Shanghai’s iconic Fairmont Peace Hotel, formerly known as the Cathay Hotel as well as the “Number One mansion in the Far East”, has quite the storied history. In its more than eighty years of luxurious existence the former Cathay Hotel has hosted some of the world’s most important dignitaries, celebrities, artists as well as some of the most privileged members of society. In its early days the hotel played host to a veritable list of ‘who’s who’ of the artistic world- those distinguished visitors included Charlie Chaplin, Bernard Shaw, and rumor has it that the famed playwright, Noel Coward completed his play “Private Lives” during his stay at the Cathay.
The Cathay Hotel was the vision of an enterprising British businessman, Sir Victor Sassoon, to bring to life a fusion of Eastern and Western sensibilities and to merge the ancient with the modern. The original hotel structure then known as the Central Hotel and later as the Palace Hotel, often referred to as the South Building, was started in 1850s and had a decidedly Renaissance style. The hotel standing at six stories was the tallest building at the time in that area. Its height wasn’t the only prestigious attribute, the Palace Hotel was the first building in Shanghai to have two elevators. In 1926 building began on the ten storied structure, referred to as the North Building. Designed by Palmer and Turner Architects, Ltd. the hotel illustrated the Gothic style.
Less glamorous and more trying times would reign for the famed Cathay hotel during World War II when the Japanese occupied the hotel. Then after the founding of the People’s Republic of China the government used the Hotel as their Municipal Construction Department from 1952 to 1965. In 1965, the hotel reclaimed its luxe and elegant heritage and once again welcomed distinguished visitors from around the world – under the name “Peace Hotel”.
In the early nineties, the Peace Hotel was honored with a prestigious listing as one of the famous hotels of the world by the World Hotel Association, and the only one in China to carry that distinction. The hotel experienced a rebirth in 2007 when it underwent an extensive renovation and refurbishment that would touch all levels of the hotel. World renowned luxury hospitality architects, Hirsch Bedner Associates, were tasked with updating the hotel’s interior while at the same time keeping true to its heritage. The hotel’s famous “Nine Nations” suites, a design tribute to the World’s great nations and cultures, lives on in the renewed hotel – five of the suites (French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and German) have been refreshed but still contain a distinct and strong connection with their past design history while four new suites were introduced: English, American, Indian and Chinese.
Fairmont Peace Hotel’s Nine Nations Suite: The French Suite
The French Suite is the ultimate romantic, feminine room replete with plush details, sophisticated damask patterns and rich textures and finishes. This is the room I’d love to spend a weekend in – reading my fashion magazines, journaling, sipping delish floral teas and just feeling like a princess – all weekend long.
Fairmont Peace Hotel’s Nine Nations Suite: The Japanese Suite
The Japanese Suite, along with the French and Italian suites are my three favorite designs at the Fairmont Peace Hotel. This design is visually light, harmonious, serene, and balanced. A design that transcends time, trends and fads. I love the colors, light toned woods, and the soothing repetition of geometric patterns (grids, circles, stripes) in the room.
Fairmont Peace Hotel’s Nine Nations Suite: The Italian Suite
The Italian Suite exudes indulgent, luxe, sensual, glamour from the sexy jewel tone of the sofa, metallic glimmer of the drapes, upholstery, and paint details and the voluptuous decorative pillows to the sexy pop of red of the ottoman.
Fairmont Peace Hotel’s Nine Nations Suite: The Chinese Suite
The Chinese Suite plays off the order and balance between positive and negative elements in the room achieving a very serene yet powerful atmosphere.
Fairmont Peace Hotel’s Nine Nations Suite: The American Suite
The American Suite was designed in a very traditional sense with dark woods, masculine elements dominating the space and the room exudes “power” – one can imagine high level diplomatic meetings attended by a contingent of international dignitaries discussing pressing world issues taking place in the living room.
Fairmont Peace Hotel’s Nine Nations Suite: The German Suite
The German Suite design is warm and cozy in a very traditional sense. The intricate wood trim and unexpected light green color on the ceiling provides an architecturally interesting design element.
Fairmont Peace Hotel’s Nine Nations Suite: The English Suite
The English Suite is another very traditionally designed room though the dark woods seem warmer than in the American suite. The design itself though decidedly masculine in nature is softened with a few feminine touches – the gentle arches of the upholstered dining room chairs (also on the moulding above the fireplace mantle), the silk pillows, the sophisticated floral arrangements, and the softly tailored drapes.
Fairmont Peace Hotel’s Nine Nations Suite: The Indian Suite
The Indian Suite’s ceiling design jewel-tone greens and intricate patterns is stunning and sets the regal tone for the rest of the room.
Fairmont Peace Hotel’s Nine Nations Suite: The Spanish Suite
The Spanish Suite employs rich, warm woods on the walls, floors and the furniture but the overall sense of the suite is of open airiness thanks in part to the judicious use of light-toned ceilings, rugs and upholstery. Some of my favorite design elements in this room are the captivating rug, and the white lamp (elegant and sophisticated) on the desk.