Silver and gold, heavy velvet curtains and rococo mirrors with gilded frames, sparkling chandeliers, stunning lamps and tables like pieces of art, genuine Versace chairs and thick Ralph Lauren wallpaper. Luxury everywhere you look.
Text: Edda Espeland / Translation: Linda Vikaune / Photo: Kristin Levy
“Much” is a good key word to describe Hotel Wassilioff in Stavern. Here minimalism is a foreign word and maximalism has been given free reign. Hotelier Morten Christensen’s ideal is the Dorsia Hotel in Gothenborg, Sweden, where every guest lives like a king or queen, and every single room is like a little royal palace …
He goes against the flow and adds instead of paring back, whether it’s the size of the scrumptious complimentary toiletries in the bathrooms or the choice in the minibar.
“And this goes for all our guests,” Christensen emphasises. “We had different price levels in the beginning, but decided to change that. We want all our guests to have only the best.” He wants to do things differently to all the others, and thinks the things that were previously saved for best has more value when it is being used, so he got the silver cutlery out of the drawer.
Original grandeur restored
Wassilioff is Stavern’s landmark venue and the only hotel in town, so it’s extra special to see it see it restored to its former glory. The hotel was started in 1844 by Russian Michael Wassilioff from Riga, who had escaped to avoid serving in the Russian army and managed to get on board a ship going to Stavern. There he met and married Anne Marie Jacobsdatter, who owned property on the quay at Stavern. Their son Ingebrigt Wassilioff took over the hotel in 1867 and made it famous with his sister Tatiana as chef. In 1878 they were awarded three stars in Baedeker’s travel guide, the Michelin guide of its day. This was the highest praise the guide could give and was only bestowed on two hotels in Norway, the Christiania Hotell in Christiania, now Oslo, and Hotel Wassilioff in Stavern.
In 1922 the hotel burnt down, and during the reconstruction the decorations in the Aamodtsalen hall were painted by Larvik born artist Asbjørn Aamodt. His friends, prominent Norwegian poets Herman Wildenwey and Gunnar Reiss-Andersen, were regular guests at the hotel until they settled down in Stavern.
The Wassilioff family had no heirs, and after a succession of owners Anne Gerd and Gunnar Lossius Berseth took over in 1967. They ran the hotel until Morten and Camilla Christensen bought it in 2012.
Part of the Unike hoteller group, the hotel has 48 rooms, all different, but it’s easy to spot the elements that add that touch of extravagance – velvet upholstery in red, purple, black or bright blue with huge crystal buttons, thick silk wallpaper by Lauren or Kirkvolden. One room is all red and black, another royal blue and silver. There are signature cushions in all the rooms. Wallpaper, beds and lamps are new, and because the hotel manager wants to make sure everything works perfectly, there are also new mixer taps and shower heads.
The extravagance is also evident in the way food is served. At Christmas the hotel’s festive celebratory banquets are filled with the old, the familiar and loved, from Waldorf salad to traditional Norwegian holiday fare like ribs and smoked ribs.
The kitchen serves French gourmet food made with Norwegian produce, and a five course seasonal menu with wine is a popular choice in the Excellensen restaurant. The chefs are all carefully selected. One of them comes from a chain of French luxury hotels, so there is no ready-made food to be found – everything is cooked from scratch. They invest a lot in making real sauces.
Hotel Wassilioff also organises events like Christmas works’ parties, courses and conferences, weddings, birthdays, concerts and shows. There are rooms and menus to suit most events. In the summer they have mostly private guests, the rest of the year is dominated by courses, conferences and parties.
“We want to bring the hotel back to its former glory, to the days when it was considered one of Norway’s best hotels,” says Christensen. “It’s meant to feel a bit luxurious.”
He’s already achieved that particular goal.
At Wassilioff you will feel like a king – or a queen – for a short time, so enjoy.