September 21, 2004
A Hotel Dedicated to Modern Danish Design
Although Copenhagen is home to one of the world’s first hotels celebrated for design, Arne Jacobsen’s Radisson SAS, the city has given rise to surprisingly few others. A notable exception is the Hotel Alexandra, located just a few blocks away from the SAS. Dating back to 1880, the historic building doesn’t outwardly speak of Modern […]
Although Copenhagen is home to one of the world’s first hotels celebrated for design, Arne Jacobsen’s Radisson SAS, the city has given rise to surprisingly few others. A notable exception is the Hotel Alexandra, located just a few blocks away from the SAS. Dating back to 1880, the historic building doesn’t outwardly speak of Modern design. When general manager Jeppe Mühlhausen came on board 11 years ago, he found that much of what had been in the rooms was classic 20th century furniture; he decided to maintain that ambience as he renovated the hotel’s interior from the top down.
Looking for additional vintage pieces to restore, he acquired Danish mid-century furniture by Finn Juhl, Hans Wegner, and Ole Wanscher. These Modern originals are now housed in the hotel’s superior rooms—338 (Juhl), 450 (Wegner), and 448 (Wanscher)—while Room 223 holds a mix of authentic furniture, textile reproductions, and original art by Denmark’s most legendary designer, Arne Jacobsen.
Warm public spaces are loaded with more design hits: Børge Mogensen’s masculine, restrained Earclap armchairs and sofas grace the lounge, while Juhl’s zoomorphic Pelican chairs and Poet sofa welcome guests in the lobby. Renovated in 2001, the brasserie is now filled with additional Mogensen sofas, Akademi lights by Poul Henningsen, and a sea of reproduction Kaare Klint Church chairs (so named because they were created, in 1936, for Copenhagen’s art deco Grundtvig Church).
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The door to Room 338 hides what is perhaps the most noteworthy piece in the hotel’s collection: Juhl’s own bed, given to the hotel by his widow. Being able to lounge freely on classic furniture that is usually either out of one’s price range or cordoned off in a museum is novel enough, but the thought of climbing all over this one-of-a-kind piece is practically unnerving.
“He [created the bed] for himself and his wife,” says general manager Mühlhausen, “and they slept in it their whole lives.”
The Hotel aims for guests to really have a chance to experience Danish design—and learn about it, too. “The staff is trained in Danish design,” Mühlhausen says. “They take a course every year to get a basic understanding of the history behind Danish furniture.”
Hotel Alexandra reflects Danish ideology in other ways, also. Much of the food that the hotel prepares is made from organic ingredients, and the hotel itself is a member of Denmark’s Green Key program, which indicates that it employs approved sustainable practices, such as lowering its water and energy consumption, actively recycling, and using eco-friendly cleansers.
For Green Key certification, “you have to meet 57 criteria,” Mühlhausen says. “You have to divide your rubbish into seven areas and use a certified linen supplier. It’s very thorough, but once it’s implemented, it’s very easy to work with.”
Though the renovation is officially complete, Mühlhausen continues to acquire classics, most recently opening a fifth superior room in June dedicated to Børge Mogensen. And in May he found two more Wegner beds—one has been installed in Room 450, and the other is going into a new Wegner room opening in December, just in time for the candle-lit holiday the Danish especially love: Christmas.