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Tara Bernerd has created a Baroque Modernist jewel at Rosewood Munich

In the newly opened Rosewood Munich, the Bavarian capital now has the landmark hotel it deserves

Think of Munich, and you might think of BMW, well-heeled Bavarians, the Oktoberfest, FC Bayern Munich and their colour-shifting Allianz Arena. You probably won’t think of hotels.

That’s all about to change with the opening of Rosewood Munich – a property the group’s president Radha Arora describes as a gem, and one which he hopes will create a kindling spark in the Bavarian capital. Can a hotel catalyse a city-wide cultural renaissance? Having seen the hotel, you wouldn’t bet against it.

On securing this former bank and mansion in a prime spot in Munich’s old town, Rosewood turned to Munich-based architectural firm Hilmer Sattler to restore the building, and to powerhouse design firm Tara Bernerd & Partners to conceptualise and create the interiors. Tara Bernerd, the firm’s founder and creative dynamo, set out to bring “a refined residential style to achieve a feeling of simplistic elegance.” How does that look in practice?

The entrance to Rosewood Munich is in the former headquarters of the State Bank of Bavaria, interior designed by Tara Bernerd – Effect Magazine - Effetto
The entrance to Rosewood Munich is in the former headquarters of the State Bank of Bavaria. The window at the top of the staircase is new, and connects the entrance to the main reception (Photo: Davide Lovatti)

The main entrance leads off the street into the baroque splendour of the former State Bank of Bavaria. It’s a fabulous moment of drama that has wisely been left largely in its original condition. This antechamber offers few clues as to what lies beyond, instead acting as a palette cleanser of sorts. It’s once you’ve ascended the grand staircase and entered the reception area beyond that Rosewood Munich begins to reveal its true nature.

We have sought to combine the two diverse characters of old and new Munich

Tara Bernerd

And what a nature that is. “We have sought to combine the two diverse characters of old and new Munich,” says Bernerd, “seamlessly melding the sensitively restored historic elements of the original building with a contemporary aesthetic that speaks to the future.” Mixing eras to create something new is, of course, nothing new, and doesn’t always work. But here, Bernerd and her team have pulled it off spectacularly well.

Reception area of Rosewood Munich - Effect Magazine - Effetto
Modernist-inspired furniture and a layered, residential design scheme in the reception area of Rosewood Munich. Dashed of blue anchor a bronze and neutrals palette (Photo: Davide Lovatti)

Modernist and Art Deco influences are layered seamlessly, used as ingredients to make a dish that feels both contemporary and timeless. Timelessness is a term that gets a fair bit of use these days; in the case of Rosewood Munich, it is entirely warranted. What makes something timeless? Generally, an emphasis on style, quality and detail rather than what’s considered du jour. Also, money spent where it’s required, not where it’s most visible.

To see an example, all one has to do is look down at one’s feet. Flooring throughout Rosewood Munich is extraordinarily considered. In the standard rooms and junior suites, you’ll find Tara Bernerd signature carpets with a geometric weave that is striking in its simplicity and effectiveness. In the master suites (‘houses’ in Rosewood Munich parlance), marble and hardwood floors feel bespoke and artisanal rather than showy; they ground and support the interior schemes, with brass inlays echoing the deco curves found throughout the property.

In the lobby, an op-art theme is established by an uplit ceiling oval in a diamond motif prevalent in 1960s West Germany. It’s subtle but impressive, adding elegance and edge, and it’s continued throughout the hotel. The same pattern is etched in the brass of the lift doors, which have a mid-century New York robustness about them; and again in the downstairs cloakroom – where the effect in black, white and grey marble takes on an Escher-eque quality. The ceilings in the lifts are plaster reliefs, delicate and beautiful.

Perhaps the most prevalent recurrent theme throughout the hotel is the vertical fluting that appears in so many places – though never to the point of excess, particularly as it’s so tastefully executed. It’s a large part of what lends the hotel a clean Art Deco verve, and it’s found in the fluted ceramic piping on the lift walls, the bathroom walls, the glass lights, the wardrobes and bedroom furniture and more. It continues into the lights of the hotel’s restaurant, the Brasserie Cuvilliés (which, like the Bar Montez, had a separate designer – the Munich-based DiPPOLD Interior Design Studio). It’s surely not unique to this hotel, but never has it been used so effectively, and it’s hard not to imagine that it will look every bit as stylish a generation from now.

Tara Bernerd, photographed in the King Maximilian I House at the Rosewood Munich in Effect Magazine - Effetto
Tara Bernerd, photographed in the King Maximilian I House at Rosewood Munich (Photo: Philipp Maier)

There is also an intriguing Space Age Design motif running throughout. It’s subtle, but the lights above the check-in desk are pure Space Age, as are the Danish-style globe lights in the junior suites. It’s even to be seen in the green Guzzini Sorella-style lamp at the concierge’s desk in the downstairs entrance. It never jars; these elements feel completely natural, yet they add some retro coolness to the understated glamour.

Art features throughout the property; it’s suitably bold in the reception areas, but of particular note is the tasteful way in which it’s been pitched in the suites and fifth-floor corridors. The curation team have leaned towards taste rather than extravagance, with a number of abstract prints by Spanish artist Jesús Perea that are devoid of ostentation but are engaging, stylish and just perfect for a Modernism-infused German hotel.

What emerges from all this is that Tara Bernerd and Rosewood have nailed the perfect balance of a hotel feeling both international and true to its local surroundings (and in doing so, honouring Rosewood’s ‘A Sense of Place’ guiding philosophy). There’s a romantic sense of the West German era, enlivened with dashes of Weimar decadence and Bauhaus verve, all hosted in an older Baroque building. Playful nods to Munich are weaved throughout – a model of a 1960s BMW Ti perches on a cabinet in a suite; chandeliers in the basement have just a hint of a baronial alpine hall. It’s not pastiche – these are layers weaved into a sophisticated contemporary hotel.

Tara Bernerd’s aim of creating a refined residential style is evidenced in the comfortable, inviting furniture arrangements in the reception rooms, the apartment-style suites, and especially in the King Maximilian I House – the hotel’s most prestigious suite. And it’s a triumph.

The effect Bernerd was reaching for here, she says, is “the ultimate Airbnb apartment.” In other words, to create a practical home away from home, but of the most elevated sort. There’s no party-sized bathtub here; instead, it’s a suite of rooms that genuinely does feel as though one could entertain family or friends.

And the suite offers its treasures up gradually. For sure, it’s a knock-out when you first step inside it; but it’s on closer inspection that one appreciates the level of thought and detail that has gone into it. Bernerd is not a micro-manager – her skill is to build a brilliant team and set the direction – yet it’s the part of the hotel she was most intimately hands-on with, and it serves as a microcosm of the whole property.

A freestanding fireplace – half Palm Springs, half alpine lodge – divides the dining and sitting room areas, its great bronze hood stands on a marble base with emerald metrotiles atop a brass inlay. Marble and mirrored plinths connect it to the ceiling and floor. This level of detailing is found throughout the hotel, but it’s done so skilfully that it is soothing and easy on the eye – never fussy or ostentatious. Instead, it lends each space a put-together feeling that seduces rather than shouts.

In person, Tara Bernerd is engaging, unconventional and good company – all qualities she has imbued in Rosewood Munich. And Radha Arora, president of 31-strong Rosewood hotel group, exudes enthusiasm and a certain glamour – an asset in the hotel business which – not unlike the movie business – mixes the hard grind of logistics with the weaving of magic and drama. Hotels should strive to elevate their guests above the mundane and encourage them to bring their best game to the table. And there’s no doubt that in Munich, Rosewood and Tara Bernerd have succeeded.

Rosewood Munich, Kardinal-Faulhaber-Straße 1, 80333 Munich, Germany

Read more: Design | Interior Design | Design Hotels | Germany