Hotel Colón Gran Meliá, Seville, Spain
After first opening its majestic doors in 1929, this Andalucian treasure was in much need of a revamp. Nearly 100 years on, it got exactly that, coming out shinier than ever.
Hotel Majestic, as it was originally known as when it welcomed its first guests in 1929, was then one of the most luxurious hotels in all of Spain. Becoming the ‘it’ spot for celebrities at the time, everyone from Picasso, Dali, Ava Gardner and the local famous matadors frequenting here. But over time, the ‘red velvet hell’ intimidated locals and prevented them from coming in. It therefore became interior designer Álvaro Sans’s mission to replace this intense bullfighter’s cape red – which doesn’t really represent the city – with a more modern and sophisticated look that would return the hotel to its former glory.
Sans and his team completed that mission in October 2021, churning out a whole new look for the hotel’s public areas and new F&B additions. The look is inspired by both the hotel and Seville’s colourful and varied past without feeling crowded or confused. Spain’s different cultures and influences of yesterday marry seamlessly with the modern, sophisticated and fashionable backdrop of today.
For instance, strolling through the corridors is like a visit to the Museum of Fine Arts (which is incidentally just around the corner); each door has been given a bespoke wallpaper covering depicting scenes from Spain’s most famous and treasures paintings. Chunky golden frames and matching wall-mounted picture lights completes the illusion of each door looking like a famous painting and with iconic work from Diego Velazquez and Francisco Goya to El Greco and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, each floor is an extravagant display of top-drawer artists from the Spanish Golden Age.
The doors form a stark contrast to the corridor’s cream walls and dark carpets. Entering from the lifts, you are met with a floor-to-ceiling column, draped in a dark fringe, leading your eyes to the wavy ceiling shape, framed by a warm LED-lit glow. The old-meets-new is playful and sophisticated all at once.
Other nods to the county’s past can be seen throughout the hotel, especially with hints to Spain’s Muslim heritage. The south of Spain is heavily influenced by north-African architecture and culture from a time when Spain was a Muslim country – this is apparent in large palaces such as the spectacular Alhambra in nearby Granada or the Royal Alcázar in Seville. Patterns, tile prints, artefacts and ceramics seen in these palaces are represented in details all around: prints on cushions and mirrors; in tiles handed out at the restaurant for guests to scan the QR code giving access to the digital menus; in the pattern of the striking rug on the entrance staircase; and figurines on display in the library.
Additionally, other cultures and stories from the city’s vibrant heritage are referenced in the design decisions. Influences from the Seville’s gypsy community of flamenco, matadors and ceramics meet the modern and fashion-minded Seville of today. For example, the traditional matador costumes and flamenco outfits are one of many traditional artefacts displayed on shelves behind the check-in desk. The desk itself is made of a massive slab of Andalusian Macael white marble, lowered to a sitting level, inviting guests to sit down and relax while the check-in process takes place.
Welcoming visitors inside became a central part of the new design scheme, by the way. This is why a brand-new central bar was put in to form the focal point for anyone arriving up the grand staircase. El Bar del Colón features a ceramic counter by renowned ceramist Isabel Pariente, and it recalls the colours of the magnificent dome overlooking it. The art nouveau glass dome, made up of thousands of coloured crystals, still feels like the beating heart of the hotel, but is emphasised by the addition of the bar underneath it, mirroring its circular shape.
We asked Álvaro Sans about the decision of focusing on the bar as a focal point. “The bar is the heart of the hotel, so we placed it in the centre. We love how, since the hotel’s reopening, it has become a meeting place for our guests but also for the locals, the Sevillians themselves – this was our ultimate goal.”
Some of the velvet elements that existed in the old design have been retained in the bar and lobby, but a gentle olive green replaces the intense reds; on the walls in wide, vertical ripple folds and in the upholstery of the bar stools. The green much better represents Seville as a city – from olives to orange trees to the lush countryside of the Andalucian mountains, explains Sans. “We used olive green throughout the lobby and in the public areas downstairs as a base because it identifies with the city of Seville and its Andalusian surrounding countryside,” he says. “Sevillians love the colour and it’s often seen worn in clothing too. Pure red, as the hotel was before, is a colour only used in the bullfighter’s cape in Seville – it is not an emblematic colour for the city unlike olive green, albero, brick red, and indigo blues.”
He continues: “Utilising olive green so significantly with the renovation also mimics the hotel’s beautiful skylight. The ceramics, in this specific olive green colour and with an original Mudejar design, mirrors details of the plasterwork from the world-famous Alhambra in Granada.”
Elsewhere in the lobby and public areas, materials such as solid walnut wood and hydraulic concrete floors are seen throughout, completing the luxurious ambiance.
Other additions include a new library (built to contain pictures and materials from the hotel’s long history, but which is also filled with an eclectic mix of furniture for a “cluttered but calculated” look), as well as a new restaurant serving up casual tapas and local sherries. Burladero remains the hotel’s main restaurant, though, serving up some of the best tapas in town and is a popular spot with tourists and locals alike. On top of that there is also a new and secluded guest lounge, which serves drinks and snacks all day. Deep lounge chairs in marine velvet provide comfort levels, skylights provide brightness and serenity, while a rich Art Nouveau wallpaper depicting giant parrots provide style.
Oh, and we mustn’t forget the top-floor spa by Clarins boasting a gym, sauna and steam room, not to mention the rooftop pool giving epic views of the city. A triangle-shaped infinity pool framed by glass fencing makes for the perfect spot to sip a drink while taking in the cityscape – if you go at sunset, it drapes the skyline in a beautiful, golden haze.
Although it is only the public areas that have been redesigned in this instance, the hotel’s 188 rooms and 24 suites are next in line, to complete the total revamp by 2025. Currently, the rooms are stylish and comfortable, but it will be exciting to see how a refresh can make them match and stand up to the luxurious and sophisticated new image of the public areas. The current room design is by no means poor, mind you. Beds are big and generous, backed by massive gold headboards, while a black-and-white neo-Baroque pattern adorns the tiles in the bathroom and the cupboards.
With its lockdown update, the hotel has truly been restored to its Art Nouveau stardom and is worthy of being one of the very few 5-star hotels in Seville. We cannot wait to return to see the same magic being applied to the rooms…