El Lodge, Sierra Nevada
Few first impressions can compete with the one made by El Lodge’s views. The stunning perspective it offers over the piste and beyond towards Sierra Nevada will take your breath away but so, too, will the incredible architectural story, Hamish Kilburn writes…
Take a picture I dare you, but first frame it carefully to capture the true beauty of what is around you. Don’t leave out the throws draped over rocking chairs and other outdoor-lounge seating perched on the timber balcony. Time your photograph to capture the end-of-the-day shot– après ski of course – when the deep-blue-lit sky meets the dark-orange dusk.
“My very first impressions were made in 2012 when we worked on the property for the first time,” explains Xander Jager, Director of interior design company Andrew Martin. The team redesigned the interiors of the then three-storey log house. “We worked our magic adding colours to the basic palette of the building and architecture and using a multitude of different materials and textures in fabrics, woods, leathers and other natural and man made materials like polished concrete and resin,” Jager explains.
However, in 2014, disaster struck when a blazing fire stripped the place of its prior existence. The fire could have been the end of the story had it not been for the team at Andrew Martin, which played the heroic figure and led the property through an extensive renovation. The architecture is interesting and Polar Lifehaus crafted bespoke logs made in Finland. The aim was to build an authentic and firm exterior, but also adopting the latest techniques to avoid shrinkage. “We ensured that we built the log house responsibly.” Says Jager. “We sourced materials such as organically grown Pine and Spruce from Polar Lifehaus and ensured that the log building was built responsibly and sustainably. The flip side is that the technique and know-how of building in this manor is based 4,000km away in the middle of Finland. 27 low-emission trucks were necessary to move the laminated logs to Southern Spain. The mind-blowing realisation that a piece of wood started life 30-40 years ago in the forests of Northern Europe will live on in Sierra Nevada as part of El Lodge is, I think, incredible.”
Ever the optimist – as with all valiant characters – Jager and his team’s glasses were half full when reimagining El Lodge, with the aim at the core of this project to first and foremost create more space. “What can I say, it has to come naturally. There is not one thing that creates an environment like El Lodge. It’s about layering the design and using the materials around the architecture. We like using materials, textures and colours together in a way you may not expect them to work normally. Adding various layers, with the right touch of taste and a balanced sprinkle of magic stardust, we tend to create a sense of escapism to a timeless era of yesteryear in the quintessential Andrew Martin style.”
Today, El Lodge is a blue print of how ski lodges should look and feel – walk inside, past the vintage posters and colourful bookshelves, and be welcomed into the comfortable environment that is El Lodge. Guests are made to feel relaxed with low-key lighting setting the scene. Oversized lampshades sit in the corner of the lounge. The mood is darkly. While the sofas face inwards towards the accent lights that mark the perimeter of the pool table below, the warm open fire roars within a stoned wall – undisturbed, altogether the public areas provide a haven for tired guests that seek adventure.
Andrew Martin have carefully redesigned and restored eight rooms and 12 suites. It’s not just the antler chandeliers that catch guests’ eyes. “It’s all about first impressions. We don’t know what we will use [in these areas of the hotel] without seeing it” Jager explains, “It was important to get the balance right and gaining the right mixture of different textures with different colours working together”. As a result, an even more luxurious but also cosy environment creates a distinct and welcoming après-ski vibe. The company’s motto to ‘bring together style, elegance, comfort and an element of escapism from everyday life’ has been met and framed appropriately by the unforgettable surrounding landscape. Jager and his team have exceeded the aim and the phoenix can now rise from the flames and into its well-earned luxury status.
The F&B area is, like other communal areas, an inclusive space but the devil is again in the detail, explains Jager, “The restaurant and bar areas have been purposefully divided by a feature curtain. We created a multi-purpose area. We used Prairie Charcoal for this, an award-winning double-faced hand-woven charcoal wool jacquard, with a native American Indian design woven into the fabrics in a contrasting colour. We covered the walls in a light grey wool flannel. All woven in our mills in Scotland”
It’s hard to compete with nature when it comes to first impressions, but at El Lodge, we see a man-made building that’s magnificently appropriate to its purpose with such breath-taking surroundings. As such, it is a prime example of nature, interior design and architecture working together in perfect harmony.