An actor as the face of a hotel? Til Schweiger is of course one of Germany’s best-known actors, working alongside Brad Pitt and Christoph Waltz in Hollywood blockbuster “Inglorious Basterds”. But what does all that mean for the first Barefoot Hotel, which opened in early June at the Baltic sea resort of Timmendorfer Strand? And how much was Schweiger really involved?
text: Manuela Blisse
The media hype was huge. Normally, a hotel opening on the Baltic Sea wouldn’t draw so many members of the press pack to their desks. But Schweiger, with his “own” hotel? That’s a definite attraction. Even if it wasn’t quite correct. The Barefoot name has clear links to the actor. In a film of the same name released by his production company Barefoot Films, he played the main role and directed. Schweiger also has an interior design and lifestyle brand Barefoot Living, which leans towards Malibu, the Hamptons and Mallorca as the source of inspiration for shirts, cashmere sweaters, tableware, small pieces of furniture, lamps, rugs, blankets and cushions – a treasure trove for any living space.
It was Mirko Stemmler who brought Schweiger’s passion for design into action. “In an interview in ‘Elle Decoration’, I read that Til Schweiger wanted to set up a hotel one day,” explains Stemmler, whose main role is managing director of Hamburg-based Jasika Holding, and whose second role is managing partner of Barefoot Hotels. He sent him a two-line email, and two weeks later, the actor sat before him in Stemmler’s office, having already made gastronomic inroads into the Hanseactic city with the Barefoot Deli.
The hardware and hotel expertise of Holding, the interior software under the terms of the hotel industry needs of Schweiger: “The building, a villa from 1900, is one of the oldest buildings in the Bay of Lübeck. It belongs to the Holding portfolio and we ran it for 17 years as a Meridian hotel,” says hotel expert Stemmler. In 2014, there was talk of converting the villa. Schweiger’s interview came just at the right time. After 18 months of planning, the Barefoot Hotel opened at the start of June.
“We didn’t want to just create another standard, off-the-rack hotel, but to tell stories and offer experiences,” says Hoffmann. These individual concepts, he explains, are developed through intensely focusing on the building, surroundings and city. For example, seafarers from all over the world tell stories from their lives in the Hamburg 25hours located in the HafenCity; in Vienna, the 25hours in the Museumsquarter, everything revolves around a circus theme, whereas the Frankfurt 25hours, The Goldman, was inspired by famous international personalities. Christoph Hoffmann loves this thrilling phase at the start, when all the options are still open. “A hotel is the nicest thing you can create.” But opening day is the worst. “That’s when I always see so many mistakes and shortcomings, so much of it is so far away from what I dreamed of.”
But it’s exactly these individual, unique stories that bring soul and thereby also success to the 25hours hotels. And it’s through this concept that Hoffmann, over recent years, has had a lasting influence on the entire hotel industry. According to his own figures, his hotels have an occupancy rate of over ninety percent, in some sites, significantly higher. Even a major fire, started by a forgotten candle, which forced the recently reopened Hamburg 25hours HafenCity to close for a year, just two months after the 2016 opening, couldn’t stop its triumphal march. Various awards followed for this success story; most recently, Christoph Hoffmann was named Hotelier of the Year 2016 in Germany.
The ground floor, comprising a lobby, restaurant (100 covers), shop and newly attached winter garden, has a very cosy character. There are different views over various levels, such as the lowered seating area in front of the fireplace – where the swimming pool used to be. Even on the individual floors with rooms, there are various levels to traverse. This is because over the course of various expansions, the villa became a charming building, full of nooks and crannies. The site is also connected to the existing property. The Barefoot isn’t right on the seafront, instead, it is set back some 200 metres from the sandy beaches of the Baltic Sea.
The 57 rooms, measuring between 15 and 75 square metres, are spread across four floors, and can be configured either as double or single rooms, with a mix of the four Pure, Classic, Suite and Premium categories. The majority of rooms and suites have balconies with respectable sizes of eight to ten metres square. The width of the box-spring beds ranges from 1.60 metres to 1.80 metres, right up to two metres in the Premium rooms, some of which also feature saunas and deluxe tubs with whirlpool function. The spa and fitness area, which is located in a new extension, covers 500 square metres, and was launched in-house at the start of August, after the general opening.
Schweiger was inspired by the “uncomplicated way of life in Malibu and the American East Coast”, and this shows, with white verandas, floor to ceiling windows at ground level, warm natural tones throughout the hotel, lots of wooden furniture and windows, as well as organic, sensual surface textures, creating a casually elegant country house-chic style. Technically speaking, according to the hotel owners, “high end”.
“From the shape of the cups right through to the material and shade of the pillows, Schweiger has thought about it all,” says Stemmler, who gave the actor free rein as long as the hotel’s needs were met. The furniture and home accessories aren’t just off the rack. Instead, they were produced according to individual designs from selected manufacturers. Chairs, such as the oak rocking chairs on the balcony, and beds were produced by Very Wood near Venice, the TV furniture came from a local family business, while the lamps were made on Mallorca. But personal aspects have had an influence, too. Many of the beautifully framed photos come from Schweiger’s personal photo archives. For convenience, it’s possible to buy the odd (home) accessory or two in the hotel’s own Barefoot Living shop. The work on the hotel was of course performed by local tradespeople.
Stemmler only goes so far when asked about the amount invested, saying it was an “eight-figure sum”. Director Regina Held is in charge of managing the hotel. The existing team from Meridian was taken on. She had to contend with huge amounts of external job applications, cooperations, etc. from outside “A collaboration with BMW was already in place – the Bavarian car manufacturer provides the vehicles for the guest limousine service – and a new coffee table book project is in the planning with the teNeues publishing house.” Stemmler appears amazed about the hotel’s appeal and yet simultaneously highlights that they are happy to discuss further cooperations.
All the detail shows that the actor has put a great deal of effort into the hotel. But according to the shareholders, when it comes to the day-to-day operation, Holding is the one who sets the tone. “Of course, the name Til Schweiger is the ideal starting point,” he admits. “But we’re working on making sure that the Barefoot Hotel brand can stand for itself.” Hard-working Til Schweiger is now back to living and breathing film, along with other projects. Expanding the new hotel brand hasn’t yet been considered. Project number one must be brought up to speed first and foremost.
The key emphasis here is on young-thinking leisure guests, who enjoy lifestyle hotels. “Occupancy rates of, on average, ninety percent are realistic,” say the shareholders of their dream quotas. To tackle this, the team of currently twenty must be increased to 32.
Room prices range from around 90 to 245 euros during the opening phase, and will be increased as soon as next year, by approximately twenty percent. Packages are also planned, perhaps together with offers from the Barefoot Boutique, such as shopping evenings and readings. There is even a possibility of a music festival, says Stemmler, who values regional ties. Particularly given his own life experience. “I did my training here in Timmendorfer Strand, in the nearby Hotel Gorch Fock,” he explains.
This much is certain: “The concept would work anywhere, because it stands for chic,” says Stemmler. He is also sure that the new lifestyle hotel will mean an upturn in the town – Timmendorfer Strand has had a somewhat sleepy appeal until now. As a result, he doesn’t see the hotel as competition for the existing businesses, but rather as a complementary one, that can open the doors to a new generation of hotel concepts.