Say ‘Cheers’ to Bordeaux’s newest hotel on the square – Mama Shelter, a funky space that promises to love its guests unconditionally, abundantly and extravagantly.
Mama Shelter, Bordeaux – I confess – is unlike any Mama I know. It’s irreverent, wacky, hip, young and full of fun experiences. It’s like the Posh Spice of Mamas. Or perhaps Mamas in France are simply this way. One thing is for sure; Mama Shelter speaks to the inner child in every adult and nowhere is this more evident than in the décor and interiors of the hotel.
The hotel which opened only very recently in October 2013 is the fifth in a chain of hotels from the Mama Shelter brand founded in 2008 by the Trigano brothers (founders of Club Med) and French designer Phillipe Starck.
With the recent addition of hotel magnate Michel Reybier to their inner circle, the group maintains that Mama Shelters will exist only in places “where a unique history of the world is written”. In Bordeaux, one of the world’s wine capitals, the founders believe they have found “a city capable of accommodating our dream of generous and overflowing hospitality; a city where the ideals of pacified humanity come alive.”
For guests staying at Mama Shelter Bordeaux, it is a return to innocence with the baby pink and lime-coloured walls. The minimalist décor of this very affordable hotel is punctuated with texture and humour through details like a printed carpet, personalised sofa covers and cartoon masks strapped to the lights.
According to the founders, “Mama Shelter, Bordeaux is more than a hotel; it is a village square, a veritable urban kibbutz, a place of meetings, discussions, freedom, thrills, sparkle and emotion”. Quite honestly, a lot of what makes Mama Shelter Bordeaux a warm, vibrant space has to do with Phillipe Starck’s inventive décor. “The choice of colour, material and detail reflects a feeling of an indulgent welcome and endorses the idea of a shelter”, says the designer.
You can sense the inviting, inclusive spirit of the hotel most vividly in the restaurant on the ground floor. Here, a range of atmospheres and uses abound to create this orchestrated madness that immediately washes over anyone entering Mama and invites them to enjoy the experience. Without boundaries or prejudices the inhabitants of surrounding districts share their table, for a meal, a drink, their stories and moments in life.
There’s a vibrant atmosphere here with coloured typography on a chalkboard ceiling; eclectic seating arrangements; multi-hued floats on the ceiling; a stage for live performances and a quirky arrangement of musical instruments from across the world. Faux industrial backdrops accentuate the bustling, homely ambience along with a giant Foosball table that often becomes the centre of the congregation.
While the founders may have selected Bordeaux for its unique history, they also chose to occupy a building that was once the headquarters of the Gas Company. The building which bears a progressive architecture was actually “considered a UFO when it was built in 1934”. Ranked later as one of the 20th century’s noteworthy properties, the building appealed to the Mama Shelter founders for its “transgressive, original and innovative” character.
The hotel has five floors and 97 rooms along with a restaurant, pizzeria, cocktail and wine bar and two conference rooms. The décor for all of these follows the Mama Shelter template with a few minor differences. The hotel plays the ‘Mama’ theme to the hilt by personalising even the staff’s uniforms to reflect individuality and the “extra touch that characterises the Mama experience”. Personalised toiletry items too are not spared and carry messages like “Mama knows what is good for you”.
Phillipe Starck’s designer imprint across the five floors is impossible to ignore as is the fact that he once designed the French President’s personal quarters. The hotel underplays all this by preferring to assert “Mama Shelter is the meeting, the intelligence, the construction, the sensuality….the affordable for all, trans-social, trans-ethic, trans-cultural….Mama draws a diagonal line through the fabric of Bordeaux”. A mouthful indeed – just as long as they continue to keep their promise to, “love unconditionally, abundantly and extravagantly.”
Text By Christabelle Athaide
Photographs Courtesy Francis Amiand