Theatre of ToneThe design of Hotel Sanders
"Our brief was to create a hotel that had an international feel, while simultaneously feeling like Alexander’s home – we wanted the interior to look like a lifetime’s worth of collecting. But equally we wanted the space to feel calm and assured in its identity."
Just under three years ago, Pernille Lind, then a designer for Soho House, received a phone call from the Danish ballet dancer Alexander Kølpin who had spotted her on LinkedIn. Full of enthusiasm, Alexander explained his grand plans for the hotel he was about to buy on Copenhagen’s Tordenskjoldsgade, and asked if Pernille would be interested in helping him realise the vision. ‘I pitched a few ideas to check that our styles aligned and realised that we were on the same page’ says Pernille. She got in touch with architect Richy Almond, who she had met a few years before when they were both working at Anouska Hempel, and asked if he’d work on the project with her.
The London-based pair joined forces as Lind + Almond, and set to work transforming the space into Hotel Sanders (so-called, because it’s Alexander’s nickname). Before they could start work on the interior, they had to completely gut the three townhouses and replace the rotten beams. The finished result is an elegant and layered 54-room hotel, with a bar, meeting rooms, and cafe. Even if it wasn’t their first project together, it would be an impressive feat, and I was intrigued to find out more about how they designed the space and their design philosophies.
CEREAL: Alexander obviously had a vision right from the start about how he wanted Hotel Sanders to look. How involved was he in the design? What did you want to achieve through the design?
PL: The design of the hotel really was a three-way conversation between Richy, Alexander, and me. Our brief was to create a hotel that had an international feel, while simultaneously feeling like Alexander’s home – we wanted the interior to look like a lifetime’s worth of collecting. But equally we wanted the space to feel calm and assured in its identity. We wanted the interior to transport guests to another time, but one that you couldn’t quite pinpoint. Alexander was great to work with, because he has a wonderful knowledge of art, print, and patterns.
RA: Initially, our challenge was to listen to Alexander’s great many inspirations and to curate them into a singular, coherent direction. Other than the beautiful façade, there were no real period features internally which we could retain, so we had to create the character from scratch.
PL: We didn’t want there to be any statement pieces; instead we wanted to pull together various elements that worked as a coherent ensemble.
CEREAL: Hotel Sanders is just across the street from the Royal Danish Theatre and is surrounded by galleries and museums. How did its location in the heart of Copenhagen’s cultural centre influence the design?
RA: We felt a great responsibility to the location, and we wanted to ground the hotel in its context. It could not be alien to Copenhagen, so we referenced Danish mid-century modern design in the furnishings of the guest rooms.
PL: We sourced some of the furniture from Klassik in Copenhagen, which sells beautiful mid-century pieces. The three colours for the bedrooms – a sage green, a dusty blue, and a rust red – were inspired by colours found in the nearby National Museum of Denmark, and we also created dado rails with paint, based on those that you often see in Copenhagen’s fire escapes. We wanted to reference Copenhagen through the smallest details too – we designed scalloped grills to cover the air conditioning units and radiators, which were inspired by the ones seen on air vents in the city.
CEREAL: While the design may reference Copenhagen, it doesn’t quite match the pared-back minimalism that we often associate with Scandinavia. You’ve included elements that reflect English, French, Italian, and Asian styles, and the pieces you’ve used hark back to many different periods. Why is that?
RA: Alexander didn’t want the hotel to feel typically Danish and we pulled in elements from all over the world to give the hotel a worldly and layered feel. We wanted to reference spaces, atmospheres, and details of previous eras, which really speak to us, and also introduce a contemporary twist.
PL: We weren’t trying to recreate a specific era through the furnishings – it is a mishmash of the 30s, 50s and 70s. My family moved around a lot when I was younger, so I ended up living in Saudi Arabia, Thailand, as well as in Denmark. My mother had an antique shop in Thailand, so I grew up surrounded by incredible Asian furniture and art. The wicker headboards that we designed for Hotel Sanders remind me of that time in my life.
CEREAL: The headboards are one of the many bespoke pieces that you made for Hotel Sanders. Why did you decide to design so many bespoke pieces and can you say a bit more about the process?
PL: The design for the headboard was inspired by an image of a console table from the 50s that we found – we loved the rounded edge. We used bespoke items, because we liked the idea of people not knowing where anything is from and having an experience that was out of the ordinary. So often a piece of furniture or lighting by a well known designer can completely over shine a space and we didn’t want that. Bespoke pieces also tend to withstand time much better, and it’s a way to avoid trends – I really dislike the idea of trends.
RA: I run a small furniture design and manufacturing studio in the north east of England called Novocastrian, and this came in useful for the stone and metal items, such as the bathroom mirrors and marble sides. It is a long process though – the pieces require so much refinement before they are right.
CEREAL: At Hotel Sanders, the tiniest details, such as finishes, have been given real thought. Is it all about the detail for you?
PL: Yes. We have an insane strive for detail. The spaces we create are so connected with human interaction, and we always want to give the eye something new to spot, so the space must provide continuous experience. But the detail also matters in terms of the functionality of pieces. Nowadays, everyone is so trained to do concepts that they often forget to make sure that the pieces actually work in the space. For us, this is important: The seat height must work with the table, for example. The visual and physical experiences must align.