Boutique hotels have emphatically advanced the notion of modern design in the hospitality market. Evolving in reaction to file-box chain hotels of the 1950s and '60s, these smaller lodgings, each with a distinct ambience, often arrive at a formula: minimal architecture, arty furnishings, and loud piped-in music aimed at a young crowd.

Still, the boutique hotel concept is thriving and even maturing—as seen in the con​version of a turn-of-the-20th-century local transport building into the 82-room Palazzo Montemartini in Rome. Here is an effort to create a more serene setting—one where adults in search of contemporary architectural surroundings don't have to step into a high-design playpen. In this case, serenity is particularly desirable, since the late-classical-style hotel next to the Baths of Diocletian sits on a busy street across from the Piazza del Cinquecento and the Roma Termini, Rome's railway station.

Palazzo Montemartini, built and expanded from 1885 to 1920 as a headquarters for the local bus and streetcar lines, has been knit together by King Roselli Architetti to create a modern caravansary inside an older shell. Working with Ottaviano Architetture, which specializes in restoration, engineering, and project management, the Rome-based practice of Jeremy King and Riccardo Roselli took charge of designing guest rooms and suites, a restaurant-lounge, conference room, spa, and lobby. Given King Roselli's extremely futuristic Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport Hotel, it is not surprising to find here some of the streamlined curves and shimmering surfaces that glamorize that building's public spaces.

As visitors enter the Palazzo Montemartini, they encounter a small lobby enclosed by white planes of frosted glass. At the reception area, a mirror-finished aluminum soffit merges with the back wall. Onyx panels, attached to wood frames and lit from behind, offer a sensuous counterpoint to the planar quality of the space. Between the onyx panels, faint rivulets of water trickle down the grooved, solid-surface walls on which the luminous blocks are mounted— an aqueous theme that repeats itself throughout the hotel. “The idea of water informs the spaces to refer to the Baths of Diocletian next door,” says King.

Also on the ground floor is the large restaurant-lounge that occupies the former lobby and ticket office in the public transport facility. The grandly scaled fluted columns, ceilings, and other architectural ornamentation of this landmarked space needed to be restored. To give a sense of intimacy to the room, the architects placed a table-height rectangular fountain in the center. Its steel structure, surfaced in black fiberglass with a gelcoat finish (like the long buffet bar along one side), forms a basin for water trickling down vertical mylar cords above it.

On the lower level, King Roselli developed a version of modern-day baths for a lushly sedate, subterranean spa, where three pools are atmospherically lighted in pale shades of rose, blue-green, and yellow. Even upstairs, one line of guest accommodations includes small swimming pools.

Overall, the architects generated seven types of guest rooms, largely to solve changes in floor levels and other quirks that come from tucking hotel space into an existing structural frame of reinforced concrete and brick walls.

Some junior suites on the second floor retain the original wood and glass doors, ornamented ceilings, and other painted and carved traces of the past. But most guest rooms make the connection to history through the use of natural materials: smooth surfaces of sandstone (especially for bathroom fixtures and counters); terrazzo floors; oak cabinetry; and leather for chairs, armoires, daybeds and bedsteads, designed by King Roselli. While the architects collaborated with local tradespeople for fabricating their designs, when it came to lighting, they searched for fixtures and lamps created by such modern stalwarts as Gio Ponti, Ingo Maurer, and Achille Castiglioni.

Clearly, this hotel, with its total-design approach, discourages duplication, as attested by the guest rooms with small pools and split-level plans. It serves an affluent market of visitors who shun the bold and the trendy, on one hand, and large, grand baroque piles with overstuffed furniture on the other. The people whom the client, the Ragosta Hotels Collection, hopes to attract, are seeking the imagin​ative and experimental in design—but without sacrificing a sense of luxe, calme, and volupté.


Montemartini s.r.l.

King Roselli Architetti
Largo Ginnasi, 2 00186 Rome Italy
t. +39 06 88812163
f. +39 06 68301742

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Partner in charge: Riccardo Roselli

Project architect: Katia Scarioni

Architects: Valeria Alfonsi, Daniele Del Prete

Interior designer:
King Roselli Architetti

arch. Alessandro Grassia, arch. Diana Verde

General contractor:
FAPA s.r.l.

King Roselli Architetti
t. +39 06 88812163


97,000 square feet

Construction cost:

$24 million

Completion date:

January 2014



Wood frame: De Carlo

Metal frame: Secco Sistemi

Il Vetro s.r.l. Marcello D'Agostino

Il Vetro s.r.l. Marcello D'agostino

Entrance hotel doors: Geze
Lounge Bar doors: Arte in Legno

Wood doors: guest rooms: Albed

Sliding doors: Geze

Fire-control doors, security grilles:

Acoustic doors: Tino Sana

Guest rooms: Poign'e to King Roselli design;
SPA, Conference Center: Pba

Interior finishes
Cabinetwork and custom woodwork:
Tino Sana to King Roselli design

Paints and stains:

Wall coverings:
resin: Colledani

Tino Sana to King Roselli design

Solid surfacing:
Stone: Testi Group
Terrazzo floor in the Lounge Bar: Ricordi
PVC Floor in the attic guest rooms: Class Design

Floor and wall tile:
Stone: Testi Group

corridor carpets: Ege to King Roselli design;
guest rooms rugs: Paola Lenti; Coren


Public spaces furniture:
Reception furniture:
Tino Sana to King Roselli design (Contract furniture)

Lobby: Riva 1932, Vitra;
Louge bar (external): Roda

Lobby: Tino Sana to King Roselli design (Contract furniture); Verzelloni
Lounge: Tino Sana to King Roselli design (Contract furniture)
Lounge Bar counter: Tino Sana to King Roselli design (Contract furniture)
Louge bar (external): Roda

Lobby: Verzelloni
Lounge Bar: Storie De Stefani to King Roselli design

Guest room furniture:
Chairs: Alias; Sawaya&Moroni

Tino Sana to King Roselli design (Contract furniture);
Riva 1932;
De Padova;

Tino Sana to King Roselli design (Contract furniture);
Class Design to King Roselli design;
B&B Italia;
Tom Dixon;

Public Spaces:
SPA Contract Supplier: Starpool

Lobby Fountain:
Acqua Blu s.r.l.;
Testi Group to King Roselli design

Lounge Fountain:
Acqua Blu s.r.l.;
Tino Sana to King Roselli design

Guest rooms:
Vertical garden:
Blu Mohito

Light switches:
Epic s.r.l. Plh Italia to King Roselli design

bathrooms mirror:
Makro to King Roselli design

Interior ambient lighting:

Public Spaces:
Lounge Bar: floor light and ceiling lamp by Contardi to King Roselli design;
Corridor: Ceiling light by Contardi to King Roselli design; iGuzzini; Zumtobel
Lobby: Poulsen; Zumtobel
Conference Center: Zumtobel; iGuzzini
Spa: iGuzzini

Guest rooms:
reading lamp by Contardi to King Roselli design;
Ingo Maurer;
Fontana Arte;
Atelier moderniste

Di Madero