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08 Nov 2017 10:00 POR KATJA Y ANTOINE

But... Who is Emilia?

The Hotel Villa Emilia in Barcelona was founded in 2007 by Katja and Antoine, who were already running a small hotel in France. They turned a family building into the signature hotel that we can find in the city today, a truly personal project that receives the name Villa Emilia.

Many of us are wondering: Who is Emilia? To be able to answer this and many more questions, we have talked with whom knows best: the founders.

Let's start from the beginning. Let's meet Katja and Antoine.

Katja Escorsell (Catalan father and German mother) studied hospitality in Switzerland. Antoine Dubois is Parisian and, along with Katja, he managed a small 3 star hotel on the French Riviera for 17 years. In 2004 they sold it to start a much more personal project: Hotel Villa Emilia. For this project, both the founders were very involved in the daily needs and activities of the hotel from the begining, and have now managed to create a team with people who have a lot to contribute to the business. Villa Emilia aims to stay away from the philosophy of big hotel chains and seeks to get a much closer relationship with its guests.

What made you decide to turn this family building into a hotel in Barcelona?

Well, we decided to do it because the hotel we had on the French Riviera was an already built hotel and we were looking forward to start a project from zero and turn it into our own hotel. And we wanted to do it after almost a lifetime of gathering experiences both as hoteliers and as clients. As hoteliers, we have tried to put ourselves in the skin of the employee, thinking about how to build a hotel that would facilitate their work. For the customer, we have made sure to have everything we would like to find in a hotel if we stayed there.

Why Barcelona?

We chose the city of Barcelona as it is Katja's home town and she had always wanted to get back to her roots. In addition, it is a city that fascinates us by its privileged location and because it has sea and mountain.

The most anticipated question. Who is Emilia?

Emilia is Katja's grandmother and we named the hotel like this in her honour. Emilia lived in this building during a great part of her life, taking care of her two children. And, of course, if it wasn't for her, we could have never built a hotel in this area of the Eixample. As an anecdote, a neighbour recently told us that Emilia worked in a hotel in Barcelona when she was young. Is it coincidence or is it closing the circle?

How important is interior design for you? How did you work to get the perfect decoration of Villa Emilia?

A hotel like Villa Emilia is not built in a few months. This project was in our minds for 10 years before even laying the first stone. During all these 10 years we have been projecting our ideas and illusions. We have always had interest for decoration and we think that when the atmosphere is comfortable and pleasant, people feel good too. And our goal has always been that the customer, as well as the employees, feel comfortable in this place. If employees feel at ease, we can transmit positive energy to our customers. And this is really a priority.

In addition, interior design is very important because it helps convey the spirit of the hotel, embodying its philosophy. In the case of Villa Emilia, pieces of the design of the old building were kept, and we also used inherited elements and pieces of antiquarian that were mixed with contemporary objects and materials. The perfect combination between tradition and avant-garde, a reflection of what the hotel is.

During the remodelling of the building, the founders were directly involved in the design of the interior. To gather ideas, we have been travelling and visiting many decoration fairs in Paris, Milan or Frankfurt. This process has counted on the invaluable collaboration of Franco Costa, of Costa Group. The contributions of both parts have managed to give a very personal touch to Villa Emilia. As we said, design furniture coexists with very old pieces, such as the 18th century wardrobe on the main floor, or the small 16th century Italian secretary on the second floor.

In addition, every last detail has been taken care of, with the founders personally ordering pieces abroad and also working with local artists.

What is your favourite corner of the hotel?

The fireplace area in winter. You have the impression of not being in a city, but rather curled up in your house in front of the fireplace. And in summer, the terrace. The terrace makes you feel Barcelona but not in the hustle and bustle of the city; in a more serene and harmonious way.

In your opinion, what should a hotel have to be the perfect place for a guest?

The hotel should make the customer feel at home, being comfortable and quiet. In addition, of course, it has to offer all the usual services of an establishment of its category.

What will Villa Emilia guests find when they arrive at the hotel?

It is difficult to answer this question, but what we constantly hear is that, those who have already come, describe it as a hotel with soul. They say that upon entering, there is something different. We can say that you will find an establishment with a great singularity. Villa Emilia has an avant -garde aspect and offers all the comforts of a 4 star city hotel. However, our guests will enjoy a much more intimate and familiar treatment, and will find themselves with an atmosphere of - almost - a private house.

What do you like most about Barcelona?

Its geographical location, between sea and mountain. The contrast in Barcelona between a traditional and conservative tendency with avant-gardism. And, of course, the weather.

What would your ideal day in the city be like?

Stroll around Barcelona, discover the gardens of Montjuïc, have an aperitif on the Rambla del Raval and dine on the heights of Barcelona, walk through the narrow streets of the Gothic quarter.

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