Turning your childhood home into a thoughtful, beautifully restored, and sustainable hotel that genuinely captures the city—both past and present—isn’t an easy feat. But that’s exactly what the owners of Carlota hotel, Renato Solines and Veronica Reed, have achieved in Quito, Ecuador. The turn-of-the-century house in which the hotel now thrives belonged to Solines' grandmother Carlota, after whom the hotel is named and fashioned. The “story” came from the winner of a design competition the pair held to create the branding for the hotel. “The designer, Pablo Iturralde talked to my grandmother and came up with a plan. The ‘o’ in the logo is shaped like a suitcase with a Mirlo (Great Thrush) bird on top. The Mirlo is a very special bird in Quito and my grandmother reminded him of this bird,” says Solines.
“Renato’s grandmother is very lively, flirty, and in love with life… just like the bird,” adds Reed. “We had to find a point at which the architecture and design could meet. We did that through the use of color. We took inspiration from the different birds in Quito and used their color palettes in the rooms.” Working together on this project was a fluid experience for this couple who’ve been together for more than 20 years. “We were able to work 24/7 without any issues,” says Reed. “If Renato was an architect it probably would not have worked out. I created the spaces for the (guest) experiences and he is in charge of what will make the experiences work.”
This synergy has been part and parcel of Solines' and Reed’s relationship from the start. Marrying shortly after finishing their undergraduate degrees, they both left to study in Spain and then at Arizona State University—he went on to finish his masters in business administration and global technology and she in Environmental Design and Energy Efficiency. Thanks to Reed’s influence, Solines also started working in sustainability and development. The couple moved back to Quito and opened Sustainable Design Studio (SDS), working on projects ranging from affordable housing to public spaces.
This investment in the region also resulted in them organizing TEDxQuito—“the most important platform for discussing ideas in Ecuador”—and subsequently, TEDxGalapagos. “Throughout our studies and careers and switching gears, it was a process about figuring out where we could improve or better contribute to each other’s needs,” explains Solines. The culmination of these years of interlacing careers and paths is the Carlota hotel. The hotel was Solines' idea. “I was born in this house and it belonged to my grandmother. She’s 98. In 2004, she decided to give all her possessions to her sons and daughters,” he explains. “She gave this house to my mother. In 2008, we started to think about what we can do with this property my mother inherited. We worked five years on this hotel. It wasn’t just a business project but a life project. It has a story. It belongs to my grandma. We put all our resources and love into this project.”
“The hotel is growing with us,” says Reed. “There’s a timeless blend of different eras in the house. Thanks to this special atmosphere, the hotel attracts both locals and visitors. People share stories and give each other ideas. It was a link that was missing here.” The savvy couple has been adept at bridging the gaps they’ve seen in their city for the past 12 years and they continue to do so with unbridled passion.