Situated just above Dubrovnik old town, the hotel was originally built in the 1890s by Barn Viktor Kachberg, President of a Trieste steamship company. Then called The Grand Hotel Imperial, it was in fact the first Dubrovnik hotel to offer modern equipment such as electric lighting, steam central heating and an electric lift, and proved an instant hit with the winter season tourist market.
This tremendous success continued throughout the early 20th century – when the hotel served the great Mediterranean cruise liners docking in Dubrovnik, and for many more decades until the property was shelled during the Yugoslav Wars in the early 1990s. The property sadly sustained considerable damage from direct hits and mortar explosions, and didn’t return to active life until 2005.
Despite undergoing major refurbishment before its re-opening in 2005, the hotel’s interior design was not the principal focus of efforts, and needed a complete overhaul by the time Goddard Littlefair was first commissioned towards the end of 2016.
“Our inspiration” Martin Goddard comments, ‘lay in bringing back the romance of the hotel’s former glories and layering glamour into each individual space by means of a Riviera palette, soft detailing, a 1920s yachting influence and a subtle evocation of the hotel’s original elegance, whilst at the same time balancing that with clean and contemporary lines.”
Guests enter the hotel via a metal revolving door into a spacious double-heigh reception. Instantly soothing, the space features tall, arched windows and cool ceramic flooring in a bespoke two-tone diamond pattern inspired by the old stone streets of the city.
“Our inspiration lay in bringing back the romance of the hotel’s former glories and layering glamour into each individual space by means of a Riviera palette, soft detailing, a 1920s yachting influence and a subtle evocation of the hotel’s original elegance"
A spectacular central chandelier, designed by Jana Novakovic, Interior Designer at Goddard Littlefair, and manufactured by Croatian lighting company, Dekor, acts as the visual centrepiece here. The chandelier is made up of 11 sculptural, globe-shaped and antiqued brass lights, each individual pendant light housing seven fluted, ribbed glass tubes, concealing the bulbs, with the ribbed glass treatment used matching seven bespoke vertical wall lights in the reception’s waiting area.
The ceilings in the reception feature newly-instated decorative mouldings, whilst the walls are clad in inset dove-grey panels at the upper level, with feature areas of moulded timber panelling at ground floor level, located around and behind the reception desk and also enclosing the lobby waiting area opposite, where huge-scale arched windows – technically at first floor level – flood the space with natural light.
A bespoke, three-person reception desk is to the left of entry, featuring a Carrara marble top and dark-stained timber panelling to the front, matching the wall panelling behind, with sculptural brass desktop lights by Dekor at each end. Behind the desk, set within timber-panelled wall surround, is a triptych of artworks by Croatian artist Antonia Čačić, specially-commissioned for the project by the scheme’s art consultants, ARTIQ. The 3m-long abstract triptych incorporates a palette of soft hues inspired by the colours of the Dalmatian coast.
The lobby waiting zone opposite includes a standalone concièrge desk and an array of loose furniture, all bespoke-designed by Goddard Littlefair, as with all the furniture in the scheme, which was manufactured in Croatia by Internova.
Two sofas and four armchairs – which introduce elements of the overall colour palette in a series of gentle blues, off-whites and soft pink upholstery – have been arranged over a bespoke rug from Brinton’s in a faded blue and white pattern with a blue surround. The sofas feature arms with elaborate spindles in ebonised timber, whilst a number of low tables of different sizes feature Carrara marble tops with brass detailing and legs.
Directly opposite the main entrance, to the far side of the reception, is a dramatic archway leading to the ground floor of the hotel. The arch is internally-clad in panels of antiqued mirroring, which are also used for two window spaces on the internal wall of reception. The arch leads up a 10-step stair, with a curving brass handrail, to the main circulation corridor.
To the right of the corridor are the main public areas, whilst to the left are a stair lobby down to the lower-ground floor, where a ballroom, suite of meeting rooms and the hotel’s existing restaurant, Porat are located, all forming part of a phase three 2019/2020 redesign by Goddard Littlefair (along with an outdoor terrace, winter garden and extension to the Lobby Lounge terrace).
"Upon entering The Lobby Lounge, the eye is immediately drawn to a striking bespoke chandelier made by Imagin. Inspired by 1950s bathing caps, it features white porcelain petal shapes set on a brass framework"
Goddard Littlefair has created three striking new public spaces for the hotel in the form of The Lobby Lounge, The Imperial Bar and the members-only Executive Lounge.
Upon entering The Lobby Lounge, the eye is immediately drawn to a striking bespoke chandelier made by Imagin. Inspired by 1950s bathing caps, it features white porcelain petal shapes set on a brass framework.
The ceiling in The Lobby Lounge area is painted white with new added decorative mouldings. The right-side wall is painted a pale shade of blue, as are the inner arches of the French doors that line the wall and open out on the terrace. Pole-hung curtains line the French doors in off-white, with a blue leading edge.
The spaces feature three zoned seating arrangements, demarcated by individual rugs in blues and whites with a touch of coral, in a take on an antique Persian rug, set on top of timber chevron flooring that runs through the entire space. The three rugs were designed by Goddard Littlefair and made by Brintons.
Each seating zone features a table, with a Carrara marble top and either fine brass legs or a more substantial dark-timber pedestal, and each has a different seating arrangement. Chairs at both the end-of-room set-ups are scoop-back armchairs in a blue-grey velvet with a woven pale grey fabric back, whilst the central chairs are all in grey with a contrasting dark blue piped edging and antiqued brass studs.
Sofas are in upholstered in a linen fabric, whilst scatter cushions are either in blue with contrast piping or else in blue or rust, introduced here in small doses for contrast, with a central textile-design panel. A number of higher tables for dining line the inside wall of the space, in Carrara marble and brass, with peacock blue velvet-upholstered ‘shell’ design chairs with ebonised timber legs.
The Imperial Bar, located at the far end of the space, is demarcated by a stand-out brass surround screen, featuring brass shelving and fretwork panels set within its side arches and across its top section, where LED lights are also concealed. The screen was manufactured, along with all joinery, mouldings, case goods and furniture on the project by Internova.
The brass screen was also specially-designed to house a spectacular art piece – a second commission by Croatian artist Antonia Čačić, which sits at the centre of the screen.
The bar itself is curved, with a Carrara marble top and a patterned, mosaic bar front, also in Carrara marble with inset brass detailing. Seven bespoke bar stools have a brass frame and seat backs, with pads in ribbed, sand-coloured leather.
Immediately beyond The Lobby Lounge and The Imperial Bar is the 88 square metre Executive Lounge, a further long and slim space, with entry through a double door. Hilton grades its rooms as standard, executive or suites and The Executive Lounge is for the exclusive use of guests who have booked executive rooms or suites.
The Executive Lounge features a refurbished white ceiling and applied mouldings to the walls, with inset panels in a rattan wallcovering from Phillip Jeffries. Flooring, for the upper two thirds of the space, is an inset carpet with a timber outer layer and brass trim from Ulster Carpets. Two gilded mirrors at the far end are by Water Gilders, with a small salon-hang arrangement of art between the mirrors, once again curated by ARTIQ.
Bespoke tables run along the far end and down both sides of the room, with table tops featuring two different designs in Carrara and Nero Marquina marble, with ebonised timber pedestals. Bespoke seating includes three sofa seats below the antiqued mirrors in a peacock-blue velvet with ribbed scroll backs, with chairs opposite featuring a pale blue leather seat pad, a dark timber frame and a cane back.
A long, thin island credenza runs down the centre of the space, with timber ribbing and brass detail shadow gap, a Carrara marble top and integrated timber trays, accessorised by a small terrarium of succulent plants set beneath bell jars, as well as a number of books and geometric objects of interest.
Table lamps here have a brass stand and ribbed ivory shades. Armchairs to either side feature a dark timber frame and caramel leather upholstery, whilst small accompanying incidental tables have a Carrara marble and timber top with criss-cross brass and bronze legs.
Above the central credenza is the room’s major lighting feature – a four-part brass ring chandelier with crystal elements and inset LED lights, bespoke-designed by Goddard Littlefair and made by Northern Lights.
The final major feature in the room is an almost sculptural communal table in marble and timber, with striking brass supports, located at the bottom end of the room. The bespoke-designed piece has softened deco cues and is accompanied by bar stools in caramel leather and dark timber, with dark brass feet and circular footrest supports.
The hotel’s guest accommodation incorporates an Imperial Suite, as well as eight further suites and 149 executive and standard rooms.
The interior design throughout the accommodation is light and fresh in feel, with classical clean lines and a refined and elegant colour palette of blues and silvers, plus the sparing use of pale pinks.
The flooring here is a natural light oak, supplied by a local company in Dubrovnik and arranged in a herringbone pattern, while each room features a bespoke Axminster rug from Brintons. In terms of artwork, the guest rooms feature a combination of prints by Raul Perčič and another local artist, Branka Ridicki.
The beds feature full-height panelled headboards with the panels arranged in a single ‘bird’s beak’ pattern, with a blue-painted frame and upholstered in a soft gold silk-linen. The bedside tables are oval-shaped, in dark-stained timber with a timber top and drawer, along a laminate body in grey with a linen texture and timber plinth.
Lastly, The Imperial Suite offers a living room, dining room, bedroom and bathroom, and profits from views over the town’s famous old fort and the sea. There are subtle differences to the standard rooms, including a marble-print fabric for the wall-lights, for example, and headboards with a padded chevron treatment in a light blue faux leather and a brass trim between the upholstery and the framing timber surround.
All the suites also have sofas, upholstered in a very light off-white linen-type material with arms that splay outwards and a long and loose back cushion. Armchairs in the suites are slipper-style. upholstered in duck-egg blue velvet with a contrast trim.
Lighting within the suites includes four-armed chandeliers, suspended on a chain, with a linen shade. A table lamp has a faux-leather wrapped brown base, a linen shade and a contrast trim to the top and bottom in dark brown.
Photography by Gareth Gardner