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Spotlight: Hospitality
An agritourism retreat, a water-inspired expresso bar, a vision for the future of leisure travel – and other destinations, real and imagined, for rest and relaxation. Plus, new furniture for the hospitality sector.
Farouche Tremblant triangular white guest cabins exterior
In Quebec, an Agri-Tourist Retreat Embraces the Great Outdoors
Masquespacio Mo bakehouse silver interior
A Saudi Arabian Espresso Bar Emulates the Three States of Matter
A Stay at Milan’s NH Hotel is a Religious Experience
Aera Vertical Resort concept by OBMI
Two Innovative Proposals That Speculate the Future of Travel
Nudo side table, console and lounge chair by Kelly Wearstler for Arca Wynwood
These Stone Furnishings are Inspired by the Ancient Practice of Weaving
Ticino dining chairs by Living Divani around a black rectangular table
4 Dining Chairs That Merit a Seat at the Table
Rut lounge seating by Blå Station
4 Lounge Seating Collections That Can Stand Up to Commercial Spaces
Spotlight: Hospitality
Farouche Tremblant triangular white guest cabins exterior

In Quebec’s Laurentian Mountains, the snow can start falling as early as October and last into May. Blanketed in powder for much of the year, the region’s peaks are justifiably famous for skiing. But farming? Definitely not. It’s simply too cold. Jonathan Casaubon and Geneviève Côté are challenging that. They own Farouche Tremblant, a new agri-tourism destination that produces an impressive array of fresh (albeit hardy) produce: cabbage, kale, beets, carrots and more. For anyone curious about the couple’s Nordic farming methods, they have built a series of architectural guest cabins as well as a café that serves up much of their bounty.

Exterior of outdoor triangular guest cabins in a forest
Designed by Atelier L’Abri, the four A-frame micro-cabins have little impact on the nature that surrounds them.

“Farouche” is French for “wild” — an apt description of how the two found their 40-hectare property. It was covered in a forest of scruffy evergreens that left the soil acidic. The pair was lucky, though, that the ground is sandy, which provides good drainage for the farm. “We’ve been slowly adding organic components to rebalance the acidity and improve the soil composition,” explains Côté. “And we use tunnel greenhouses to extend the growing season in spring and fall.”

Farouche Tremblant guest cabins exterior in the forest

The “Tremblant” in the retreat’s name refers to the region and the mountain that faces the property, a peak nearly synonymous with a massive ski resort of the same name — one packed with five-star hotels and luxury condos, many clad in brightly coloured stucco and styled as if they were in a twee European village.

Triangular forest guest cabin interior window
Clad in regional wood, the cabins’ interiors are comfortably pared-back and minimalist to encourage guests to spend more time outdoors.

In poignant contrast, the structures at Farouche are all starkly minimalist and fashioned from regional, rustic woods such as eastern white cedar and eastern hemlock. The design was conceived by Atelier L’Abri, a Montreal-based studio with extensive experience crafting modest, remote homes and cottages.

Farouche Tremblant guest cabin kitchen interior
Furnished with clean-lined wooden chairs, the retreat’s café — or buvette de ferme — serves simple farm-to-table meals and local beers.

Farouche is L’Abri’s largest hospitality project to date, encompassing the café, four micro-cabins, an outdoor hot tub area and a barn clad in natural hemlock and topped with a charcoal steel roof that houses charmingly human-scale tools such as a push tractor (“We embrace technology and machines to make our work easier, but to a degree where we have as little impact on the environment as possible,” says Côté). Yet the scope of the structures and their relationships to one another is highly intimate.

Forest cabin interior window in dining area

“We put the cabins close together,” says L’Abri co-founder Francis M. Labrecque. “That way, as you go out of your cabin, maybe walk to the café, you are seeing other people, having conversations. It’s very social.” The cedar shingle–clad guest cabins are stripped to their most essential elements: Each single-storey A-frame is appointed with a gas fireplace, a sofa and a bed with integrated storage. A winding footpath links all the structures, which recede into the landscape. The idea at Farouche is less about whiling away hours indoors, and more about exploring all the wonderful things nature offers.

Masquespacio Mo bakehouse silver interior

Groundbreaking aesthetics and a flexible space plan were the main asks when it came to MO, a bakehouse and espresso bar in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia. The design, which aims to evoke an otherworldly feel, is the creation of Spanish firm Masquespacio, which has previously won hospitality awards for its highly experiential, thought-provoking public spaces.

To transform the space’s 400-square-metre shell, Masquespacio decided on a multi-faceted theme, exploring the three main states (solid, liquid and gas) of water — which is not only a key ingredient in MO’s pastries and espresso but also a magical medium able to distort perspective and reality, notes firm co-founder Christophe Penasse. For this reason, a material palette of reflective stainless steel, cement, glossy tile and fabrics and a mirrored ceiling were utilized to speak to the reflections of water and encapsulate a surrealist vibe.

Futuristic silver restaurant interior
Water’s solid and gaseous states are represented by suspended tubal lighting and reflective spheres.

Customers can weave through three different sections, each providing a unique choose-your-own- adventure experience. The central espresso bar, which represents water’s liquid state, features a large waterfall installation made from sandblasted steel panels viewable from any spot as it expands toward the seating areas. The ice seating zone at the entrance is marked by sharp, tubal lighting, while a series of bubble lamps and floating spheres representing the gaseous state draw the eye up — dramatic focal points that balance the array of curved shared booths, stools and tiled columns.

Masquespacio Mo bakehouse silver interior

While MO is noticeably awash in gray and white — an unusual palette for a hospitality project — its colours are just as adaptable as its seating thanks to RGB lights, which can be used during events. “This allows the owners to give the space a different look and mood every time they want to introduce something new or simply create a specific event,” says Penasse.

The clients, Omar and Asim of experiential dining company Right Grain, had looked to Masquespacio to challenge a more traditional coffee shop concept. In response, the firm has successfully delivered an elevated, community-driven and engaging restaurant.

By rough estimates, there are nearly 100,000 churches in all of Italy. At the centre of each city, village and rural borgo lie ancient parishes constructed in varying degrees of architectural extravagance. But as the country’s demographics change and the number of people attending mass declines, it’s no wonder that these ornate ecclesiastical spaces have become coveted stock for adaptive re-use.

Such was the case for the architects at Milan-based Quattroassociati, who were commissioned to transform a small neighbourhood church in the Fiera district of the city into a contemporary business hotel. “Instead of demolishing the church, we proposed to preserve it and establish a relationship between the old and the new,” says Quattroassociati co-founder Michele Reginaldi of the client’s brief.

NH Hotel Milan by Quattroassociati

According to Reginaldi, the space had all the classic trappings. “The architectural elements — which include a Latin cross plan, three naves, an apse and a brick bell tower — highlight a clear reference to a late neo-Renaissance revival,” he explains. However, in order to integrate the former church with its present context, they stripped the structure of all its religious symbols and instead shifted the focus to “the columns, the capitals and the vaults, with their decorative devices,” Reginaldi says.

The soaring whitewashed central nave now forms the outdoor entrance, complete with terrazzo flooring; a gleaming nine-metre chandelier and a gilded installation behind the reception desk that recalls the form of the chapel’s organ are positioned at either end of what was the original transept.

At Milan’s newest NH Hotel, Michele Reginaldi and his team constructed the placemaking nine-metre- tall chandelier using 25 metal tubes with multiple light points each.

They then set about integrating the existing architecture into the hotel’s larger complex, a 13-storey new-build tower with 175 standard guest rooms, several high-capacity meeting rooms, a gym, a restaurant, a private garden and a rooftop pool bar (another 10 guest suites are located in the upper nave of the church).

Inspired by the classical composition of the existing pilasters, the architects extrapolated a pattern of repeating vertical sunshades. “The idea was to apply it to the surfaces of the side facades of both the church and the tower,” says Reginaldi, “unifying the different parts of the architectural whole.”

A view of NH Milano hotel’s reception desk
A gilded installation behind the NH Milan hotel’s reception desk nods to the original church’s organ.

As for the interiors, Quattroassociati took a sober approach. “The rooms avoid chromatic excesses,” says the architect. They opted for pale wood for both the furnishings and the floor, wallpaper that resembles stucco finishing, and subtle gold- toned details designed to reflect the natural light that streams into the rooms. “Gold as a colour and material offers subtle mnemonic references to precious and special places,” continues Reginaldi, “creating an atmosphere filled with energy and warmth.”

Aera Vertical Resort concept by OBMI

Thrown into turmoil after the pandemic-related restrictions of the past couple of years (compounded more recently by labour shortages and inflation), the hospitality industry is on the rebound — and seeking out novel ways to attract those who have made travel a top priority in 2023. For global architecture firm OBMI, which has been advising hospitality brands for more than eight decades, the emphasis is on delivering one-of-a-kind moments that are sustainable and human-centric. “It’s become harder to find unique and off-the-beaten-track experiences that are also sensitive to the environment,” notes the practice’s chairman Tim Peck.

The firm’s innovation lab first “explores the desires of guests, as well as the challenges facing developers and the industry as a whole,” then determines whether existing solutions apply or need to be reinvented, or if an entirely new resolution should be established. Here, he shares two of their recently developed concepts that anticipate and address how destination travel could change in the coming years.

In the Clouds
Aera Vertical Resort concept by OBMI's innovation lab

Sinuous and somewhat startling, OBMI’s idea for an urban resort proposes a new model for hospitality and tourism. What if, instead of having to travel by air to enjoy a stay at an exotic location, city-dwellers could simply hop on public transit to escape to a dreamy yet easily accessible vertical folly? That’s the gist behind the Aera Vertical Resort, a luxury destination contained within a conventional hotel-type building rather than spread across an island. Designed to include seven themed districts — culinary, art, fashion, drama, garden, wellness and family — the skyward-reaching retreat caters to all manner of tourists. Biophilic elements are front and centre: An abundance of plant life enhances the setting’s tranquility and helps to clean and remove CO2 from the air, reducing the need for artificial circulation. What’s more, as Peck notes, the concept could be used to rehabilitate an existing structure whose original program is no longer relevant (think post-pandemic office towers that are now standing near- empty) and revitalize surrounding urban markets by encouraging domestic travel.

On the Move
Habitāre modular concept by OBMI's innovation lab

An opportunity for high-end hoteliers to bring clients to remote and previously unreachable locations, Habitāre is a modular and movable concept that intends to be as sensitive to its surroundings as it is to the guest experience. The precise flat-pack design of the “land yacht” is manifold: It incorporates lightweight materials for both ease of on-site assembly and to reduce construction timelines (by more than 75 per cent) and costs (by more than two-thirds). The stiltlike foundations keep the structure off the ground for minimal environmental impact, and the units are solar-powered and self-sufficient and can simply be lifted back out and moved to the next location. The modular approach also allows for unlimited flexibility when it comes to layouts, which can shift and adapt to different needs, from basic and compact to complex with rooftop decks, plunge pools, firepits and more.

Nudo side table, console and lounge chair by Kelly Wearstler for Arca Wynwood

Not surprisingly, Kelly Wearstler’s first-ever presentation at Design Miami/Basel was highly provocative, expressive and elegant. It was revealed in Arca’s Wynwood showroom, in a setting reminiscent of a theatrical stage play, complete with yards of draped curtains and strategically placed mirrors; it also marked the first collaboration between the internationally renowned interior and product designer and the global purveyor of natural stone.

Called Nudo — the Spanish word for knot — Wearstler’s collection of marble furniture pieces upends the expectations of what can be achieved using solid stone as a medium. “Though I’ve worked with marble extensively throughout my career, this project presented a challenge to transform and bend the material to create soft-looking forms,” says Wearstler. Indeed, at first glance one would be forgiven for not realizing that the curvaceous pieces — 16 in all, plus five accessories — were made from marble, as their rounded corners and knotted and ribbed forms emulate a degree of malleability more akin to textiles and upholstered furniture.

Nudo marble console and lounge chair by Kelly Wearstler for Arca Wynwood
A first-time collaboration between designer Kelly Wearstler and Arca resulted in marble furniture pieces with compelling and sculptural shapes.

“Inspired by the ancient practice of weaving, I wanted the collection to honour the rich history of the craft, all the way down to the basics of its construction,” says Wearstler of the premise behind the pieces, adding, “Nudo is an expression of interconnectedness, a gesture of what binds us together.” From inception to completion, the series took approximately four months and involved a “mash-up of technology and handcraft.” Designs were first created digitally in Wearstler’s West Hollywood studio before being 3D printed, with minor tweaks and refinements made along the way.

Once perfected, they were sent to Arca quarries (in four different countries) to be carved on site from slabs of stone Wearstler had specifically selected for their ample colour and compelling movements — among them, Rosa Valencia, a pale rose with charcoal veining; Blue Calcite, a soothing blue-grey with a mottled surface finish; rich green Verde Tikal; and Rainbow Onyx, defined by swirls of gold, white and brown in varying degrees of translucency.

Nudo marble end table by Kelly Wearstler for Arca Wynwood
The Nudo end table’s rounded and ribbed form was inspired by the “beauty of interconnected yarns.”

A finely engineered robotic arm initially sculpted the stones before a local master carver finished them by hand; the designer and her studio received daily photo and video updates that enabled them to oversee any necessary adjustments.

Like her modern-organic capsule collections for the Proper hotel brand — for which Wearstler has also designed the interiors of four locations — the Nudo collection would up the style ante at any avant-garde or bespoke hospitality venue (or private residence, for that matter). “Travellers are all about the experience of where they are — they are living in the moment, outside their normal daily routine. You want to create an experience and visual memory from the arrival to the very last moment,” she says. When first impressions can make or break, these extraordinary pieces would deliver a welcome — and unforgettable — statement.

Ticino dining chairs by Living Divani around a black rectangular table

From fast casual restaurants to luxurious fine dining, furnishings help to set the tone for hospitality spaces. These durable dining chairs by Living Divani, Pedrali, Karimoku and Inno are ready to imbue eateries with personality.

Ticino by Living Divani
Ticino dining chairs by Living Divani around a black rectangular table

Compact and stackable, the Ticino dining chair by Zurich-based design studio Shibuleru emphasizes the simple lines of traditional farm chairs found in the southern Swiss region it’s named for and in nearby northern Italy. Upholstery options for the seat include leather, fabric or a woven cellulose rope that is at once rustic and refined; the wood structure is offered in natural or charcoal-dyed ash.

Lamorisse by Pedrali
Lamorisse dining chair by Pedrali

Suitable for many scenarios inside and outside, the Lamorisse dining chair by CMP Design pairs an aluminum frame with a generously padded seat cushion that comfortably envelops the sitter; elastic belts under the upholstery further support the seat. Multiple fabric and finish options are available, while the zipped-together sections of the cushion can be easily replaced if needed.

Chesa by Karimoku
Chesa dining chair by Karimoku

With a curved backrest and slender front legs made from a continuous piece of Japanese oak, the Chesa dining chair by Jörg Boner provides a comfortable perch for a variety of seating positions. Available upholstered or non-upholstered in four finish colours — grey green, grain grey, pure oak and terracotta — the seat manages to make an impact while also blending in.

Naku Stack Chair by Inno
Naku Stack by Inno

The precise design of Naku Stack’s elegant A-frame– style legs allows the chair to be easily stacked and stored. Offered in birch, ash or oak, versions are available without upholstery, with a fully upholstered fabric seat or with only the seat surface covered in leather. Just as fitting for restaurants as for boardrooms, the dining chair has a pleasing sculptural presence.

Rut lounge seating by Blå Station

When specifying furniture for hospitality projects, comfort, flexibility and durability are all top of mind. These lounge seating collections by Blå Station, Flexform, Cassina and de Sede are ready to bring high style to high-traffic spaces.

Rut by Blå Station
Rut lounge seating by Blå Station

The single square volume that is the basis of the Rut modular lounge seating system — designed by Thomas Bernstrand and Stefan Borselius for Blå Station — can be used multiple times in multiple directions to build linear, left- or right-turning, back-to-back and other compositions. Supported by a hefty steel H-beam and two or more solid oak girders, Rut can be equipped with armrests, writing tablets and electrical outlets.

Ambroeus by Flexform
Ambroeus sofa by Flexform

Extra-plump cushions and a slender steel frame combine to give the Ambroeus sofa by Antonio Citterio for Flexform an elegant and inviting warmth. The two- or three-seater versions can be arranged in different configurations, while the metal elements can be finished in multiple options, including wrapped in leather for a handsome effect.

Banquette Mauritanie by Cassina
Banquette Mauritanie by Cassina

Part of the Cassina Pro line of furniture adapted for hospitality (and workspace) settings, the Banquette Mauritanie bench, originally designed by Charlotte Perriand in 1959, features a beautiful wood lattice and metal base that can be left bare or topped with a single two- or three-seater cushion, with or without backrests; it can also be integrated with USB outlets.

DS-1030 by de Sede
DS-1030 lounge seating by de Sede

Italian studio Archirivolto designed the DS-1030 sofa system for de Sede as an opportunity to mix and match different elements (middle, corner, end, lounge and more), textiles, colourways and tailored detailing (including vertical seams and tufting). The low-slung modules are at once modern and traditional, and cut an attractive figure no matter how they are approached.