An interview with Oto Blaha – Hotel Palace Elisabeth interior designer
Palace Elisabeth, hvar heritage hotel has already been listed in Architectural Digest as one of the best hotels in the Mediterranean for design lovers, among top hotel brands like Four Seasons and Rocco Forte.
The project is assigned to one of the leading architecture firms in Croatia Agro Inženjering, led by architects Zoran and Neda Balog, while the hotel’s interior is designed by renowned interior designer Oto Blaha. Below are are a couple of words from Oto Blaha regarding his most notable works and the significance of Palace Elisabeth.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself, your previous projects and some of your most notable works?
I am interior designer and an academic painter and have finished my MA in Art at the Prague Academy. I started working at a small French shop in Prague, owned by Marie Borenstein who was an important influence in my early career. This way I got introduced to other smaller projects; designing coffee shops and restaurants. This brought me to many larger projects in different locations, for example Prague, Greece, Switzerland and in St. Barths in the Caribbean.
The project that I am especially proud of is the Chateau Mcely, a renowned luxury Spa Hotel near Prague. in addition to now, Palace Elisabeth, which I hope will be the highlight of my career.
2. Where do you draw your inspiration, do you have a particular signature style?
In order to start on a project, you have to have a particular theme and a story behind to support what you are creating. Since I am in charge of the hotel design and interior, I am pleased that in addition to this I am able to combine this aspect with my love for painting and really create something unique.
When it comes to style, I would say that my style is definitely more classic instead of modern. In my opinion classical things tend to last longer and cannot easily become outdated.
3. How did you prepare for this particular project?
When I first arrived at hotel Palace, it was a classic three-star hotel with great potential. I took many photos and got a good feel of the space. When I got home, I did the initial sketches, which evolved over time to the final design which you can see on the hotel renderings. Moreover, I studied the history of the island and the history of the hotel, including its significance for the city of Hvar. I also learned that the hotel was built under the generous patronage of Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Sisi), so this was also a factor that directed me in this particular direction, when we talk about “classic style”. Sisi’s lifestyle was a true inspiration in this project, and I have incorporated in hotel’s design some special details that you can associate with her.
4. How is this project different from others that you have done previously?
This is surely one of the biggest projects I have worked on in the past years. The hotel itself is a unique building with great historical importance to the city of Hvar. And to be a part of its story now during its refurbishment is very satisfying, since I feel I am becoming a part of Hvar’s rich history.
5. As part of your unique signature, you are painting each room by hand; how challenging is this for you?
This project is demanding; however, it is truly unique. I am pleased to be creating something different in each one or Palace Elisabeth’s 45 rooms and suites. By having an arch above the bed, we receive a lot of space in that area where we can really create something distinctive; and of course, this will be the stunning sites, historic buildings and landscapes of Hvar island.
6. Do you believe that hand painted murals give added value to the hotel and why?
Not many hotels have this special touch and have each room painted by hand, so this is surely something will set Palace Elisabeth apart from others in Croatian hospitality. Most hotels have canvases hung to the bedroom wall, which can also look nice. However, I believe that hand painted murals give added value to the entire hotel experience. Today, everything is often mass produced, so I am sure that people will appreciate this unique addition to their room.
7. What preparation was needed beforehand – how did you prepare the wall and what type of paints are you using?
After many years of experience on different and unique projects, some details I simply love to keep as my little secret.