W Hotels is set to make its mark on Hungary’s capital in July 2023 with the opening of W Budapest. Ahead of the launch, the brand has unveiled the physical, historical and social inspirations behind the hotel’s design.

Housed in Drechsler Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the building has been restored and transformed by interior designers at Bowler James Brindley and Hungary-based Bánáti + Hartvig, who drew inspiration from the palace’s rich cultural history and past identities as a café, social hub and Hungarian State Ballet Academy.

The soon-to-open hotel will comprise 151 guestrooms and suites, as well as a destination bar, restaurant, W Lounge and Away Spa – all influenced by Budapest’s history and diversity. 

The design of the hotel brings together the two sides of the city, Buda and Pest, which have inspired a “second ski” design narrative for the new hotel – an intriguing interplay between materials in every location. From soft layering and alluring oversized archways to the use of metallic meshing to create depth and intrigue in guestrooms, the second skin aesthetic has been used to create spaces with unique depth.

A Loire Valley-inspired French Renaissance architectural aesthetic will feature throughout the reimagined hotel, mirroring icons from the city such as the Hungarian State Opera House, the Széchenyi Baths and neighbouring buildings on Andrássy Avenue. The design language has been playfully modernised within the hotel, which features stained glass and a rich colour palette of green, coral and deep blues, alongside a contemporary twist on Zsolnay tiles, jewellery-inspired light fittings and decorative motifs.

W Budapest Guestroom Interiors

Renovating W Budapest

In transforming Drechsler Palace into W Budapest, designers maintained and rejuvenated many of the property’s original features. The inner courtyard, at the heart of the building, is newly-enclosed by a delicate, veil-like glass roof to protect the space from the elements. The fifth floor’s wood-centric design is sympathetic to the Palace’s original roof design, while a speakeasy breathes new life into the Palace’s underground bar, paying homage to the eclectic characters that frequented the space in its past life.     

“When we started the project, we were presented with a rich feast of inspirations from which the various narratives were born. One of which was Hungary’s famous exports, Harry Houdini, and his life’s work inspired our ‘grand illusion’ design narrative. We have used mirrors in creative ways throughout the hotel to create optical illusions on ceilings, walls and floors, allowing Harry Houdini’s legacy to live on through W Budapest’s illusionary aesthetic,” said Bowler James Brindley. “Zsa Zsa Gabor, another celebrated Hungarian who was at the vanguard of introducing European sophistication to Hollywood in the 1940s, has also been celebrated through playful touches of retro glamour.”

Cultural Inspiration

Houdini’s inspiration comes to life at the hotel’s spa, where hidden doors, mirrors and water features create an intimate space. A lounge takes centre stage, inspired by the thermal baths that Budapest is famed for and shrouded in traditional tiles and gold mesh, fusing the historic side of the city with the modernity of W Hotels.

A further influence on the hotel’s design is ballet, which has long been an integral part of Hungary’s cultural scene – the hotel itself once housed the State Ballet Institute. The interior subtly celebrates ballet through soft pink hues, curved lines and bold lighting installations, while the “ballet etoile” aesthetic peaks in the all-black Extreme Wow suite and all-white Wow suite, which both take inspiration from Swan Lake. 

Additionally, the hotel nods to the city’s famous love of chess through the unexpected appearance of chequer board patterns, monochrome tiled marble flooring, a chess board-inspired ceiling mirror in the W Lounge, guestrooms that feature black and white tiled walls and recesses, and lamps which emulate chess pieces.

W Budapest Hotel Bathroom

A Touch of Art

Artwork throughout the hotel has been dreamt up by Adam Ellis Studio, ranging from a tapestry trio of Hungarian mythological creatures made from grass cloth to gold metallic artwork detailing Houdini’s famed aviary of tropical birds. 

The Wow suites are adorned in a bespoke wallpaper intended to transport guests to the adjacent Hungarian Opera House, visible from both rooms. Inspired by its grand ceiling fresco, the immersive space displays scenes of Greek gods playing musical instruments, accented with delicate metallic touches. In the bathrooms, sea creatures shimmer through delicate aquatic botanicals, complemented by static framed art pieces in a monochrome palette which depict all the accoutrements for a night at the theatre.


See more from W Hotels and Bowler James Brindley on Sleepifier

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