Stora Hotellet, Umeå
Stylt Trample opened the history books when redesigning the Stora Hotellet. A subtle reminder of the seafaring town’s roots, make way for the new grandest hotel in town. Hamish Kilburn writes…
Once dubbed the grandest hotel in town, the Stora Hotellet owes much of its character to its link with the sea. Established by the Seaman’s Mission, the property has historically been associated Umeå’s long history as an important seafaring centre. It stood magnificently for 167 years, but in 2011 the hotel had lost most of its glamour to shifting trends.
Suitably named Stora Hotellet (‘Grand Hotel’), the property has been rightly renovated to tell a story, separate itself from any other luxury hotels and sit in its grandiose setting to become once again, the finest hotel in town.
The seafaring town of Umeå is a city of about 120,000 people. It has historically been draped in the culture of shipbuilding and sea travel. Ume River’s renovated Gothic arrival takes the story to the heart of the building.
The property was designed in 1892 by local architect Viktor Åstrom. The building housed both the hotel and the Mission’s own offices and accommodation. It was a place where two worlds met. High members of society rubbed shoulders with the captains, sailors and old salts off the ships in the harbour.
Duteous design of Stylt Trampoli is apparent when entering the building of the Stora Hotellet and throughout the entire building. Rough yet defined, the hotel’s uncommon character is has been carefully nurtured in its restoration to resemble what lurks underneath the surface of the sea. Leading hotel designer, Erik Nissen Johanson, Founder and Creative Director of Stylt Trampoli, explains, “Rough yet defined is explored in different ways. I wanted to create a blend between champagne and sea spray. In order to achieve the balance it’s important to decide these things before going ahead with the design.”
The hotel’s ship-like qualities are matched in the aquatic palette that Stylt Trampoli has chosen. Contrasting the calm oceans, the designers have challenged conventions by choosing a more fitting interpretation of its location. Dusky blues and greens reflect the colours of the surrounding Gulf of Bothnia. Moss-green chandeliers juxtapose the emerald-like shine that emulates the bar area, whilst dark mud-like coloured banisters, grey-green hexagonal tiles that are patterned with fossils replicate a sea floor.
A chandelier in the main stairway plexiglass is just one of many examples of how Stylt Trampoli has combined rough yet refined details. It rests three storeys high and is made from rope and glittering plexiglass, resembling a ship’s flogged rigging, strewn with crystals.
The room categories are named from sailor’s preoccupations – Adventure, Longing and Superstition and they range from the plush master suite to the unperturbed ‘berths’ where guests sleep in generously proportioned bunk beds, high up under the eaves of the hotel.
The history of the building itself is at the route of the hotel’s foundation. The original cast-iron bannisters and radiators were excavated and they inspired the hotel’s new logotype. The old headboards have become eccentric panelling in the corridors on the top floor. Timeworn armchairs have been reincarnated and are now draped in soft leather. The master suite, which before was the old ballroom, features the existing wooden-wall panelling. Attention to detail has been meticulously paid in order to make sure that every corner of the hotel follows the same consistent theme. Johanson explains, “The narrative of having the whole shipyard, sea faring inspired property wasn’t an obvious one. It opened up a door [of the hotel’s history] that many didn’t know.”
Subtle reminders of the building’s beginning lie beneath the intricate detailing. The restaurant is called Gotthards. Gotthard Zetterberg was the first manager. Johanson says, “We didn’t know anything about him at first until his family got in contact. They invited us to their home and filled the gaps on Gotthard’s history. He used to be a sailor before working in the hotel. He was the chef on-board. So we felt it was fitting to name the renovated restaurant after him. He was extremely generous and was known for giving out free drinks in order for the sailors to continue telling their stories.”
One of the most domineering features of the hotel is located on the third floor. The attic staircase makes the most of the space its come from. Inspired by driftwood, the designers took what was left in the attic and integrated the wreckage into a deep collaboration of different-toned wood, which leads to a novel route up to the top floor. It is intended to look like a hoard of old furniture cascading down through a hole in the ceiling. “Continuing the rough yet defined theme, the staircase becomes a driftwood staircase. It’s rough yet elegant. I think it’s a balance. I think it’s important to decide these things before going ahead with the design,” says Johanson. The staircase is another example of how the Stylt Trampoli twisted convention on its head to generate guests’ imagination within the wonders of Stora Hotellet.