Editorial — Editorial of the Month – July – Local Colour – Frame – issue 81

The latest issue of Frame offers up Anna Sansom’s insightful article on Paris-based designer Matali Crasset’s simply sumptuous and sumptuously simple design for the new Dar HI Hotel in Nefta, Tunisia. Once again working with hoteliers Philippe Chapelet and Patrick Elouarghi who originally commissioned her for the successful design of the HI Hotel in Nice, Matali’s approach to this new venture is steadfastly located in responding to this specific town on the edge of the Tunisian desert.

Matali Crasset's design for the Dar HI Hotel, Nefta

Matali Crasset's design for the Dar HI Hotel, Nefta

Clearly relating to this issue of Frame’s overarching thematic of colour, Matali Crasset’s design is dripping with the bright and luminescent palette that defines both the surrounding landscape and, quite naturally, the Tunisian design culture that has grown out of the environment. Rich ochres, shimmering azures and sun-laden yellows all find their way into her interiors that miraculously manage to retain almost an element of minimalism about them; enough detail to make clear connections to the local context without ever resorting to tourist kitsch.

One of the most refreshing aspects of this article, for example, is to see Crasset state quite clearly that the one thing she has not done is to attempt to make the hotel feel like one is ‘at home’; that, in fact, this persistent obsession on the part of many hoteliers with attempting to make their guests feel at home is a rather absurd one since, by definition, when one is in a hotel, one is not at home.

Anna Sansom’s interview with both the designer and the hoteliers who commissioned her –and remain amongst her most devoted fans- provides an interesting multi-perspective insight into the process of realising this oasis of a hotel and well-being spa. As might be expected, these two different positions might have slightly different priorities, but what is very clear is that this is a case of excellent synthesis between clients and designer.

Certainly not in one of the usual tourist locations, the Dar HI Hotel readily shows itself to be a beckoning beacon of relaxation and luxurious simplicity off the beaten Tunisian tourist routes. And, in many ways, Matali Crasset’s commitment to ideas like sustainability and a local sense of ownership have taken a very tangible form in the realisation of the project. For example, her contemporary furniture designs were realised by local artisans before being incorporated into the building that seems entirely in keeping with the local culture whilst at the same time offering a certain modernist sleekness and all the necessary luxuries for the visitor with high expectations and a desire to relax.

So, for all those who have yet to make up their mind on a summer holiday destination, this article – accompanied by Jérôme Spriet’s atmospheric photos- is certainly worth thorough scrutiny. One gets the feeling that it will exactly fit the bill for many jaded international professionals who are just a little tired of environments that are an endless catalogue of attempts to wow and woo those who have pretty much experienced everything that hotels have to offer except perhaps the sincerity of Matali Crasset’s design gestures.

Matali Crasset's design for the Dar HI Hotel, Nefta

Matali Crasset's design for the Dar HI Hotel, Nefta