Hotel Maria Cristina, San Sebastian, Spain
Monday 14 Jan 2013


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The beautiful Hotel Maria Cristina in San Sebastian has been returned to life by HBA London. Named after Spain's revered Queen Consort Maria Cristina, the hotel has been the darling of the glamorous set since the 1953 debut of the International San Sebastian Film Festival.

There are soaring ceilings, intricate mouldings, marble pillars and a polished grey and white Carrara marble floor, in the reception area. Silver silk curtains frame the passageways, and behind the reception desk, a padded leather wall and an oversized painting of Maria Cristina form an elegant introduction. However, since the lobby area is small, HBA has extended the lounge space into the neighbouring corridors, with seating nooks next to arched glass doorways. Pale velvets, ecru leather on plush lounge chairs, and cerise accents all add cosy warmth beneath a procession of crystal chandeliers. A library with mahogany bookshelves has also been added along the corridors to form a relaxed business centre. On the walls, paintings of seascapes and Belle Époque figures mix with contemporary art, while collections of mirrors reflect the glamorous décor.

The hotel bar, Dry, has been transformed into a stylish venue for guests. The existing décor was revived to carefully blend the old with the new. The walls are now a soft powder blue and bronze offset by cool white trim, a rosette patterned wool carpet, and leather chairs whose backs have been hand stitched with the hotel's insignia. A crystal chandelier, wall lights with coffee coloured silk shades, and mirrors enliven the ambiance. Dry's signature image is a photograph of Bette Davis who, according to legend, smoked her last cigarette there before passing away.  

The Maria Cristina's 136 guestrooms and suites are dressed in a pastel palette. Plush headboards are framed in white painted mouldings which trace a curvaceous outline and play upon the rooms' Art Nouveau detailing. Shapely velvet longues perch upon wool carpets embellished with a pattern of finely intertwined tendrils. The five-fixture bathrooms don a classical black and white style; striped curtains surround the tub, a pendant light formed from bronze leaves, and glass tables all inspire a comfortable, residential feel. In the private WC, the original Carrara marble lining the walls was retained, and blends perfectly with new marbles of the tub's ebony surround and the top of the timber vanity counter. A round backlit mirror and silver tones help complete the sophisticated aura.

Every floor celebrates inspiring women from different decades, starting with the 1910s on the first level and rising to the 1950s on the fifth storey. Guests are greeted in the entry hall of each suite by a "walk of fame" with photos and quotes honouring the illustrious stars and beauties who visited the hotel during the recalled era. The Art Nouveau décor and elegantly curved walls of the living room embrace guests as they linger by the antique marble framed fireplace. The fifth floor rooftop suite is decked-out with its own full-blown fascination with the Fifties. This suite celebrates the shared qualities of the Belle Époque and the 1950s, when feminine glamour was explored and cherished as the West moved from austerity to prosperity. Its walls are hung with large format black and white photographs of alluring models who were synonymous with leading European couturiers such as Dior and Chanel and had their images splashed across the pages of 1950s Vogue magazines. As a hotel which has welcomed many of these fashion houses' spokeswomen as guests over the years, the Maria Cristina reminds us that, as Grace Kelly astutely proclaimed, "women can do anything they decide to do."