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 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 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 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.
Starting with its sandstone façade, Witt Istanbul Suites showcases the careful transformation of an old Istanbul apartment into a contemporary boutique hotel.
The location has significant history while being at the center of one of city’s most lively neighborhoods, a fact which has set the tone of voice of Autoban’s narrative approach to design in this case. “Ever since the beginning, playing with layers has always been a huge part our work. For us, it’s the way to tell unique stories while creating spatial experiences that are both from a bygone era and of-the-moment.”
At Witt Istanbul, walls covered in mirror tiles and panels of wood or steel with laser-cut motifs translate this narrative approach into 3-D reality. The relatively large suites, with kitchen-bar units, marble bathrooms and freestanding furniture evoke the sense of a home. As if someone moved into an apartment and put all their favorite furniture in it…
“We opted for the guests to feel like they’ve just stepped into their dream apartment. The whole ambiance provides an inspiring experience where guests can breathe in the old Istanbul through the tall windows of their rooms, and enjoy the contemporary atmosphere that surrounds them.”