In a city that has so far only offered chain hotels or cheap rooms to rent, Autor Rooms is a breath of fresh air. This brainchild of Mamastudio, one of Warsaw’s leading branding agencies, is much more than a place to stay. It’s an all-round Warsaw experience with interiors furnished with Poland’s best design, food catered by the city’s top restaurants and day tours organized by experts in their respective fields: Centrum Architektury can take you on a tour of the city’s modernist architecture and culinary magazine Smak can provide a foodie’s night out. From bathroom fittings to door knobs, breakfasts to stationary, everything in Autor Rooms is top-notch and the owners’ attention to detail is painstaking.
Magda Ponagajbo, one of Mamastudio’s partners, with a background in graphic design and a genuine passion for interiors, shows us around this newly opened design lover’s dream.
- I: I had the impression that what you provide is not just a roof over one’s head, but a real insight into the life of a city.
- M: The idea was indeed to share everything that excites us about the city. We skip all things obvious and provide a very curated selection of things to do and see and this approach has played out very well so far. The guests that come to us really appreciate that. I’m very disappointed by the kind of coverage that Warsaw gets in mainstream international media. I’m surprised that top journalists do such superficial research. That’s why we want to be “the local” for our guests. We’re also here to tell them what to avoid and which sites are overrated and touristy. They want to hear our opinion and get an authentic view of the city from us—something they won’t get at a hotel. They enjoy the fact that we’re not an ordinary hotel and don’t have a TV in each room.
- I: You don’t like to be called a “hotel”?
While searching for the name, we did everything to avoid sticking the “hotel” label on Autor Rooms. The word “hotel” doesn’t have the right connotations and even “design hotel” or “boutique hotel” sounds a bit off to me. We settled for “boutique hotel” in the end, but over time we would like to build a brand that doesn’t need any additional description, just Autor Rooms.
That said, we do have a consultant who’s spent years working at a luxury hotel and now advises us on how to meet the guests’ expectations. After all, we do want to provide a high standard, luxury experience. The bed has to be perfectly made and comfortable, the cushions nicely scented, the bathroom filled with quality cosmetics and the sheets pleasant to the touch. We obsess over all of these as much as we do about the design of the apartments.
- I: How have you come up with the idea of Autor Rooms? It seems like a courageous change of direction for a graphic design studio to venture into hospitality.
- M: I see it as a project that came very naturally to us, perhaps because we’ve long been involved in animating the city. Each year we organise a picnic, which is a big cultural event, and we’ve also collaborated with journalist Agnieszka Kowalska on her guide “Do It in Warsaw” right from its inception. In our studio we work with big corporate clients and we don’t always get a chance to do something truly creative. Hence this project, which we’ve been thinking of for a long time and finally a year and a half ago it started to take shape. There is a lot of risk involved, but we decided to take it and realise our dream. We rented the flat in January last year and started the renovation 7 months ago. The first guests arrived this July, so it went pretty quickly.
We give the designers complete creative freedom and have so far been more than happy with the results and so have our guests.
- I: You collaborated with architect Mateusz Baumiller on the interior design. What approach did you take?
M: The idea was indeed to share everything that excites us about the city. We skip all things obvious and provide a very curated selection of things to do and see and this approach has played out very well so far. The guests that come to us really appreciate that. I’m very disappointed by the kind of coverage that Warsaw gets in mainstream international media. I’m surprised that top journalists do such superficial research. That’s why we want to be “the local” for our guests. We’re also here to tell them what to avoid and which sites are overrated and touristy. They want to hear our opinion and get an authentic view of the city from us—something they won’t get at a hotel. They enjoy the fact that we’re not an ordinary hotel and don’t have a TV in each room.
We’ve been very determined to source as much as we can from Polish suppliers and I’m not talking just about the furniture here. The heater, sinks, mattresses quilts and tiles in the kitchen—they’re all Polish too and it’s not that easy to find a mass-produced product that is made by a Polish company and designed by a designer that we can track down. One good example is the bathroom fittings designed by Colorofon studio for BISK, which is a huge Polish company with a worldwide reach. Another is the organic cosmetic range from Tołpa, which is beloved by our guests.
I think our obsession with locality is what makes us different from all the design hotels, which are sure to grab the latest must-haves from established Italian brands and end up looking exactly the same.
- I: What pieces have been made especially for this place?
M: At the beginning of the project we started working with Maria Jeglińska, who created a number of pieces for us. She started by designing glasses, which have now been prototyped and will go into production. Soon each room will have a tray with glasses and a water carafe designed by Maria. She’s currently designing a set of sculpture-like mirrors. We also commissioned bolsters for the sleeping rooms from Beza Projekt. I remember being in their studio and looking at a blanket they made during their residency in Turkey. I immediately wanted something similar and that’s how the bolsters came about. They’re hand-made with all-natural wool and dyes. In the bathrooms, there are bathrobes designed by Zuo Corp, who have their studio just two floors up from ours.
In addition to the commissioned pieces, we also purchased a number of products that were already available on the market. We’ve got Krystian Kowalski’s sofas for Comforty and china from Kristoff and then there’s the shelf from Tylko that I made in the app. I think Tylko and us have a similar energy to a company that’s just starting and has a lot of potential.
- I: You’re not just hosts, you’re the new design patrons.
- M: I’d like this patronage to gain momentum. So far it’ only been a few pieces but I’m very eager to start new collaborations. I love the idea that we’re able to pay for both the design and the production and don’t have to resort to bartering. We give the designers complete creative freedom and have so far been more than happy with the results and so have our guests. We’re lucky to host people who have a similar sensitivity to us and who appreciate the products that we showcase. They often ask if they buy the pieces as souvenirs, which makes me think that producing these pieces in batches and then selling them could be the next step. The guests also show great interest in the artworks hanging in each room, that were provided courtesy of Galeria Starter, which represents a number of contemporary Polish painters and photographers.
- I: Speaking of guests, who are they?
- M:We’ve only been open for a few months, but so far the guests have been mostly international and often find us through the recommendation of someone who lives in Warsaw. They’re very curious about the city and eager to hear some suggestions. We’ve recently had one guest from London who was absolutely amazed by the place. She said that such a place in London, in the centre, with this level of design and service, would be out of reach for an ordinary person. This made me realise that we have a unique opportunity to offer a very personal, authentic and luxurious experience for a price that’s still affordable.
We’d love to share new chapters of our story with you from time to time.
We’d love to share new chapters of our story with you from time to time.
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