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The Alpina Gstaad: Switzerland’s Latest Luxury Property

by Matthew Wexler
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Feb 22, 2013

Gstaad, the idyllic ski-centric village in southwest Switzerland, possesses a trifecta of qualities that make it one of the most sought after holiday destinations in the world: fantastic skiing, accessibility and luxury accommodations. What it hasn't had to offer in the past 100 years is a new 5-star hotel. Until now.

The Alpina Gstaad , which opened this past December, reveals a forward-thinking interpretation of Swiss Alpine living designed by HBA London. The property honors legend, location and Swiss provenance in equal measure with modernity and an array of idiosyncratic touches.

Nathan Hutchins, Senior Associate at HBA London, told EDGE, "The overall design objective was to create an authentic, captivating and luxurious alpine experience year-round. Consequently, we created a hotel that is cozy in the winter and fresh in the summer - a response to the beauty of all the seasons in the region of Saanenland."

The design firm had the challenge of working within the design parameters dictated by the region while also integrating a visual identity that would resonate with 21st century travelers.

"The aesthetic is firmly rooted in the provenance of the location, but this is newly interpreted to nourish today's luxury lifestyles," said Hutchins. "Our starting point was the chalet form of the building - the only style of building allowed in this part of Switzerland - and the interiors not only feature many traditional materials but they have also been crafted in a centuries-old way."

"However, we also reworked the traditional into a contemporary narrative and combined these with numerous individually designed pieces. The design is a mix of rustic and refined - reclaimed timbers mixed with embossed leathers, bronze sconces (hand-beaten and rolled by artisans), quartz bar taps, custom-designed wrought iron lamps and natural wools and linens."

The entrance lobby sets the scene with warm rustic timbers, handcrafted pieces and detailed finishes. The reception table was created from a single alpine ash tree trunk - all that remained of a fallen tree.

A cluster of hanging glass pendants hang above the reception table and feature etched Swiss poetry. Hand-tufted, unbleached wool rugs lay the groundwork for structural columns clad in embossed leather.

The fireplace is surrounded by Alpine boulders individually selected and picked from the local rivers where centuries of rushing water have shaped and polished them. Another fireplace of similar scale and also flanked by stone can be found in the lounge upstairs. In between, a sweeping staircase is both contemporary in style and also demonstrates the Swiss tradition of impeccably meticulous detailing. The staircase features anthracite steel railings and a glass balustrade around which high-grade saddle leather has been hand-stitched on-site.

The lounge is a very social space with huge armchairs, a luxurious combination of linen, wool and leather upholstery, and - continuing the narrative of the entrance below - leather-clad columns and a weathered timber envelope. The palette of the fabrics is soft with punches of burnt red and stitching and embroidery details in the Swiss tradition.

The bar’s hammered bronze structure captures the lights and its top is cut length-wise from a local forest pine leaving a naturally textured edge. Standing apart from the wall, the double-sided bar offers bartenders a dramatic stage to display their cocktail-making skills. Another uniquely designed piece is the DJ station - a beautifully crafted consul table by day, it transforms into a fully functioning station by night equipped with the latest technology.

The Cinema is another exceptional experience at The Alpina Gstaad. Located deep in the building like a hi-tech secret, the intimate space is equipped to support both presentations and screenings as well as guests’ own plug-in content. All of the furniture is freestanding allowing the room to be adapted to different occasions.

There is seating for 14 people in oversized armchairs and sofas with ottomans and individual reading lights. Upholstery is in rich brown leather, panels that line the room concealing storage areas are covered with charcoal-toned wool with Swiss stitching details, and there are even blankets for late-night audiences to nestle under.

In terms of guest rooms, each of Alpina Gstaad’s 56 rooms and suites is unique. Each room has a uniquely carved ceiling, some in a rustic manner, others in a more contemporary style. Some rooms are tucked under the eaves, creating a chalet-style experience.

Many rooms also have a unique cocktail cabinet. Made from individually selected antique Swiss cabinets with their traditionally carved and painted exteriors, their clever internal planning integrates a sink, drinks storage, Nespresso machine and a fridge.

Hutchins, who led the design team, said, "Our approach to each project is to create an individual narrative. We extract this from the history, culture and natural qualities of the location and give it a life of its own that is both new and completely at home within its setting. The Alpina Gstaad is a perfect example - a new hotel that is at one with the inheritance of supreme craftsmanship and discrete luxury that distinguishes the region."

Even so, Hutchins does have his favorite parts of the property, "I love the fireplaces in the lobby and on the fifth and sixth floors. We worked with local craftsmen and selected local river stones. Some of them are over two metres long, and some we mixed with oiled black steel; the effect is simply stunning," he said. "For me, the top floors are very special, under the peak of the chalet roof, where you really feel in touch with the Alpine world."

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's National Style and Travel Editor. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.


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