June 24, 2009

A conversation with hotel designer Olga Polizzi, Rocco Forte Collection

Olga Polizzi, director of design for the Rocco Forte Collection, is the creative mind behind many of our favorite international hotels, including Hotel de Russie in Rome, Brown’s Hotel in London, and Hotel Astoria in St. Petersburg. Olga works closely with her brother, famed hotelier Sir Rocco Forte. We recently spoke with her about travel, design, and what inspires her.

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Q: Which country has an aesthetic that you are particularly drawn to?
A: I suppose it’s always Italy, with its vibrant color and beautiful designs.

Q:  What are your favorite cities?
A: I have always loved Rome–beautiful buildings, shops and restaurants. Also Berlin, which is a young, exciting city full of artists and unexpected bars and clubs.

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Q. Where do you live?
A: In the center of London near Marble Arch and Hyde Park.

Q: Tell us about how your home is decorated. What are your favorite items?
A: I have just redone my house for the first time in 25 years and it has been agony.  I can make up my mind quickly when it comes to designing a hotel, but I am full of indecision when it comes to my own house.  My house was an eclectic mix, a jumble of things that I had bought through the years, but I have swept it all away and gone for a very contemporary clean look (not sure I like it!).  I have kept a very few favorites: a large carved and gilded table, a large Ziegler carpet, some statues, my books and a few good paintings.

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Q: Where do you want to vacation next?
A: The Verdura Golf and Spa Resort in Sicily, our latest and most ambitious venture. There is nothing like it in Europe. It is beautiful architecturally and environmentally, and it is right on the beach with an enormous pool and spa.  I’m going there with my daughters when it opens on July 15th.

Q: What is your most proud accomplishment?
A: I haven’t done the perfect job yet.  I always get something wrong.  There is always the next one…

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Q: What are you reading these days?
A: Roger Scruton’s England: An Elegy. A wonderful evocation of the country we have lost.

Q: What was it like growing up with your brother? Do you have any favorite childhood memories?
A: We are a large family, 5 girls and Rocco.  He and I are the closest in age and he would tie a pillow to my solar plexus and use me as a punching bag to practice for his boxing matches at school!

Q: What do you do on a typical weekend?
A: Go to our house in Sussex, lie in bed as long as I dare and look out at the beautiful white roses growing outside my window. Go for long walks, garden a little, and cook a little.

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Q: We’re fascinated by the fact that monks still reside in your new Prague hotel, The Augustine–a  converted monastery. Tell us more.
A: The Augustine was a wonderful project.  Prague is a beautiful city and it was fun going there often.  The hotel is an old monastery, some of it dating from the 13th century with a church and cloisters attached. Seven monks still live in part of the monastery and are intrigued by what we have done.

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Q: What are your favorite places in Sicily? Your most memorable meal there?
A: Agrigento, where the Greek temples are, is a stunning town. Also, Syracuse and much, much more.  The wines are delicious, the food is different, and the people are very welcoming.  While I have been working at the resort putting the final touches together I eat nearly every day at a local restaurant–a shack right on the beach–it is very simple but they have very good pastas and fresh fish.  At the Verdura Golf and Spa Resort we will have the best of Sicily’s delicious authentic cooking and excellent local wines.

Q: What types of local products do you consider a “must buy” in Prague and Sicily?
A: Prague is not a foodie place but is renowned for its glass. Sicily has olive oil, marmalades, olives and very good fish.  It also has some interesting jewelry made of salt coral and attractive pottery.

Q: Do you have a favorite Rocco Forte hotel? If so, why?
A: It’s difficult to say, but perhaps Hotel Savoy in Florence because it is small and perfectly formed and because it is easy to get to know the city.

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Q: When you travel, is there something in particular you always like to buy in each place?
A: I buy less and less. In the old days I collected 18th century glass tankards and silver boxes, and many small bits and pieces. Now I only buy if it is something I am really looking for and the best I can afford.

Destinations:  Central Europe, Czech Republic, England, Germany, Italy, Russia, Sicily

Tags:  Berlin, Brown's, collecting, design, Hotel Astoria, Hotel de Russie, hotelier, hotels, interior design, interiors, London, luxury, luxury hotels, Olga Polizzi, Prague, Rocco Forte, Rome, shopping, Sir Rocco Forte, style, travel, Verdura Golf & Spa Resort