Michael Kaune, the influential curator and editor, revealed a deeprooted ethos as he welcomed the founders of Fabric to his visionary German design hotel.
Michael Kaune has turned his love of design into physical manifestations – from the pages of his niche art, design and culture publication, to his contemporary photography gallery, and now his Cologne hotel: a mid-century and Bauhaus lover’s dream. Fabric journeys to Germany to meet the maker and his latest project.
Michael Kaune has been referred to as a “master curator”, which seems a tremendously apt designation given his keen eye for art and design, his vision as an editor and gallerist, and his success with the most recent string in his bow – hospitality. His sharp aesthetic is imprinted throughout The Qvest Hotel (a homage to his design publication of the same name), and has been integral in elevating Cologne’s status on the design map to new heights.
Perhaps Michael’s success can be attributed to his intrinsic penchant for quality, which is less of a mere preference and more of a driving force behind each and every decision he makes. “Quality touches us, whether we want it or not and, deep inside, we will always distinguish what we call quality and what it is all about – we all feel objectively better with it,” Michael says. “Unfortunately, it is only too often today not about buying the best and most reasonable, but buying as much as possible at short notice that looks similar to the best.
“This may work on photos posted on Instagram, but it doesn’t stand up to reality.”
The visionary behind Cologne’s standout hotel had a successful early career in advertising, which led to him opening his own agency at a relatively young age. His bold and creative magazine, Qvest, is the go-to German magazine for international fashion, design, architecture, and art, while his gallery of contemporary photography is renowned. It wouldn’t be remiss to assume that his professional pursuits keep him conceivably chained to his desk, however he assures us this is not the case.
“Today’s trend for ‘co-working’ or ‘new work’ is something I have been doing myself for many years – in fact, I haven’t had a desk for years,” he says. “I simply sit down somewhere or work directly in projects on site.
“Above the offices at The Qvest is my private floor, where I work in more of a living room than an office-like workplace.”
His role as hotelier is a new branch within his impressive business portfolio. Although, hospitality couldn’t be considered new on his radar, having spent many years seeking out design hotels and relishing in their experience. Michael’s passion was ignited by The Paramount Hotel, Ian Schrager and Philippe Starck’s time capsule of late-20th century chic. He experienced the hotel in the early 1990s while travelling for work in New York and, from then on, whenever he travelled he sought out hotels devoted to design and art – presumably honing his approach for his own future establishment.
For a man who is au fait with high-profile cosmopolitan cities, Michael chose Cologne for his first foray into hospitality because, quite simply, he says, “such a city deserves beautiful places”. He points to Cologne’s good layout (which lends itself well to walking), along with its museums, history, its “liveability” and its openminded residents. And, of course, its aesthetic was imperative. “The most visited cities in Europe by the whole world are those with the most beautiful house facades and well-kept green areas,” he says.
The hotel artfully provides a link between history and modernity, offering a highly considered suite of the sublime – from stunning art-filled spaces, to design driven interior selections, all wrapped up in a visually show-stopping neo-Gothic architectural package of pointed arches, stone columns and clover-shaped mullioned windows. The 1897 building had a past life as the historic city archive, and is located on a quiet square in the shadow of the Basilica of St. Gereon in Cologne’s old town. Narrow alleyways yield to colourful buildings lining the river, and – though tucked away in a quiet position – the hotel’s proximity to the main historic sites allows its patrons to explore the city by foot. It is conveniently placed to access the Belgian quarter, one of Cologne’s most trendy neighbourhoods – embellished with street art, populated by high-end fashion stores and brimming with a multicultural milieu. Of an eve, the Friesen quarter offers an elegant night out, with The Qvest and its cloud-needling cathedral just a 15-minute walk away. Alternatively, it you prefer to stay in, the stylish and sleek in-house hotel bar offers well-stocked spirits and a good wine selection with a side of Eames armchairs, and conveniently doubles as the breakfast room by day.
The interiors of the hotel have been artfully finessed thanks to an extensive two-year renovation, overseen by Michael’s sharp eye. It encompasses 34 guest rooms and suites across six floors, which are each uniquely (and befittingly) furnished with their own individual scheme, while embracing the building’s historical context – nurturing features such as six-metre-high cross vaults, or a hand-painted medieval wooden ceiling from 1390.
“Beautiful rooms create an atmosphere of wellbeing,” says Michael. “We perceive it, feel it and, if it is good, we feel comfortable and safe.”
Michael has carefully assessed, and then taken advantage of, the space and scale of each room with meticulously chosen designer pieces and high-end materials. In one, he has installed Verner Panton’s playful “Living Tower” sofa structure and statement stool, while the bathrooms are furnished with Parisian Metro tiles, white marble and chrome fixings replete with quirky details like the “Grasshopper” floor lamp by Greta Grossman. In the lobby, guests are greeted by a striking vintage brass and Belgian bluestone front desk.
“In addition to the material, the form and the composition, we also have a noticeable quality,” Michael says. A fact that is not surprising, given that, “almost everything in the hotel is connected to me personally”.
A large part of the hotel has been furnished with Michael’s own pieces and adorned with his personal photograph collection, with the spaces ultimately forming a veritable museum of immaculate design – not a footstool or exposed light bulb out of place. Many of the works in the hotel had been in storage for some time, having been painstakingly collected and curated by Michael over the years, and he is thankful they can now be shared and showcased.
“This is something I was tremendously excited about because, for me, environment creates perspective,” he says. “It connects people, more or less unconsciously, but as can be seen at The Qvest,
Appreciative guests can even take home a piece of the hotel from an exclusive shop selling its carefully curated furniture and design objects. The hotel also offers a small library of art, design and fashion literature in every room, in lieu of television sets.
While quality is a pre-requisite, it is also clear that at The Qvest, beauty abounds. Michael’s ardent devotion to both design and perfecting his creative expression are the common threads throughout his professional and personal pursuits – underpinning all things in his life.
“Two years ago I was looking at secondary schools for my daughter and I decided against a school whose program was so appealing, but whose architecture was so incredibly cold and unwelcoming,” he says. “I was sure it was not a good idea to let my child go there almost every day for eight years – it’s at this stage of her life that so much is decided and mentally, the sun won’t shine [at the place she’ll spend most of her day].”
“If you then have to scamper under a dark concrete beam and slobber over wide, speckily, shining 70s linoleum corridors – which all end in the same, wide, bright blue-bordered glass door systems – this cannot be healthy for her personal development,” he says. “We have since found a more beautiful (public) school.”
Visit – The Qvest Hotel
Gereonskloster 12, 50670 Cologne, Germany
Visit – Design Hotels
@design_hotels – http://designhotels.com