The doors have just opened to a new and refreshingly forward-thinking hotel on the east coast of Mauritius. SALT of Palmar is the first in a new family of hotels from LUX* Resorts & Hotels located in the Indian Ocean as well as Turkey and China.
Conceived to champion sustainability, connect with the local community and introduce culturally curious travellers to the real, unvarnished Mauritius, the hotel occupies a dramatic, geometric riad-like building first created in 2005 by renowned Mauritian architect Maurice Giraud – now designed inside and out by the always-resplendent artist and colour evangelist Camille Walala.
Camille was invited to take charge of SALT’s interiors following her work at LUX* Grand Gaube last year when she and her team created a spectacular mural for the resort's Beach Rouge beach club. The Lux Collective CEO and SALT creator Paul Jones was struck by the affinity between Camille’s passion for colour and pattern, and the importance of colour in Mauritian culture. When it came to developing a design language for the SALT brand, she was the obvious choice.
Given that the entire concept of SALT is rooted in the authentic expression of the destination and helping guests forge a meaningful connection with their surroundings, the most important aspect of Camille's brief was to draw inspiration from the country itself – to weave strands of a distinctly Mauritian aesthetic into the fabric of the interior.
Starting in January 2018, Camille and her long-standing collaborator Julia Jomaa set out to explore the island to find ideas for the SALT colour palette, looking both to the natural landscape and the man-made environment for cues. The resultant palette balances natural hues and Walala's signature vibrant pop notes and features a recurrent motif of black and white stripes.
"I was blown away with how many vibrant and bold colours you find around the island," Camille said. "People paint their houses in the most amazing tones that really stand out against the lush tropical setting. From the emerald green of the plants to the ever-changing colours of the sky, I wanted to marry these warm natural tones to my signature pop colours."
SALT of Palmar is also Camille Walala's first architectural collaboration. She worked closely with Mauritian architect John-François Adams to realise her interiors vision for the hotel's 59 rooms and public areas, translating the ideas on Camille's mood boards into vibrant, show-stopping reality.
Camille and Julia also drew on Adams’ local expertise in order to recruit the area’s most talented craftspeople to design bespoke pieces for the project (including the likes of basket-weaver Reotee Buleeram, potter Janine Espitalier-Noel, and father-and-son rattan artisans Mawlabaccus and Said Moosbally).
The culmination of this collaboration between artist, architect and artisans is a hotel that looks unlike any other on the island. Where most resorts take their own design template and transplant it into their setting, SALT has done the reverse, channelling the colours and community of its surroundings to shape its look and feel. Camille’s task was to find the perfect balance between her own creative impulse and the authentic expression of the island’s character – fresh, playful and irresistibly positive in outlook.
But that was far from the only challenge. Although Walala has been tackling projects and installations of increasing scale and complexity in recent years (such as the 20-storey facelift of a Brooklyn building for WantedDesign earlier this year, and the giant inflatable Villa Walala for London Design Festival 2017), designing SALT represented an altogether more complicated prospect.
She adds: "What was different for me this time is the sheer quantity of things to take into consideration when designing; not only do colours and pattern have to complement each other, but fabrics, textures, surfaces, light, functionality and moods are also critically important to consider.
"In addition, Mauritius is a remote country, and although the selection of products and materials is wide, I had to think of many alternatives to things that I would have loved to use in the styling and build.
"Because SALT is by the sea and under a strong sun, we had to work with materials which could not be damaged by wind, heat, water or light. However, I did grow to enjoy the challenge of finding alternatives in the local area – that, after all, is what the SALT philosophy is all about."