John Pawson’s favourite European hotel

The architectural designer behind the new Design Museum in Kensington happily eschews his professional penchant for minimalism at glamorous Andalucian retreat Trasierra, says Maria Shollenbarger

The relaxed setting of the bar in the main house at Trasierra
The relaxed setting of the bar in the main house at Trasierra | Image: Simon Brown

“I’m not a great hotel person, which might explain my affinity for Trasierra. I’ve come at least half-a-dozen times over the years: sometimes just with Catherine, my wife, and a few times with our children or with friends. Being here is like staying the weekend in somebody’s very nice home – a home with loads of good family furniture, much of it inherited or found by [the hotel’s owner] Charlotte Scott.

Old-world Andalucian buildings characterise the estate
Old-world Andalucian buildings characterise the estate | Image: Simon Brown

It’s a bit too much furniture for me under normal circumstances, if I’m honest. But I slightly switch off about that when I am on holiday, because it’s my work all day and all night, all the time. If I were to go to stay in, say, Marfa in Texas, it would probably be too stimulating for me. So being on holiday at Trasierra is wonderfully freeing.

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The hotel is a compound of buildings, very old-world Andalucian, and there are beautiful gardens and courtyards and colonnades everywhere, and sitting rooms and private zones. All the rooms are totally different from one another and extremely comfortable – comfortably cluttered, as I said, with good chairs and tables, and you always have your own terrace, balcony or seating area. They’re all quite private and equally lovely. I can’t imagine anyone arriving and saying, ‘Oh no, I have to change rooms.’ Even the swimming pool is casual and easy and feels like you’re going for a dip in your host’s pool.

The balcony outside the Blue bedroom
The balcony outside the Blue bedroom | Image: Simon Brown

Charlotte and her family are really the soul of the place, and why Trasierra works. Gioconda, her eldest daughter, is an excellent cook, and younger daughter Amber is so good at the yoga and the massage. Her sons Jackson and George are often there too, Jackson with his guitar, playing flamenco. And Charlotte oversees the whole thing. She knows how not to make you feel that you have to participate or socialise if you don’t want to, but her personality is so nice that it’s quite flattering when she does pay you some attention. It’s that happy ‘houseguest’ thing. You might well get talking to the other guests – and again, you don’t have to, but you do because it’s easy to think that they’re other friends of hers staying, though as likely as not they’re paying guests like you.

The garden-cum-dining area
The garden-cum-dining area | Image: Simon Brown

And there’s almost always somebody fascinating passing through. People doing a photo shoot locally, maybe, or one or two genuine Spanish grandees. Last time there was an enthusiastic American – he asked to borrow my bike and all my kit. And the late Dowager Lady Egremont came to stay at least once; in the guestbook she wrote: ‘Everything you need and none of that ghastly luxury.’ Which pretty much says it all.”

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