The Mandarin Oriental hotel: a taste of the Milanese luxury lifestyle

by Daria Verde

Compasses Magazine

It seems no coincidence that the Mandarin Oriental Group, a renowned international brand that manages luxury hotels, resorts and residences in all five continents, has chosen to buy the first Italian hotel in the world capital of fashion and design

Located in the historic heart of Milan, within walking distance from the Duomo and the fashion district, the Mandarin Oriental – whose design was commissioned to the architects Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel – follows a project strongly rooted in the atmosphere of the city, in accordance with the policy of the hotel group, which, in its over 50 five-star hotels, aims at offering an authentic experience of the local lifestyle, rather than re-proposing a recognizable image. Therefore, a great responsibility was given to the Milanese firm: that of representing the essence of their city, creating at the same time a unique and precious hotel capable of offering an unforgettable stay.

The initial project encompassed the restoration of four 18th century buildings, located in one of the most elegant areas of Milan. Each building reveals an unusual sample of the most domestic and private aspect of the city, which hides gardens and internal courtyards full of sophisticated details behind its sober façades. The challenge undertaken by the architects was therefore to adapt the existing spaces to their new functions, maintaining and enhancing their authentic elements, so as not to alter their charm and historical value: the façades, courtyards and main architectural elements have been preserved, generating an unprecedented dialogue with the new interior spaces. This conservative choice led to an irregular layout of the 104 rooms, all different from one another, each of them uniquely characterized by the view, the distribution of spaces and even the height of the rooms. Moreover, the choice to join the four buildings, leaving the possibility of accessing them from various entrances, has made the hotel a welcoming crossroad within the Milanese historic urban fabric.

The interior design project has been developed with extreme attention to detail by the Milanese firm, which has adopted the careful use of color and natural materials, such as marble, as the common thread of the entire structure, in a contamination of styles capable, on the one hand, of creating a sophisticated and luxurious environment and, on the other, to convey a domestic atmosphere. The main inspiration came from the typical features of elegance and taste that made Milan famous in the world, with particular attention to the houses traditionally inhabited by the upper middle class of the city in the 1930s and 1940s, whose conception perfectly combines with Citterio and Viel’s style and with their idea of living. The legacy of Italian designers, such as Piero Portaluppi, Gio Ponti, Asnago and Vender, guided the project, contributing to the Milanese identity of the interior and to the expression of domestic feelings. In line with the local tradition of residential design, the architects created chromatic themes, particularly popular in the Milanese houses of the first half of the 20th century, in order to indicate the different functions of the spaces. The pastel shades of red, green and yellow characterize the hotel entrance, while the bar has a black and white theme and the green tones of the restaurant combine with the green marble of the courtyard windows.

Thanks to the great attention to detail typical of the culture of Made in Italy, a domestic and comfortable atmosphere pervades all the common areas, to the point that, entering the hotel lobby, one would expect to be welcomed by the hostess in what appears to be a bright and refined living room, dominated by a large fireplace and furnished with modern accessories whose different styles coexist harmoniously. The gray stone floor of the entrance connects the hotel physically and visually with the courtyard that leads to Via Andegari, establishing a dialogue between the inside and the outside.

The two elegant courtyards, which represent the natural extension of the hotel’s refined and comfortable spaces, host the bar and the restaurant. The Mandarin Bar, with its cozy lounge atmosphere given by the sofas, the low tables and the soft lighting, is considered the beating heart of the hotel. The floor and walls are covered with geometric patterns of black and white marble and, together with the large central counter, are reflected with suggestive light effects in the mirror ceiling, creating a lively atmosphere and giving an eclectic touch to the general design. The Seta restaurant, with its wooden floors and ceilings and its peaceful atmosphere, is accessible both from the bar and from an independent entrance, becoming a destination not only for hotel guests, but also for all the Milanese who want to dine in one of the best restaurants in town.

In contrast to the exuberance of the public areas on the ground floor, the atmosphere in the hotel’s private area is more intimate and reflects the other side of the luxurious Milanese style, more sober and neutral. The color palette used in the rooms includes beige tones for the fabrics, delicately combined with white and black, and in contrast to purple, which lights up the velvet of the armchairs, the curtains and the arabesques of the rugs with different nuances.

Moreover, the conservation of the original structure generated the need to place the most luxurious suites on the lower levels (the piano nobile of the buildings), while in the rooms on the attic floors (originally intended for servants) the limited height of the ceilings is compensated for by large windows and private terraces. Here you can relax enjoying a beautiful view of the historic buildings of the center and, in some cases, even on the famous spiers of the cathedral.

Attention to detail reigns supreme. Each piece of furniture derives from an original design and all finishes have been made in accordance with the color combinations and the choice of materials. Each bed has an arched headboard to create an intimate atmosphere, a shape that also characterizes the backrests of the sofas. Each room has an oval table on wheels, which can be used as a mobile desk or as a dining table for room service, according to the individual needs of each guest. The walls of the bathrooms are entirely covered in Italian white marble, with shades and patterns that vary according to the category of the rooms. Some bathrooms have distinctive features, but in all rooms, toilets and bathtubs are separate.

An additional tribute to Milanese design is also in the suites dedicated to the masters Gio Ponti and Piero Fornasetti, personal references for the activity of the architects Citterio and Viel. While the first suite, entirely covered with walnut wood paneling, honors to the Milanese rationalist tradition, the Fornasetti Suite, whose concept develops around the master’s iconic pieces, offers guests an extravagant break.

Undoubtedly for Citterio and Viel – whose architecture firm has grown enormously in recent years, with a series of large-scale projects rooted all over the world – the Mandarin Oriental represented a more intimate and personal experience, strongly linked to the love for the city and its history: an opportunity to rediscover one’s roots and to design starting from an entirely Italian idea of living, where the attention for everyday gestures generates the spaces and determines the quality of the interior.

Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel

Mandarin Oriental, interiors

Gruppo Statuto

Milan, Italy

Project Year

Architecture and Design
Antonio Citterio, Patricia Viel

Size and total area
12.000 m2

Image credits
Massimo Listri
Courtesy of Mandarin Oriental


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