How would you describe Brody House in a nutshell?
Brody House is a quirky boutique hotel in Budapest‘s romantic Palace District. This stunning heritage building is a magical mix of slightly faded neo-classical aesthetics and cutting-edge modern character. 11 bedrooms and suites showcase works by local and international artists, each of them having had a big impact on the development of Brody House. Retro-chic comes to mind when exploring the house, with its massive doorways and sweeping staircases, combined with bare plaster walls, up-cycled and repurposed furniture, as well as contemporary pieces. With an excellent breakfast buffet and a delightful honesty bar, this is probably the most hip lodging in central Pest.
Brody House has a very rich history. Please tell us a bit about the house, the different proprietors and how it became a hub for creativity and the arts today.
Brody House sits in the ‘Palace Quarter’ in central Budapest next door to the former Parliament of Hungary. Once Parliament left, the house was reconfigured for a doctor and then a prime minister moved in. When communism kicked in after the war, the house was cut up into different units.
It was in a bad shape when we bought it and we opened up some of the rooms. While considering how to renovate it, we rented it out to our artist friends and promoted them through exhibitions. That was the start of the art side of things.
Today we also invite people to come here and be creative. Being a beacon to support that and providing a place where people can share ideas is something we thought the city needed.
Our renovations brought out the charm of the past and adding today’s world in terms of using the most out of the resources and being creative and smart with them. When you do that, you create this unique environment which people find inspiring.
What was your inspiration to turn it into a members’ club?
We would often find ourselves in the position of entertaining, so we thought we might as well have a more structured approach to it. That enabled us to not be the ones driving and doing, but to actually have people buy into the concept, allowing us to have more guests and creative inspiration rather than just the operation component.
It all started with our personal friends and people we like to see on a regular basis. That’s still very much the ethos - people who bring something to the table without being too brutal about it. That could be energy, entertainment, charm, great ideas, whatever. They bring something that enhances the experience for everybody else.
All the activities that we do at the club are about creative things – whether it be someone coming to do a little opera performance, or a new band playing, a new documentary film, a new art exhibition, whatever it may be. People who want to support that contribute to get involved.
All the rooms are styled individually featuring the work of Brody House’s artists. Did the artists do the complete interior design?
If the artists didn’t manage to pay their rent, they would give us some of their artwork. It was a way of getting them engaged so they feel they have a little bit of a stakeholding in the concept. It was all seen as positive and reinforcing, and it shows the integrity of the artistic nature of the project.
We have a design and renovation business that works on other properties as well. That team was responsible in terms of the features and the way in which we renovated each room. The artists would chip in when they had an idea, but it was under the directorship of our own team.
As for the furniture, a lot of it is being restored from flea markets, dumps, throw-out days. We’ve taken quite odd things that people wouldn’t necessarily think of using as furniture. That’s one of our core philosophies – one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure. In places like Budapest, you really have to push that – make something new out of what you’ve already got.
Besides the rooms, do you also feature work from artists throughout Brody House?
Yes. There’s a club space. We use it for the promotion of creativity. We feature work of the Brody House artists, but also other artists who we think are interesting, have a story, and their art can potentially be suitable for putting up on the walls and using the space for promotion in some shape or form.
Part of the base of people we are friendly with are from London, the States, or wherever else, it gives them another reason to come and visit. Not just that the rooms are cool and funky, but there’s also a social and cultural experience that awaits, which may serve to make the city a more interesting experience. They get to meet fun people here, either visiting or locals, and it’s a reinforcing reason for people to come and hopefully revisit.
What would you describe to be the spirit or essence of Brody House and your philosophy?
There was an article written recently by a magazine called Think. One of the writers wrote that Brody House is a doorway as much as a house, a refuge to the higher mind and the creative spirit. We were quite surprised and flattered by that.
The spirit is about being open, open-minded, inclusive, welcoming, fresh thinking. It is integrity, fun, dynamism. Creativity is a massively overused word, but it is relevant. In the club space, for instance, guests can have conversations that don’t feel forced or artificial. That’s something which is gratifying to see.
What other things would you recommend to see or do while in the city?
The ruined pubs, they’re pretty unique. They’re old buildings that have been converted into pubs, big, sprawling pubs with little nooks and crannies, with eclectic furniture. They’re quite unique, a little shade of Berlin in those places.
Some might argue that actually some of those charming parts is what makes it a bit more raw and a much more interesting city than, say, Vienna, which is lovely to visit, but it’s a little bit Disneyfied. I’m sure there are many people in Budapest who would love Budapest to become more like Vienna, but there are others who would prefer not to go too far down that line so that it loses its soul, because it is a city that has soul.
To you personally, what has been most rewarding about running Brody House?
People are clearly a very important part. To give a very real example, we have a friend involved in a big film in Budapest. He’s very low key and cool and has some very serious actors involved in his film. He just casually brought them over to Brody House. The guests were there and they weren’t stargazing. It was all very low key.
It’s always interesting for people who are successful to meet other people who have achieved something in different walks of life, sectors, and spheres. The cross fertilization of one from another is something which is very rewarding.
How would you like your guests to remember their stay?
People who come to Brody House are surprised about how much they enjoyed their stay. Reading the comments in the guest book, they’re surprised about how charming Budapest was, as well as the house. So I think it is surprising people, which is really enjoyable. This isn’t the Four Seasons. You don’t have all the bells and whistles, but it’s a feeling people go away with.
Budapest has a lot to offer and we like Brody House being part of their unique experience. It’s a staging post for people to go out and grab those experiences. People go away feeling very happy and telling all their friends.