Hotel makeover brings taste of Hepburn's era to Florence

The Hotel Cerretani Firenze ­– MGallery by Sofitel offers leisure travellers a retreat right in the heart of the Florence.
Yang Di

Elements from the 1950s to create a contemporary, elegant setting through colors and materials.

The Hotel Cerretani Firenze — MGallery by Sofitel offers leisure travellers a retreat right in the heart of the Florence, just steps away from the magnificent Duomo, the historic center and the buzz of the city. 

The hotel’s public spaces and the 86 rooms are all designed to woo with contemporary chic in a city where art and culture abound. The hotel envelops its guests in warmth and tranquility, from entering the lobby to the rooms.

The building itself is a palace dating back to the 16th century and was built at the corner of Via de Cerretani and Via de Panzani by the ancient Florentine family of the Carnesecchi.

Designer Cornelia Markus-Diedenhofen’s objective was to turn the very old-fashioned look into a contemporary design aiming to give guests the feeling of being at home.

“When I first saw the space, I found myself in an 80s-style hotel and all the historic elements had been eliminated,” she said.

“The rooms were filled up with furniture that did not match the room sizes. All in all, it looked pretty much worn out.”

Although the building was in good condition, the historic façade needed restoration so the owners decided to not only recreate the inside, but also the exterior.

The challenge during the renovation was definitely to work in harmony with the ancient and historic neighborhood, said Cornelia.

“You are not allowed to drive into the ‘centro storico’ with a big truck to get things out or bring in new furniture. So we had to transport all the items with little vans which took a lot of effort and time,” she said.

“Also, changing the revolving entrance door was a tough thing. We did all the work in thee parts, because the hotel had not been closed down and there were always about 50 rooms in operation. The logistics were tough, but the guests were incredibly relaxed, seeing that something new and very nice was coming up.”

Since nothing historic remained except the staircase from the ground to the fourth floor, there was no pressure about creating the old palace feeling.

“The height of the former hall had been reduced and we found nice historic elements when opening the ceilings, but there was not a chance to use anything that remained because everything was badly damaged,” Cornelia said.

“So I thought about other themes of Florentine history and looked at the place as having been the cradle of fashion design in Italy and the world.”


Yang Di / SHINE

The designer chose the creamy tones to make rooms look brighter and bigger.

Cornelia decided to bring a touch of 1950s glamor into the design of the hotel.

“One of the most popular and most loved actresses at that time was Audrey Hepburn, so I chose this icon as a symbol,” she said.

Cornelia has incorporated elements of that period into the furniture design and especially in the ceiling in the restaurant. She wanted to create the atmosphere of an inviting living room rather than a standard hotel restaurant. 

Since the reception counter of the hotel used to be a marble block and looked very martial, Cornelia used leather to give a soft touch to the colder elements and she also integrated brass to give warmth to the overall design. The carpets in the lobby and bar area were custom-made in Nepal.

For the 86 guest rooms, Cornelia again used elements from the 1950s to create a contemporary, elegant setting through colors and materials. The flavor of the period is seen in the chairs, legs of the tables and pictures of 1950s Florence.

As the rooms are compact, she chose the creamy tones to make them look brighter and bigger.

“Creamy tones also give off a fashion vibe and the city itself gives you so many colorful impressions and so much to look at,” Cornelia said. “I want the guests come and relax in a more soothing environment.”

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