ears ago an Italian friend insisted that the best time to
visit Venice was in January. My recent winter sojourn there
proved him right. Without tourists, the vast campos and
their architectural grandeur were as awe-inspiring as the
narrowest streets, where every detail, from Byzantine to
Baroque, stood out. The mist-infused sunlight created a
mysterious mood that could only be experienced in Venice.
What is essential is finding the perfect hotel to provide
refuge when the sun sets. When I learned of the newly
opened Palazzina Grassi in the San Samuele neighborhood,
I began to envision myself arriving by boat at their
The Palazzina Grassi, with only 26 rooms, is intimate and
welcoming. The hotel designed by Philippe Starck, his first
in Italy, embodies his reverence for Venice, by which he
was clearly inspired. The incomparable atmosphere of
the city seemed to penetrate his unconscious, infusing the
designer’s already vivid imagination with an extra dose of
romanticism and passion.
Starck isn’t only a world-class designer, he’s a first rate
cultural provocateur; conveying messages through big
It took me several nights of sleeping (and dreaming)
at the hotel, to figure out what he was trying to say: Look
carefully, the big bold strokes are there to make sure one
sees the smaller, more delicate ones. Details do matter—
notice beauty in all of its guises, at every turn.
Beginning with the mirrors (you better like the way you
look, because you’ll be seeing a lot of yourself), every guest
room has walls hung with over-scaled mirrors. Enormous,
tapestry size mirrors. All are backlit with LED lighting. “Mirrors
have always been in the collective thought of Venetians,”
explained Emaneule Garosci, the young, hip, owner of the
hotel. They have been made for centuries on the nearby
island of Murano. Starck understood this and paid homage
to the tradition, but on his terms: tweaking the scale, and
The largest space at Palazzina Grassi is the central room
the original 15th century building with contemporary design,
off the main entrance, where Starck juxtaposed pieces of
modern black and white photography, furniture and lighting.
33 This space, more than any other in the hotel is a dialogue
between the ancient and the modern.