Designer Anna Borallo isn’t only the creative mind behind the décor of Old Montreal’s jewel, Hotel St-Paul; she also decided on the spatial planning. That’s because before the hotel opened in 2000, the beautiful historic building seen from the outside was entirely gutted and build anew on the inside. That’s what makes the white-walled rooms so spacious and the construction so carefully and beautifully measured. There’s a respect for nature’s colours, and a generally sleek minimalism that gives the property its eminently tasteful feel. We asked the designer about her inspirations…
What was your overall vision for Hotel St-Paul? It was one of the first boutique hotels in Montreal, with the Germain. The initial concept was to create a hotel that would be different from the others, in that it’s in a historic building from the turn of the century, but we wanted to create interiors that would be completely contemporary and have all the modern comforts. We also wanted a very streamlined and simple aesthetic; at that time all hotels were very flowery and overloaded.
What details did you use to achieve this in the guestrooms? We worked with the theme of Canadian nature – ice, fire, earth. There are animal pelts here and there, as an homage to the important role played by the fur industry in Canadian culture. I really like mixing textures, and I work exclusively with noble materials; I never use synthetics. I work with wood, metal, stone, cotton, linen and wool. It’s very rare in the hotel industry, because generally materials are used for their ability to resist usage by the masses. But I believe that high quality materials are naturally durable.
What are some distinguishing features in the common spaces? The stone lobby, made out of alabaster, is a central piece. It’s a transparent stone, and there’s a light inside to create a stone light box. It represents ice, to contrast with the fire. In general we wanted for people to walk in the hotel and feel that it’s a streamlined space, and a bit of a mysterious one. The reception desk, for instance, is kind of hidden. We wanted a space where people would be surprised.
What were your personal inspirations for this project? The austerity of Canadian nature. Since I’m from Spain, it was a shock to experience winter here when I moved. That was very inspiring. I wanted to create that sense visually, but while softening it a bit.
Did the surrounding area also inspire you? Yes. The building itself is very beautiful, I really wanted to flatter its surface and display the beautiful building all around it in Old Montreal. Every room has a view on a beautiful building, so with such neutral and simple interiors, the ornate quality of the buildings outside stands out. Every window creates the effect of a painting.
What’s your favourite spot in the entire hotel? I love it all! It depends. If I’m looking for a quiet moment, I love the second floor – the lounge there is very comfortable. I also like the tranquility of the lobby, though. And its lighting.
What’s the first place you would send people travelling to Montreal for the first time? Old Montreal and Sainte-Catherine Street, for the shopping.