Although The Curated Object typically focuses on the decorative arts, design exhibitions and the curatorial processes, philosophies, and cultural phenomena that surround them, we asked acclaimed design writer and globetrotter Saxon Henry to think about what curated traveling might mean in a time when every hotel claims to be a purveyor of luxury, taste, beauty and bliss. When every hotel could feasibly purchase “style” with an ample enough budget and access to designer everything, what else ought an experience within the confines of temporary shelter bring to a traveler, and why? What kind of experience does the totality of a hotel like the 21c Museum Hotel or, in Henry's case, Milan's Hotel Principe di Savoia, bring to its guests? What do the guests bring to the hotel? Henry’s essay explores how the “art of discernment” is the real necessity for meaningful travel because it creates a situation which can lead to authentic exploration, not just participation in an extended infomercial or business plan. As Saxon’s essay suggests, both traveler and locale reveal the dynamic activity that is judgment-- J.Molina
La Dolce Vita
by Saxon Henry
The word discernment has been on my mind lately, especially on the heels of a recent trip to Italy during which I stayed in several luxury properties, including the Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan. Discernment came to mind because having my world touched by a richness of materials, artistry, patterns and hues made me realize how we have given up so much as travelers by accepting that moving around the globe be seen as a necessity rather than a pleasure. Not only are we jammed into smaller and smaller seats on planes, trains and automobiles, we’ve become accustomed to disposable or easily maintainable accoutrements in our overnight settings that lack charm and grace.
The sensuous pleasure I felt as I strolled through the statuesque spaces or nestled into my pretty room transcended the grand gestures such as the granite-clad lobby, which has welcomed a storied roster of guests that include Elizabeth Taylor, Maria Callas, the Prince of Monaco and Rudolf Nureyev; or the beautiful moiré silk panels on the walls in my suite. The small touches delighted me as much—the sexy martini glasses in the fashionable bar, the supple leather desk blotter that held real stationery embossed with the hotel’s crest, and the fine china on which my breakfast was served. These niceties, which are curated carefully to bring a richness to the moments guests experience, are drawn from some of the world’s most renowned luxury manufacturers: Bormioli glassware, which dates back to 1825; Limoges, Bernardaud and Deshoulière porcelain, some of which was created specifically for the hotel; Christofle Ténéré flatware and hollowware; and Coltellerie Berti knives to name a few of the luxe wares.
As I perched on the velveteen pouf in the lobby restaurant Il Salotto one afternoon, I thought about how the past was alive and palpable in the hotel, which dates back to 1927. Though the Principe was recently renovated, the new design by acclaimed architect Thierry Despont maintained the feeling that the backdrop of commanding millwork and dramatic stonework filled with intricate wood marquetry, glittering Venetian glass and sumptuous fabrics recalled a more glamorous time. That doesn’t mean the atmosphere was dated—just ask the model-thin guest rushing through the lobby in her jeans, mink vest and riding boots carrying a Dolce & Gabbana shopping bag! It means that I felt I deserved something more than the minimum; it means there is something to the statement that the Italians really know how to live; it means that Mies van der Rohe was right—God is definitely in the details.
Where, along the way, did we lose this level of refinement? I wondered. I refuse to believe that maintaining it is solely dependent upon having a certain level of wealth to afford the finer things in life. The lesson from this splendid property, I think, is that when quality is tended to from the start, beautiful things last for generations, especially when they have an Italian accent!
Please take a moment to explore some of Saxon's other projects!