Always staying true to the charm of locality

Yang Di
Olga Polizzi oversees the design of each of the Rocco Forte hotels, combining contemporary style, comfort and individual flair with the historic identity of the property.
Yang Di
Always staying true to the charm of locality
Courtesy of Olga Polizzi / Ti Gong

Olga Polizzi

Who is she?

Olga Polizzi is founder of Rocco Forte Hotels and director of design for the group. She oversees the design of each of the Rocco Forte hotels, combining contemporary style, comfort and individual flair with the historic identity of the property.

Tell us some of your works, and name the one you are most proud of.

My most exciting project is always the last one I am involved with. Just a few months ago I completed the restoration of Masseria Torre Maizza, a former farmhouse in Puglia, with pretty rooms set amongst lush gardens. The key was to retain its charm.

Are you currently involved with any project?

We are opening Villa Igiea in Palermo, Sicily, in spring 2020. It is an iconic hotel that has seen George V of England, Kaiser William II and the last Tsar, Nicholas II. In the 1950s and 1960s there was the Dolce Vita that brought all the Hollywood actors. It has a lot of potential being on the sea and Palermo is experiencing a rebirth. It is a complex project and that has been entrusted to Paolo Moschino who has a studio in London and a great taste for historical structures.

What’s your design style?

I always start with the location and the style of the building, and it builds from there. It is important that each of our hotels mirrors the feel of the city it is in, so I start by getting to know the city, wandering around and reading its history. I always use local artists and artisans, and try to get things made in the country in which I am working as this immediately gives a feeling of authenticity. All our hotels are different, but I hope when people wake up they know where they are. 

Where are you most creative?

I am always influenced by the location of the hotel I am designing. Inspiration to me is always a building, the place, often what the crafts are there. I always get to know the locality of the hotel, as this is where most of my inspiration comes from. There are always 20 different ways of designing anything, and they could all be and look right, so you have to be brave and decide on one course and just stick to it. It may be the history of the country or city in which the hotel is based that starts you off, or it might be looking at the art, which is always so different in each country. 

What does your home mean to you?

I have lived in the same house in London for over 30 years. We completely remodeled it three years ago to open it up and bring in more light. It’s eclectic as I have collections of pictures and sculptures as well as objects and paintings from my parents’ house.

My home in London is a mews house in Bayswater. It is very unassuming on the outside but surprisingly roomy inside. I redid it about 10 years ago, raising ceilings and rebuilding the conservatory at the back. I am a buyaholic and have various small collections — of glass, pottery and contemporary British painters.

What do you collect?

I have been rooting around antique fairs since I was a teenager. I used to have a stall at Caledonian Market. I am forever on the hunt for unusual pieces. I love going to Brussels because the Sablon area is a particularly good hunting ground for antiques and art.

What will be the next big design trend?

Everything is now color on color, pattern on pattern, veering away from minimalism and more toward  excess. Space is luxury and bathrooms almost as big as bedrooms. We are all more and more spoilt and a lot of people have lovely homes. Everyone thinks they are a designer, so it is always a challenge to keep ahead of the game.

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