Just as discreet as its Parisian big sister, the second addition to the Mama Shelter group opened its doors last month in Marseille, South of France. Behind the glass façade encased in a mat-silver steel frame, hides the new place to see and be seen for the city’s creative, socialite and fashionista crowd. And this, despite the hotel’s very competitive room prices.
Created by the Trigano family and French philosopher, Cyril Aouizerate, the hotel is entirely designed by Philippe Starck like Mama Paris. The convivial atmosphere of the restaurant in the evenings along with Starck’s instantly recognisable fun and unusual touch are the main draws of the hotel.
The open-plan bar and restaurant space comprises a mix of long communal beech wood tables, low dining tables and loud-patterned custom-upholstered sofas. And crowning it off, the centrepiece of the room is of course, the signature oversized Mama table football game. Outside, the patio is marked by a contemporary southern French provincial twist; a bright yellow vertical stripe runs along the white walls where potted flowers are affixed among bare brightly coloured bulbs, giving a whole new meaning to the hanging basket.
Mama Shelter’s atmosphere changes depending on the time of day – in the daytime, the restaurant is warm and cosy, usually with Marseille’s bright blue skies visible from the wall-to-wall windows running along the back wall. However, it is in the evenings that the bulk of the design action is unveiled. The bay window becomes lit by the patio’s colourful lights but the main feature of the room is the lighting fixture above the bar. Also found at Mama Paris, the fixture, made from children’s blow-up life rings of all shapes and sizes, gets a smile and a comment from every passing guest who cannot resist the urge to have a sneaky poke at the rubber. Other fun bits and bobs add surprise twists to the décor, like the seemingly random post cards and photographs arranged around the restaurant’s mirrors giving the area a welcome personal touch, as well as a signature Starck glass display cabinet with an assemblage of musical instruments as the backdrop to the stage area; last but not least, a hint of technology in the form of an iMac screen ‘photo-booth’ for guests to take a snap of their Mama experience is ready for action at the restaurant entrance.
Spread over eight floors sporting heavy grey carpets printed with words and pictures emblematic of Marseille, reminds of Mama Paris. The carpets stop at the threshold of the rooms, where Starck’s take on camouflage, printed on thick lino squares takes over. Upon first impression the rooms feel small and clinical. Boasting two white walls and two exposed cement walls, teamed with the plastic floors, a light-box headboard and two full-length mirrors framed by the same mat-silver as the hotel’s exterior, the rooms might not sound like the most comfortable, but they grow on guests overnight. Small touches like the ‘Do not disturb’ postcard signage hanging on the handle behind the door of the rooms and a rectangular sink and vanity area give the room a fresh and fun sharp contemporary edge. The uncluttered minimalist, functional look is complemented by large windows that let in plenty of natural light and, when left ajar, the sound of Marseille’s local soul filters through.
Form follows function aptly and although Mama Marseille proved to be a challenge in its conception due to the tiny budget allocated to the project, both for Starck and the father and son founding duo, Serge and Benjamin Trigano, “The aim wasn’t to build just another luxury boutique hotel”, said Serge Trigano, “We wanted to prove that it is possible to create a high-quality product at very reasonable prices.” And indeed – Starck’s talent here is most evident in his design flexibility, which is further proof of his ability to rise to just about any challenge.
The group will be opening several hotels in the coming year, including in Istanbul, Bordeaux, Lyon and Los Angeles.