees, smooth and undulating check-in areas and several nests of playful seating to rest your bones and page through a compelling book or magazine.

Beyond the calm of the front desk, we begin to see where the renovation really takes off. As owner Sophie Charlet explains, "It's new exquisitely elegant appointments offer a stylishly refined palette of fabrics and materials, as the backdrop to a superbly mellow setting, which affords true peace and quiet."

The guest rooms at Hotel Chavanel are thoughtful, detail-rich compositions, each layer telling a story. Self-described as a "contemporary cocoon," these rooms provide the womb-like buffer from the hectic surroundings. As a visual reminder, Sophie cleverly commissioned a series of bedside and floor lamps made from the cocoons of the silkworm which provide textural intrigue and a soft glow.

Paying homage to the haute-couture roots of the Madeleine quarter, the hotel concept pulls inspiration from lacework. From the sheer lace drapes, the scaled-up carpet pattern to the backlit custom carved headboards, this element's impression is omnipresent, but thoughtfully applied so that it never overwhelms. 

Hotel Chavanel is a shining example of the ways that considered furnishings, textiles and finishes can add to "the art of living". Fabrics commonly found in tailoring, like heavy-weight wool, are used in window treatments. Heavy-gauge knitted cashmere throws grace the beds. Graphic, embellished pillows dot the seating. Desks are topped in durable saddle-leather and curved coffee tables made from natural oak pull together lounge areas. Walls, like those in the bath, are covered in carved ceramic or dimensional wall-coverings and a few lucky guest on the top floor are treated to rustic heavy timber beams overhead. A confident balance between feminine and masculine elements emerges in each unique room. 


Beyond the comforts of the guest room, Hotel Chavanel invites vitality and well-being. A trip down to the basement level revels a stone-paved room of bygone days. As you take a seat in the antique arched surroundings, illuminated with cool white light, an elaborate spread of delicious organic foods awaits - fresh pastries and fruit, muesli with every topping imaginable and jams and spreads galore. Our team couldn't make it down to breakfast fast enough!

From the island-like calm to the amenities that deeply comforted our bodies and lifted our minds and spirits, we loved our experience at this charming oasis. Merci, Sophie and the friendly and helpful Hotel Chavanel staff!