B&B and Beyond: Casa de Todos, Santiago de Chile
A creative, globe-trotting couple have put their stamp on a pair of 1920s buildings in Barrio Italia. By Sorrel Moseley-Williams
Saturday 18 January 2014
Close to the River Mapocho and shadowed by nearby Mount San Cristóbal, a polite reminder of the Andes, the neighbourhood of Providencia looks rather staid at first glance. Medium-rise office blocks and two-storey homes make up the bulk of the urban landscape, but further inspection reveals a thriving cultural scene. Providencia laces together Bohemia with the modern world and brims with cafés and bars.
It is also home to Barrio Italia, a former industrial sub-district that had its heyday between 1910 and 1940. Its regeneration is more beatnik, successfully integrating venerable butchers and mechanics with organic cafés, boutiques and art galleries that have breathed new life into warehouses and workshops.
Casa de Todos is one of a growing number of B&Bs in the capital. Owned by a married couple who love to travel and sensed an opportunity, the 11-room lodging embellishes original 1920s fittings with fresh furnishings.
Before taking up its current role, Casa de Todos was a pair of offices – the current owners spent a year joining the two buildings together. Given that the 1920s French-style construction falls under a cultural heritage protection order, great care was taken to maintain original features.
That said, contemporary details have been thrown into the mix, such as a vast map of the city sketched on to a blackboard in reception and a colour-coded key system.
There are 11 rooms, including two that can open out to create a single apartment, and each one is individual thanks to the different flourishes. En-suite bathrooms are compact but include toiletries and a bathtub with rain shower.
Guests can take advantage of two shared areas: the black-and-white living-dining room sports a large sofa and LCD television, while the bamboo-lined back patio is an ideal spot for cooling off under an umbrella.
If Spanish isn't your strong point, consult the dining room's vast blackboard for a visual guide – then point. Eggs are made to order any style, as is the coffee. The rest of the meal is self-service and includes a selection of cheese and ham, fruit salad, fresh raspberry juice, cereal, breads including the local flat hallulla and, for the homesick, a variety of Twinings tea.
Husband-and-wife team Kanky Schmidt and Rodrigo Arcos combined their respective professions of graphic design and engineering to undertake this project. After a laborious 12-month remodelling, Casa de Todos opened three years ago.
This is their first time running a small hotel, and after checking in guests each morning, Kanky heads down to the basement to attend to her graphic design company.
Wander aimlessly around Providencia and stumble on gems in Barrio Italia (barrioitalia.cl), with more than 120 cafés and cute boutiques lining the main drag, Avenida Italia.
Cat lovers should also make a beeline for kitsch kitty emporium Carita de Gato (00 56 2 723 1158; caritadegato.cl) at No 1216, while home improvers will enjoy Areas Design (00 56 2 341 7313) at No 1354 or Jojo Bazar (00 56 2 2936 9885) at No 1295.
For men's and women's staples, head to the inappropriately named Snog (00 56 2 225 2391) at Tegualda 1517, while a percentage of the profits from the handknits and ecological wares at Hilos de Salvia (00 56 2 269 0810) further along at No 1832, goes to charity.
Hungry after shopping? Café de la Candelaria (Avenida Italia 1449; 00 56 2880 4137; cafedelacandelaria.cl) whips up tasty crepes, while hearty pasta dishes form the core of Da Noi's menu (Avenida Italia 1791; 00 56 2 274 2001; danoi.cl). There are Peruvian and Mexican restaurants nearby too.
Once you've finished splurging, aim for Parque de las Esculturas (Avenida Santa Maria 2201), a permanent, public collection of works by renowned Chilean artists that includes Marta Colvin's award-winning Pachamama, a tribute to Earth Mother. And, on the cusp of Providencia you'll find the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (00 56 2 499 1600; mnba.cl), a grand Neoclassical edifice topped with an atrium that houses pieces from Chile, Europe and Africa.
There are three branches of the revered Liguria, but the original restaurant (Avenida Providencia 1373; 00 56 2 235 7914; liguria.cl), is a stone's throw from Casa de Todos. Team up a Chilean dish such as razor-clam gratin and conger-eel stew with a wine from the substantial list and settle in for an evening. A kitsch space adorned with maps, road signs and photos of pin-ups gone by, Liguria is friendly and buzzing; local bands play live.
Casa de Todos, General Flores 120, Providencia, Santiago, Chile (00 56 2 2946 5806; casadetodos.com). Doubles start at US$125 (£83), including breakfast.
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