How to Decorate like a 5 Star Boutique Hotel

Individual, international details for winning results

Italy - Tuscany

Colour-washed walls and natural light abound

There is an exquisite feeling of luxury and relaxation when a space has been designed with particular care. Jeanette Thottrup is the mind and hand behind the decoration of Borgo Santo Pietro, a 5 star boutique hotel in a remote area of Tuscany.

Jeanette’s approach is to design quality without formality to create a place in which you can feel at home. Although sadly nothing like the homes that most of us live in, we can pick up a few decorating tips from Borgo Santo Pietro in order to bring that five-star feeling into our everyday lives.

The style at Borgo Santo Pietro might best be described as “modern Baroque”. While Baroque is traditionally dark, heavy and overdone, Thottrup takes the best parts – opulence, patterning and grandeur – and makes it surprisingly homey. Each common area, bedroom or suite on the property features different décor, responding to the light, shape and overall creative idea behind the space. The owner’s very personal style, one she’s applied to other properties as well, shines through all the spaces

Keep it light

Light colours and textured bedspreads

Light colours and textured bedspreads

Thottrup is not afraid of dark, bold colours, but the structure of her spaces begins with light, neutral shades combined with plenty of natural light, or well-controlled artificial lighting for the evening. Although most of the rooms are essentially rebuilt – the original structure was not in great shape – the walls are rarely painted a solid colour, but are given a mottled effect through colour-washing and sometimes antiquating textures to create an effect that is both time-worn yet newly-cleaned.

“Using gentle neutral tones throughout gives a timeless elegant feel in-keeping with the original architectural features of the villa. Natural, fresh tones of of white, creams and greys are used on the walls, which compliment the vaulted ceilings, wood beams, open fireplaces and architectural stonework,” explains the owner.

One trick we learned at Borgo Santo Pietro is that getting the right tone of white, beige or grey is important. The rooms here are welcoming and warm, but they don’t always use warm colours per se. Tuscan yellow and warm beiges are nowhere to be found; rather, the more French Provincial tones of white and warm grey dominate, even in rooms that preserve wooden-coloured beams.

Mix and match

Patterns mix and match

Patterns mix and match

Although Borgo Santo Pietro intends to evoke the deep history of this 13th century villa, not all the antiques and modern pieces on the property were sourced in Italy. Thottrup explains that she finds mixing pieces from France and England with those from Italy creates a less austere effect.

Although Grandma always warned against it, mixing patterns can be done with success when you work with a common colour, alternate size or type of pattern, and spread it across a large space. The sitting area of a suite at Borgo Santo Pietro looks airy with a Persian rug and tapestried chair in red tones thanks to a neutral coloured couch and tiles.

The logic is explained by the hotel’s owner, who declares: “Using heavily patterned fabrics, luxurious furnishings and sumptuous textiles gives an interior a richness and softens the appearance of a space. By introducing interesting pieces such as antique sofas and chaise-longues you can add bold colours, textured fabrics and eye-catching decorative details. If you keep the main colour scheme of the walls, floors and ceilings simple you can then introduce bold and vibrant ‘statement pieces’ that give the room a wow factor.”

Fabric friends

Fabric contrasts in curtains

Fabric contrasts in curtains

Pattern does not have to be colourful: Thottrup makes excellent use of damask and discreet woven fabrics in white-on-white or combined neutrals. For example, the heavy cotton summer bedspreads respond to the play of light and add a luxurious texture to any room.

Fabric plays a strong role at Borgo Santo Pietro, framing views through heavy curtains, plumping sofas and beds with ample pillows, even surprising the chilly visitor with a thoughtful throw blanket. “Combining different fabrics gives a depth of interest: we have used natural linens, cool cottons and sheer voiles alongside richer fabrics such as velvets and damasks to finish each suite in a unique way.”

Two take-home tricks can be learned from how curtains are used. The always double curtains provide privacy or darkness. The privacy curtain need not be a simple white – a paisley pattern in a matching neutral tone might complement the heavier drape. As for the heavy fabric, invest in volume! While potentially not fun to clean in our own homes, the lengthy curtains that pool on the ground exude a sense of luxurious relaxation.

Surprising details

The "key" detail

The “key” detail

When you get your room key at Borgo Santo Pietro, it’s brought to you on a little carved wooden tray, and it’s decorated with a traditional, heavy tassle. You’ll find more of these around on antique keys and holding back curtains. It’s a little touch that makes you think “wow, they’ve even thought hard about the keys”. Decorating is not about covering every surface, but about thinking where you might enjoy an additional visual or tactile element.

Another surprise awaits you in the bathroom. Even in boutique hotels, there seems to be an expectation that bathrooms be functional spaces, while here, the bathroom is transformed into a mini-spa, a place to relax and to breathe in the fragrances of the pomegranate line of bath products by Officina Santa Maria Novella, or of the soft towels themselves. A claw-footed tub, a cozy window seat… Incorporating some of these elements into our own homes would surely increase well-being.

Bathroom supplies with a classy touch

Bathroom supplies with a classy touch

On details, Thottrup provides numerous useful tips, and the best thing is that it doesn’t cost a fortune to implement them! “Details are crucial when designing an interior. For example, we have used large-scale calligraphy to decorate walls with beautiful and inspiring quotations which gives a unique and eye-catching decorative feature to the room. Lighting completes a space and we have sourced stunning chandeliers from around the world and every suite features decorative and luxurious lighting fixtures. Finishing touches that make an interior really come-together include scent, sound and sculpture. Room scents and perfumed candles give a room a unique personality, and by adding original artwork or one-off pieces of sculpture you can create an inviting and elegant living space. Finally, the ambience of a space can be further enhanced by the introduction of sound, be it in the form of beautiful background music, the crackling of a real log fire or the sound of a fountain in the garden beyond.”

Take your time

Restoring Borgo Santo Pietro from a run-down farmhouse to the fantastic villa it is today took seven years, and the work isn’t done yet. The property is constantly expanding, improvements are being made to the garden, and new objects keep arriving from the Thottrups’ world travels to find a new home somewhere around the Tuscan property.

“I love to travel and enjoy visiting different countries, I draw inspiration from artisan furniture makers from many different cultures and have picked up beautiful ideas from around the world. Morocco for example is overflowing with colour and texture. I also spend time at antique and art fairs in France, England and Italy where pickup unique original pieces of furniture and accessories.”

Sometimes spaces are planned with a statue or other ornament in mind, but the piece arrives later, when the owners find what they were looking for, or the right artisans to make it.

Your hotel

To make the most of this neighbourhood, stay at the boutique hotel, Borgo Santo Pietro, Siena Tuscany

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