Investor Tuncel Toprak studied economics at Rutgers University in the USA. After a brief stint working in the financial industry, he returned to Istanbul to follow his dream of opening a boutique hotel.
Tuncel spent years tracking down the right location for his first hotel project – Witt Istanbul Hotel. He finally settled on a corner block in Cihangir. In spring 2008 this former headquarters of Ogilvy & Mather was nipped, tucked and stylishly reshaped into a luxurious boutique hotel, showcasing furnishings from designers around the world.
‘I wanted to stay away from the tourist areas of Taksim Square and Sultanahmet. Here you can be an insider and hang out with locals,’ Tuncel says.
From the outside, Witt Istanbul Hotel’s traditional Turkish sandstone facade looks like a nondescript apartment block. But kitted out exclusively in bespoke furniture by Autoban, Turkey’s top interior designers, and with bathroom and mini-bar fixtures from Ross Lovegrove, Witt Istanbul Hotel is far from ordinary. The end result is domestic luxury rather than hotel swank. The non-chain, non-banded 17 room luxury boutique hotel is diminutive, discreet and designer without being garishly so. It all makes for the perfect pied-a-terre in the vibrant Beyoğlu neighborhood.
The concept of creating spacious modern-retro rooms for the price of a nice hotel room turned out to be quiet an accommodation revolution which didn’t go unnoticed. Witt Istanbul Hotel became a big hit. It has been selected as one of Wallpaper Magazine’s best new hotels, and placed on the 2009 Conde Nast Hot List.
Rewards and recognitions received thanks to attention for design detail showcasing local talent, the attentiveness of the staff, and a convenient location overlooking the Bosphorus Strait and the old city alike.
Autoban’s signature modernist style is imprinted on the 17 open-plan rooms. Even while taking a modernist approach, Autoban understood the importance of neighboring buildings, whose venerable architectural style – featuring long windows and French balconies – has been incorporated into the facade of the Istanbul Suites, where windows not only allude to the past in terms of form, but literally frame views of the historical quarter of Istanbul.
To complement the interesting details of yesteryear, Autoban infused the rooms with a true touch of 21st-century design: laser-cut panels of wood or steel. The laser-cut floral motif repeatedly appears throughout the hotel’s public spaces and 17 individual rooms.
Autoban’s cohesive plan included the interior design as well. The firm selected furniture from its own collection and adapted the pieces especially for these hotel interiors. Helping to bridge the gap between past and present is an abundance of traditional Marmara marble, an iconic material used extensively by the builders of the Ottoman Empire.
A perfectly balanced combination of history and contemporaneity is hard to achieve, but visitors to the Istanbul Suites will find that Autoban has managed to accomplish its key goal to perfection.
The founders of Autoban, Seyhan Özdemir and Sefer Çağlar, have been working with leaders in various fields – notably interior design, architecture and product development – since 2003. Autoban specializes in the design of upscale department stores, movie theatres, cafes, restaurants and hotels. The aim of the design team is to create exclusive spaces that surpass anything done in the past in terms of the unique experiences they offer. Autoban is located, in a rapidly up-and-coming area of Istanbul.