Maison Brummell Majorelle: Christian Schallert’s stunning new hotel
Christian Schallert is a creator and a born entrepreneur. An intelligent, curious, vivacious, multifaceted, persistent, resilient guy with a really clear vision of what he wants to do. He is the creator of the Hotel Brummell brand, which, to date, includes the following projects: Hotel Brummell in Barcelona, which is one of our favourites; Mas Sant Marc in Puigcerdà and now Maison Brummell Majorelle in Marrakesh.
On this occasion, Christian has once again surrounded himself with a lot of talent and has counted on the New Zealand architect Bergendy Cooke and the Moroccan architect Amine Abouraoui. Together they have created an incomparable dream location with rose-coloured skin that continuously changes throughout the day, and it has already become an emblem of this incredible city.
A perfect balance of spectularity, sophistication, modernity and warmth.
Maison Brummell Majorelle was built from scratch and, after three years of hard work, the result is this exceptional architectural gem. A place that conveys a great sense of peace, thanks to the harmonious combination of details made up of design pieces such as the chairs by Egon Eierman or the legendary paper lamps by Ingo Maurer; the fabrics by SantaLiving and Laurence(LRNCE); the custom-made furniture by Maison Nicole and, of course, art work that makes this beautiful spot a true art gallery.
This accommodation is a dream for architecture lovers
Its contemporary aesthetic and its disruptive design, thanks to its inverted semi-circular arches that achieve a unique and unexpected geometry, are complemented by local materials and features. As is the case with thetadelakt for example, that combines well with the terrazzo flooring produced on site or the traditional custom-made Moroccan kitchen on the ground floor of the hotel in which delicious breakfasts, lunches and dinners are prepared.
Without exaggerating, we can assure you that this is one of our favourite hotspots for eating in Marrakesh. Because as well as being delicious, the food can be enjoyed both in the lovely terracotta-coloured dining room as well as at the shared table in the courtyard, next to the golden fountain, surrounded by palm trees listening to the birds in the background. It is unbeatable.
Maison Brummell Majorelle has everything we need to make us feel even better than at home
Maison Brummell Majorelle has a very cosy lounge area with charcoal-coloured walls and ceiling where there is a fireplace, books, magazines and plenty of modular sofas. Next to it, there is a hammam with a massage room, steam baths and a heated pool, ideal for disconnecting from the bustle of the Medina. On the same floor, we find the lounge, the honesty bar – which is a concept that is present in Schallert’s three hotels-, and the pool, ideal for swimming some lengths or for just chilling in the surrounding areas. On the next floor, which is accessed from the street, we find the lobby, the shop where we can find local products curated by Christian Schallert, and some of the guest rooms. The rest of the rooms are on the top floor. A total of 8 rooms for 16 guests that are very spacious, comfortable (specially the beds) and with many small details that make for an unforgettable stay.
A stone’s throw away from the Majorelle Gardens
Another aspect that also gives it a unique personality is its location. Because Maison Brummell Majorelle is in a street parallel to Rue Yves Saint Laurent, which means it has views to the famous Majorelle Gardens. Although it is outside the Medina (specifically, only a 10-minute taxi ride away), it is in a quiet neighbourhood surrounded by residential villas and very close to the “new” trendy area of Gueliz, that we loved. There we can find the best restaurants, really interesting art galleries and some incredible shops such as Norya Ayron for kaftan shopping, Lalla for bags or the store called Some Slow Concept.
As well as experiencing it for ourselves, we chatted with Christian Schallert once more about this new project in this vibrant city. Come on in and read.
When did the Maison Brummell project come about, and why in Marrakesh?
My first trip to Marrakesh was in 2005 with a group of friends. It was unforgettable.
It was actually my best friends’ honeymoon. The registry service was held at the Plaza del Duque de Medinaceli in Barcelona, and from there we went to the airport with our backpacks to head out to Marrakesh. We hired a whole Riad just for ourselves and the truth is it was absolutely amazing.
“The first time I visited Marrakesh I immediately fell in love with it. It is so close to Barcelona, yet so different at the same time…”
A couple of years later, while I was working as a photographer for a car company that organised trips to Marrakesh, I was lucky enough to take part in one of their tours that always ended with fun dinners and parties in Marrakesh. Those experiences were so rewarding that it made me think that if I ever decided to expand my Hotel Brummell brand, it would have to be there.
This same idea came to mind again in 2018, when I clearly understood the potential of being able to expand my brand as well as the endless opportunities Marrakesh has to offer.
What is your connection with this city?
“I have always been drawn to things that are different, surprising, difficult. Marrakesh is all of these and more.”
Before getting seriously involved in this project, I would travel a lot to India and Sri Lanka. I’m addicted to culture shocks, to people of all colours and to people that have different perspectives on life.
“I grew up next to Heidiland, in Austria, and the conventional has always bored me immensely.”
That might be why Marrakesh is a destination that is always full of surprises for me and that obviously implies great challenges from a professional perspective.
A characteristic of all your projects is that you are involved in every stage of these. That is, from the conceptualization to the interior design as well as the curatorship of every last detail, amongst many other things. What do you recall about this last project? And what was the creative process you went through together with the architect Bergendy Cooke?
That’s very true. Once I decide to embark on a project, I give it my 100%, because above all, I clearly define what my objective is. The journey towards a goal involves thousands of obstacles, but I am very determined, and I never lose sight of my objective.
My connection to the character in which my brand is inspired, Lord Brian Brummell, is not that he was a true dandy (something that I am not) but probably the fact that he was obsessed with detail. And what I have realized is that the best thing about getting older is that, after living in Barcelona for 20 years and travelling all over the world, I have learned a great deal and I have polished my tastes and trained my eye.
I collaborate with very talented people because I know that they are better than me in their fields of expertise. But I think I create good briefings and I have a clear opinion of what I like and dislike.
I also recall when some hotel industry colleagues suggested I take on the transfer of an existing hotel, despite the fact that I was very clear in my mind that I did not want to focus so much on the business plan as on fulfilling a dream.
“I was certain that I wanted to create something small and new, with few rooms, but centred around architecture and bespoke interiors.”
Bergendy Cooke pitched her project to me on a handmade presentation made of card and golden features. The presentation showed mystical images of curved bone-coloured tunnels and wild arched openings, a constant play of light and shadows. She put it all inside a really beautiful box and got the job right away.
Bergendy is not only a really stylish person but someone who has worked with really great names such as Zaha Hadid and has participated in the design of the Chanel boutiques for Peter Marino.
The truth is that these have been three really crazy years creating Maison Brummell and Bergendy has been wonderful, and very involved throughout.
One of the features that stands out the most in the architecture of Maison Brummell are the inverted arches. How did this such extraordinary idea that provides such an incomparable idiosyncrasy, not just in Marrakesh but beyond, come about?
I still keep those pencil-sketched doodles that Bergendy would show me for the look and feel. The façades of the house changed, but the play of the arches was there from the start.
I’ve always enjoyed visiting Bergendy in her office next to Arc de Triomf in Barcelona. She likes to play around a lot with paper models and that helped me to understand the future building and the ideas that she had in mind.
“The first time we presented the project to the town hall, they rejected it because they thought that the inverted arches went against their religion and the architectural language of the city.”
It took a lot for us to convince them, but we managed it thanks to the help of our local architect, Amine Abouraoui.
What other aspects of this project would you highlight in regard to architecture and interior design?
Curiously, the workers involved in the construction of the building were constantly surprised because nothing was conventional which implied that, in order to do many things, they had to make it up as they went along.
One of the things I love the most is the street-facing façade, as we had to re-do it several times because it was not at all easy to find the way to create these rounded molds that are so characteristic. Also, I love how the two, wide tunnel-shaped entrances have ended up looking.
The truth is that this building conveys a great sense of peace, because practically all the corners are rounded.
“This house fits right in and is well adapted to the neighbourhood, to the street, to Marrakesh and Morocco.”
We have worked with local people, with artisans and materials from this region. We have only imported some lamps and some pieces of furniture.
But the other interiors are bespoke, they have been drawn up taking into account the smallest detail and produced in Marrakesh.
Another of the differentiating values of Maison Brummell is its location, as it is directly next to the gardens of the home of Yves Saint Laurent, and is next to Gueliz, a neighbourhood which is in constant transformation where there are many galleries, restaurants and a really interesting atmosphere. What can you tell us about that?
I’ve always been drawn to Gueliz for all the reasons you mentioned. You can’t instantly tell that it is cool or interesting. In fact, it can even seem ugly. But I love it because you have to know where to go, and when you do… it’s really surprising.
In my plans for expanding Brummell, I first looked for a place in this neighbourhood, but as soon as a friend sent me an email with the file on the land at Majorelle, I was smitten. I couldn’t believe that this location on this street that is so beautiful could be available, right next to the Majorelle Gardens and with the famous Villa Oasis, where Yves Saint Laurent lived with Pierre Bergé right next door. A dream!
Maison Majorelle has different spaces and common areas as well as its 8 guest rooms. Were you decided on that distribution from the beginning? Has there been anything that got stuck along the way or that has changed?
I always knew clearly what this house needed. Obviously, this was important for both the briefings and for the architectural team. And yes, in effect, some things have changed along the way.
Initially, it was conceptualised and planned as a house with 15 guest rooms. That is, it had an additional floor. But the proximity to the Majorelle Gardens and some powerful neighbours made us change the project. We also had planned a green rooftop terrace with an infinity pool overlooking the garden. But, again, a neighbour (with connections) forced us to leave the rooftop terrace completely empty.
In any case, I have to say that I am happy with how it all worked out. Maison Brummell is marvellous as it is and there is enough room for everyone.
Another aspect that is not easy to achieve and that you have managed is to count on a good team that is aligned with your values and philosophy, and that in addition to being charming, offers a great service. What is the secret?
Thank you very much! I’m pleased to hear this because without the team I am “Mr. Nobody”.
One thing was the construction, where the team made its mistakes, and another thing has been to create a good team to run the house. People who speak languages, who are friendly, good people and that moreover enjoy their work.
“I love to be able to contribute something to this city and that’s why I employ local staff.”
I want to look after the staff I have chosen, that’s why I cover the cost of the language school so they will learn English.
Additionally, I know this project is still a total challenge and there is a long way to go … but I’m really pleased with how everything is going now.
The hotel also has many pieces of artwork, both in the common areas and the guest rooms. Do you collaborate with any galleries? Which artists are a part of Maison Majorelle?
Art is always really important to me. Deciding which artist and which paintings or sculptures would become a part of the hotel’s décor was 100% my responsibility. I’ve devoted a lot of time to it. Much more than one imagines, as I know that it is an essential element that provides the personal touch and character that I wanted the house to have.
“I adore working with artists that I know personally and that inspire me not only through the art that they create.”
In the reception area, I have a large painting in white tones made from folded fabric by the king of rugs, Soufiane Zarib. In this same area, from the ceiling hangs an extensive and asymmetrical piece made of polished high brass created by the architect Bergendy Cooke, who also created a light fitting (Majorelle lamp) in this same material, which in itself is a work of art.
On the shelves in the halls, there are pieces by the Barcelona woodworkers: Another Again, and by the artist Manolo Menéndez(Unvolumen). In the common areas on the ground floor, there are original photographs by the photographer Maite Carames, and in the guest rooms, there are textile pieces by the Marrakesh-based Belgian artist Laurence (LRNCE) and by the Swedish artist Per Henrik Adolfsson.
I have also dared to be creative myself. And as I needed to offload my frustration with the problems with the construction of the building, I created three works of abstract art using materials and paint which are very much connected to this construction.
In this project, you have worked with the guys from Santa Living. What can you tell us about this very special collaboration?
They contacted me almost two years ago by DM on Instagram. I saw their profile and right away I suggested we meet. Our first meeting with the founders César and Josep was in my favourite ice-cream parlour in Barcelona and we hit it off right away.
“To work with Santa Living has been one of my best collaborations.”
Not only because the quality of their products is top class but also because of the collaboration itself. Fun and work became one and we worked together towards one same goal. The truth is it worked out perfectly. I love the bedcovers and cushions by Santa Living, as they give Maison Brummell Majorelle a very special touch. And in addition, César and Josep are brilliant in terms of Marketing and are very well connected with the press.
Finally, what are your top 5 favourite spots in Marrakesh?
For lunch, I recommend Plus 61 in Gueliz. Their savoury dishes are delicious but to finish off with their homemade Pannacotta is outstanding!
Another good plan is to spend the afternoon at Les Bains de Marrakech for Hammam and a massage and then relax in their pools.
I also recommend having an ice-cream at the Pavilion in the huge gardens at La Mamounia or to stroll through the Cactus Thieman, as I love cacti.
At sunset, it’s great to have an avocado juice with orange and dates on the terrace at Atay Café, while we gaze at the wonderful views of the Atlas Mountains from the rooftop.
Oh! Another thing I really like is the live show at the Jad Mahal from 23.30h. Whoops! I’ve already named 6… (he laughs)… it’s difficult to choose…
(*) Photos by Ely Sánchez & Cecilia Camacho.
Marrakesh: a destination full of authenticity and history that can’t be missed
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