Hotel Josef is a luminous beauty
How do you describe something that is, well, indescribable?
Saying the Hotel Josef is “light and airy” is completely true, but that does not give an accurate picture of the atmosphere surrounding this design hotel in Old Town.
“The term ‘design’ is so misused,” says Milena Findeis, who’s in charge of public relations for the hotel. “There has to be a strategy; small things have to fit.”
Like a well-executed puzzle, everything fits at the Hotel Josef.
It was designed by renowned Czech architect Eva Jiřičná, who is known for melding light and glass into all her designs. The hotel is owned by the same company, Haštalská, which owns the Hotel Maximilian around the corner. Originally built in 2002, Jiřičná was in on Josef’s planning from the very beginning.
“Design here is more of an atmosphere and what you feel. It’s a kind of harmony,” Findeis says.
This so-called harmony helps carry you from one light-drenched area to the next. The lobby is barely an indoor space — the front wall comprises floor-to-ceiling windows, flooding the room with a constant natural light. Directly to the left of the entry is a small bar, offering a bit of color with its backdrop of bottles. White stools line the clear, Plexiglas counter top. To the right is the seating area — filled with cream-leather chairs and couches and small round glass tables with stainless-steel legs. The color here is provided by framed display boxes filled with butterflies.
The reception desk is at the back, but it’s nearly forgotten as your attention is immediately drawn to the dominating feature of the room — the magnificent glass and steel spiral staircase, which curves down to the hotel’s conference rooms. Unexpected art installations like this add to Josef’s stylish setting.
The hotel’s two buildings are connected by a glass passage with garden views. The short walkway is playfully lined with colorful plastic club chairs. It ends near the guest breakfast room — again another tribute to the architect’s steadfast obsession with glass and light, which gives patrons the delightful feeling they are dining outdoors.
Everything throughout the hotel is rather basic. There are no frills or clutter. It’s just light and bright.
“There are so many impressions in Prague, interesting architecture. Your head is full,” Findeis says. “Your eyes need a rest. The hotel cleans your mind.”
The hallways are painted white with inset lighting. The room numbers are whimsical, large and set low against the door. An inset spotlight illuminates them from below. The rooms are no bigger than your typical four-star hotel room, but there’s an indescribable feeling of largeness here. Is it the white walls combined with a large window that makes them seem so big? Or the lack of wall art? What about the use of natural colors — beige, orange, moss and white? Or the Plexiglas desk and chair and glass closet? Perhaps, though, it’s the glass bathroom that gives these rooms their edge. You read that right. In 35 of the hotel’s 109 guest rooms, the bathroom is mostly constructed out of glass, with glass walls and frosted glass cabinets containing the toilet and shower for the more modest. Nothing stands out, but the overall look is one of illumination and calm.
The owners specifically chose Jiricna to design their hotel, because, as Findeis explains, they wanted a Czech architect to contribute to the architecture seen around Prague today. Under Jiřičná’s watchful eye, even the most minute detail was perfectly executed. She designed the guest rooms’ desks and beds; the armchairs there are Baleri and the tables and chairs in the breakfast room are Thonet. Findeis says that is an essential part of a true design hotel — the small details.
“It takes such a long time when we have to choose anything — the flowers, the coat hangers, the menu cards,” she says. “We have to find something that is made from the same material as in the
rest of the hotel.”
So, from the lobby to the central courtyard to the glass bathrooms, everything seems to shine under the same radiant light.
“I think it’s simple but with quality. Simple as in pure,” Findeis says. “I think it’s more visible than you can describe with words. It’s the impressions of the rooms. It’s the idea of lightness, and you can see it in every detail.”