Rising Brazilian star Arthur de Mattos Casas puts a modern polish on luxury at the Emiliano, São Paulo
Raul Barreneche -- Interior Design, 1/1/2002 12:00:00 AM
ARTHUR DE MATTOS CASAS, the 40-year-old Brazilian architect and interior designer, knows precisely what he likes and dislikes in a hotel: "When I travel, I look for the hotel with few rooms, where the doorman remembers my name. I want lots of space, impeccable sheets and towels, ample bathrooms, and great toiletries. I don't want excessively modern flourishes, and I hate anything overly colorful." At the Emiliano, São Paulo's newest—and by most accounts hottest—hotel, Mattos Casas got the chance to design his dream.
Located in the stylish Jardins district, near hip restaurants, nightclubs, and the flagships of Louis Vuitton and Armani, the Emiliano is small (only 57 guest rooms). But it's spacious, modern in a quiet way, with few extraneous design elements, finished predominantly in white with just a few subtle tones. It's also stocked with Egyptian-cotton sheets, Hungarian goose-down comforters, electrically heated toilet seats, welcome baskets of either salty or sweet treats, and computerized airline-information access, among other high-tech perks.
Despite the creature comforts, though, the Emiliano remains streamlined and straightforward, visually. Mattos Casas, who has offices in São Paulo and New York, counts the Bauhaus, Pierre Chareau, Eileen Gray, Italian rationalism, de Stijl, and Brazilian architecture and design of the 1950s and '60s among his influences. He describes his signature style, evidenced in an international range of restaurants, shops, offices, hotels, residences, and furniture, as "classical modern, without excesses."
The Emiliano conveys its subtle sleekness from the moment guests ascend a short flight of white limestone steps and walk through the glass and steel entrance. The mood inside the soaring lobby is understated yet dramatic, thanks mostly to the spatial energy created by the tall volume. Mattos Casas limited the palette to whites and pale browns in fabric, leather, wood, and limestone. He designed most of the furniture, including the banquettes and cocktail tables, and mixed them with glass chairs by Jackeline Terepins and Edra's offbeat string chairs, designed by Brazil's own Campana brothers, Humberto and Fernando. Hanging lamps by Mattos Casas define smaller conversation areas within the lobby, and the same lamps reappear in the adjoining restaurant, which is dominated by Altherre Lievore's black dining chairs.
Guest rooms feature the same checkerboard carpeting that Mattos Casas designed for the lobby; except for the Eames chairs, he also designed all furniture. In the suites, sliding doors of Brazilian wood and translucent glass separate the bedroom, with a leather-upholstered wall behind the bed, from a small sitting area. The bathrooms mix mosaic floors, custom sinks and backsplashes in marble, and "prosaic" white-glazed tiles on the walls. "I just love to design bathrooms, but I rarely see hotels focusing on them," he says.
The building was originally to have been a posh residential tower. Then art collector Carlos Alberto Fernandes Filgueiras took over the property and decided to open a stylish hotel—casual and contemporary but still tailored to the sophistication of the surrounding district. Mattos Casas inherited the apartment tower's slender skeleton, intended for just one unit per floor. To transform the building into a hotel, he had to squeeze three rooms per floor among the existing beams and columns. In addition to the 30 foot–tall lobby, he also added a restaurant, a state-of-the-art conference center, and a rooftop gym and spa whose most spectacular element is the view: panoramas of São Paulo through the angular glass walls cradling the space. There's even a heliport for the well heeled Brazilians who take to the skies in choppers to bypass the city's choking traffic. In fact, the Emiliano has its own helicopter to rescue guests from São Paulo's smoggy gridlock and fly them to a beach 200 kilometers away.