The Timeless Style of Michele Bönan

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Known for his sumptuous, residential-style interiors for beloved hotels around the world, including the J.K. Place locations in Capri, Rome, and Florence and many of the properties in the Ferragamo family–owned Lungarno Collection, Italian architect and interior designer Michele Bönan translates a 19th-century aesthetic into a refined style that feels relevant today.

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Michele Bönan: The Gentleman of Style (Assouline, $85), out this month with a foreword by Leonardo Ferragamo (son of Salvatore), surveys the Florence-based talent’s hospitality, residential, and commercial work. “Every project is like a film script, with its own plot and narrative dynamic, combining pathos, wit, and a gentle touch of irony,” says Bönan in the book.

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Bönan’s prolific career in hospitality architecture began in 1995, when he created Florence’s Hotel Lungarno, the first of 10 Italian projects that he has done for the Ferragamo family’s Lungarno Collection of hotels, suites and yachts. Designing for a centuries-old townhouse overlooking the Arno, Bönan gave the Hotel Lungarno a crisp blue-and-white palette to “accentuate the sense of endlessly drifting on the Arno, with the Ponte Vecchio as your point of reference,” he says. But while the view from the hotel is captivating, Bönan made sure the interiors were just as enticing, designing his own custom furniture and accessories and hanging more than 400 works of modern art, including pieces by Picasso and Cocteau, throughout.

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Classic-contemporary interior at Florence’s Palazzo Tornabuoni, a member’s only residence club. Palazzo Tornabuoni, Florence

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The layered living room at Paris’s Hôtel Marquis Faubourg Saint-Honoré, situated in the former residence of the Marquis de Lafayette in the city’s fashion district.

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The conservatory at the Della Valle offices in Milan is a study in symmetry.

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The boldly hued restaurant at J.K. Place Roma. For this hotel, Bönan took inspiration from the Fascist architecture of nearby Piazza Augusto Imperatore as well as Renaissance structures and avant-garde artwork from the 1950s.

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The J.K. Place Roma—whose skylight-lit living room-like lobby is shown here—draws inspiration from ancient Rome.

Bönan tends to custom-design furniture for each new project. “I started designing because I couldn’t find what I needed,” he explains. Two properties that Bönan both designed and owns are the Heidelberg Suites, a 26-suite hotel housed in a series of beautifully restored 19th-century villas in the picturesque town of Heidelberg and the Jagdgut Wachtelhof, a 31-room ski lodge in the Austrian Alps. He feels particularly connected to both of these hotels since his German-born wife, Christene, an interior stylist with whom he has collaborated for 15 years, has family roots in both locales. At the Heidelberg Suites, Bönan, a passionate boat lover, has provided a floating restaurant for guests: The Patria, a fully restored and revamped 1930s yacht done in a crisp red-and-white palette. “These two hotels really show our style,” he states.

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