HBA London-designed Hotel Maria Cristina unveiled

The Hotel Maria Cristina, a Luxury Collection Hotel in San Sebastian, has reopened its doors following an extensive $25-million, nine-month restoration. The design of the interiors, led by The Gallery at HBA London, is said to enhance the elegant, feminine presence that has characterized the hotel since it opened a century ago. Now, the hotel’s interiors “evoke the élan and striking presence of all the leading ladies that have graced the environs of the hotel”, thereby “rekindling the heart of its legacy as the home of its namesake, Spain’s revered Queen Consort Maria Cristina”.

A landmark in the city since it was inaugurated in July 1912 by the queen, the hotel was built during the Belle Époque, when haute couture was born and women’s liberation was growing in importance. This provenance has fluid Art Nouveau detailing by its original architect Charles Mewès.

The newly styled reception area of Hotel Maria Cristina boasts soaring ceilings, intricate moldings, towering marble pillars and a polished grey and white marble floor. The designers softened the lobby’s hard surfaces by creating a layered composition of details. New millwork trim adds fine nuances, and a champagne and platinum palette provides an understated background for the mocha and copper touches found in the velvet upholstery and hand-tufted wool rugs. Silvery silk curtains frame the passageways, and behind the reception desk, a padded leather wall and an oversized painting of Queen Maria Cristina form an introduction.


The adjacent corridors in the lobby have intimate seating areas nestled next to arched doorways. Pale coffee-toned velvets, the softest ecru leather lounge chairs, cerise accents in the abstract damask carpet, and crystal chandeliers are featured. A second entrance area now has the feel of a residential library, with mahogany bookshelves. Paintings of traditional seascapes and Belle Époque personas mix with contemporary art, while collections of mirrors reflect the décor.

A hub en vogue with both locals and guests, Dry San Sebastian bar – a joint collaboration between Hotel Maria Cristina and Dry Martini Group – has been transformed. Previously featuring masculine oak panelling and shades of deep blue, it now has subtle tones of soft powder blue and bronze that are offset by cool white trim, and a lacy rosette patterned carpet. A crystal chandelier, silk wall lights and mirrors enliven the ambiance. The back of the leather chairs have also been hand-stitched with the hotel’s insignia.

Hotel Maria Cristina’s 107 guestrooms and 29 suites are dressed in a pastel palette inspired by the fresh spring tints of macaron patisseries, Mouchous, which translates as “kiss” in the Basque language. Hues of lavender adorn some of the rooms, and others are styled in shades of sky blue, while chocolate tones enrich the suites. Other features include: plush tufted headboards, contemporary paintings, and velvet-covered chaise lounges.


The five-fixture bathrooms don a classical black and white style, boasting striped curtains enveloping the tub, a teardrop pendant light forged from black iron leaves, and nested glass-top tables. In the separate WC, the original veined marble was retained, though also added were new marbles of the tub surround and vanity counter. A round backlit mirror and polished silver tones complete the look. For the guestroom corridors, the designers commissioned a photographer to capture images of San Sebastian’s picturesque landscape and ornate Basque architecture.

The suites are placed in the turrets on each corner of the building. Each floor is said to celebrate women from different decades, starting with the 1910s on the first level and rising to the 1950s on the fifth story. Guests are greeted in the entry hall of each suite by a “walk of fame” with photos and quotes honoring the stars who visited the hotel during the respective era. The walls are hung with large format black and white photographs of models synonymous with leading European couturiers who had their images on the pages of 1950s Vogue magazines.

Curved walls and an antique marble fireplace provide a backdrop for the Art Nouveau décor in each suite’s living room. A large photograph of a fashionable woman from the period becomes the muse of the space, while design elements include crystal chandelier, oak parquet flooring, an asymmetrically slung leather sofa, and button-tufted poufs.

The renovation of Hotel Maria Cristina is part of a larger strategy to invest in the restoration of Starwood’s Luxury Collection hotels. The reopening of Hotel Maria Cristina follows in the footsteps of Hotel Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Seville, which underwent a multi-million dollar refurbishment – with the interior design also led by The Gallery at HBA London – and re-opened in March this year.

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