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Natalia Swarz

Founder of Hôtel Weekend

Natalia Swarz

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Location
Madrid, Spain
Contact

Could you tell us a little about your professional background?

I studied graphic design and have always been passionate about interior design and hotels. However, life led me to begin my career as a designer in the fashion industry. I worked for brands like Loewe, Love Stories Intimates, and M2Malletier. I loved it but always felt like it didn't fulfill me completely. I still wanted to do something about travel and hospitality, so I launched my own project.

You're an artist, too—how did you get started, and how do you continue to create alongside all your other work?

My mother was an artist, so I grew up painting and drawing next to her. I was 17 when she died, and I had to start working really young, so illustrations were my first real job. I worked as a freelancer for magazines like Nylon, Darling Magazine, and others, and also for brands like Zara, Mango, and other independent brands. I made illustrations or print designs for their fabrics. I also got two books published that were illustrated by me.

But when I launched Hôtel Weekend, I decided I would only paint for myself or for special commissions, so I could be more intentional and paint what I wanted instead of it just being a commercial project. I love to paint flowers, nature, and feminine portraits. I hope to get back into it slowly as I have more time to work on it since my daughter's now started nursery.


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How did the idea of Hôtel Weekend come about, and when did you officially launch the company?

I always "regretted" not studying interior design and hospitality. So this was my way to work on this passion in my own way. Since I moved from Colombia to Europe back in 2014, I traveled a lot on the weekends, and I was always looking for inspiring places to stay that were off the beaten path. When I worked at a luxury handbag brand, my boss would always ask for hotel recommendations, so I would look up hotels for her, and I had so much fun doing this. At that moment, there weren't many online sites to discover these beautiful stays, so I created my own platform to share my finds. It was made for design-oriented travelers like myself.

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So you were born in Cali, Colombia, and then moved to Europe later. How have the experiences of living in different places shaped your outlook on life and work?

Moving is a part of my life. Even when I grew up in Cali until I was 18, my mother loved to move houses. I've lived in 33 different houses, and I'm not even 30 yet, haha! We also lived in Miami when I was 9, and then when I finished school, I moved to Bogotá, then Panama, Barcelona, and then Madrid. I'm not done yet. I would love to live in a few other places and to have my daughter see the world.

Hôtel Weekend values are rooted in the idea of slow living. In your words, how do you define this ethos, and how do you practice it day-to-day?

Slowing down is mostly about being present and cherishing every moment. It's about finding pleasure and beauty in the ordinary. In my day-to-day life, I try to enjoy the little things. It doesn't mean I'm always "slow" in a literal sense. Sometimes, you'll find me rushing to get somewhere or trying to juggle work while still being a present parent. I've realized time goes by too fast, and it's imperative to enjoy it.


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What are your best tips for someone hoping to travel more consciously and slowly?

Slow down your pace and use more sustainable and environmentally friendly transport options, like taking a train instead of flying. Choose a destination that doesn't draw too many tourists, and travel during the low season, if possible. Choose locally sourced goods and services. Supporting local businesses will always have a positive economic impact on the community you're visiting. It truly makes a difference to small businesses. Be conscious about your impact, and always respect your surroundings. There is no better way to discover a city than getting lost and walking around.

In your opinion, what makes travel meaningful?

When you travel with your eyes and heart open.

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You’ve been to and featured some extraordinary places; what have been some of your favorite travel memories?

Last summer, we rented a house in Alentejo with our friends and our babies. We spent the days cooking, swimming in the pool, and doing nothing. I also fondly remember my time staying in Numeroventi in Florence in 2018. Days were filled with pasta, wine, wine, wine, and more wine, gelato, and great conversations. I loved it. I stayed there for two weeks working on the artist residency along with other artists. It was so beautiful.


Similarly, what’s been your favorite travel destination and why?  

Portugal is always my favorite place to visit; somehow, it always feels like home. I always love the Mediterranean, too, and Latin America in general.

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And what are your bucket list destinations?

This year, I have Japan on my list. There are so many places I’d like to visit—Lamu in Kenya, New Zealand, Jamaica... the list is endless.

When choosing a hotel, what are your criteria to make it a memorable stay?

It must be beautiful, inspiring, and relaxing—hopefully, a place that allows both connection and retreat.

What are your top hotel picks?

I really love the Coqui Coqui residences; they’re definitely at the top of my list. But I love so many—each with their unique style and experience.


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If at all, how did the pandemic change or reinforce your outlook on travel and leisure?

After the pandemic, I believe we all started appreciating the time spent with friends or loved ones. In my case, we started planning longer stays with our friends. The idea of connection—with nature, friends, family, animals, etc.—is far more potent than before. In the past, you wanted to escape and retreat, disconnect. I don't think that's the case anymore.


There’s a lot of talk on different travel trends post-pandemic. What are your thoughts on the future of travel and hospitality?

To me, it’s always been about community, and I think you’ll see a lot of focus on this in the future. It'll be about meeting like-minded people around a table or in a beautiful setting, spurring meaningful conversations. After being so "lonely" in the pandemic, I've realized I want to surround myself more with people who inspire me and bring joy to my life.


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Congratulations on your book, Barefoot Living! Could you tell us a little more about the ideation process?

I've always wanted to come out with a book, ever since I was little. In 2020, after a tough personal year, I was like, what am I waiting for? And so, I decided to self-publish. I reached out to my friend Marina who photographed the book and each of the profile features.

I had a lot of fun designing the book and did it while on bed rest during my pregnancy. Once I had everything written, designed, and photographed, I found a printer in Madrid. I wanted to print here to be involved in the process. I wanted to be able to visit, review samples, and whatnot. Plus, the quality is fantastic!

The same family prints the books of the museums here in Madrid and all the Loewe books. Once a mock-up was approved, I launched the book on pre-order to finance the printing costs. I printed 1,000 copies, and they sold out two months later! I've now reprinted a second edition.


Do you have plans for more books in the near future?

Yes, already working on our second book! I’ve always loved editorial design, and it’s been such a beautiful and rewarding experience. I’m hoping to find an editorial company to partner with, as being self-published is awesome but can also be a bit stressful regarding inventory and printing.

Where do you find your inspiration, and how do you stay motivated?  

Travel, of course! I stay inspired by logging off, I try to look for inspiration everywhere but try not to look at Pinterest or Instagram exclusively. Museums, architecture, art, music, film... it’s everywhere. You just have to open your eyes and mind.

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More congrats, new mama! Your daughter, Ceci, is adorable. How do you balance travel with a little one as a young family?

It's been incredible to rediscover the world with my daughter. We knew we wanted her to accompany us on our trips, and she loves it. It makes logistics more challenging sometimes, but it's not as hard as some people say. For now, it's just been a matter of being more organized and less spontaneous, but I truly recommend it to everyone with kids!

What’s next for Hôtel Weekend?

Our own hotel!

And finally, what's in your suitcase?

Founder of Hôtel Weekend

Natalia Swarz

,

Location
Madrid, Spain
Contact

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