A new wave of boutique hotels and guesthouses captures the essence of the Mediterranean artist retreat. They are made for escapist holidays, envisioned by interior designers with a sensitivity for the region’s colours and materials. Their concepts derive from the idea of the country home in Greece, Southern France or the Iberian peninsula, to which the likes of Picasso or Dali escaped the scathing heat of the cities for the summer months.
Most of these destinations await their guests in small villages or hamlets in the countryside and their designers studied the natural surroundings for the material choices. Tiles made from terracotta or marble cover the floors. The walls are painted in sandy beige tones or have been simply covered with coloured plasters. Straw pops up in furniture pieces and decorations, completing this sensual look. The rooms feel rustic, some even monastic, with mostly empty walls and only little embellishments. The artistic flair comes either through textiles, with abstract patterns echoing surrealist painters, or slightly eccentric furniture with oversized dimensions.
These places allow us to recharge by offering a tactile quality that’s missing from modern life. We can escape the towers of concrete and glass and a life where everyone avoids touching surfaces as much possible. Here are five examples from across the Mediterranean with interiors designed for all the senses.
Dá Licença Boutique Hotel by Procale in Portugal
This estate is the personal project of the hotel’s founders Vitor Borges and Franck Laignea, who worked with local architecture studio Procale to realise their vision of a rural country resort with a bohemian feeling. Over five years, they converted a building complex around a courtyard dating back to the middle of the 19th century into an oasis of tranquillity. Its rooms are fitted with large wooden furniture pieces with multi-angular, asymmetric features, inspired by the Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau and anthroposophical design. Due to the height and width of the rooms, the overall atmosphere is still very much serene, underscored by the restraint in wall art.
Lou Pinet by Charles Zana in France
St Tropez = party hot spot? Not everywhere. The Lou Pinet hotel opened this year and offers an alternative to the party circus, referencing a time when French bohemians including Juliette Greco and Pablo Picasso relaxed in what was then a little fishing village. It’s this blend of quiet beach town and artistic flair that architect and interior designer Charles Zana brought to the interior. On terracotta flooring, he arranged a mix of curvy ‘60s-style seating. Its round shapes are picked up by the fabric covering the headboard, which features a pattern in earthy hues. The stripped-back walls, together with the straw lampshades, ensure that the overall vibe very much resembles the Cote d’Azur before the international jet-set arrived.
Menorca Experimental Hotel by Dorothée Meilichzon in Spain
The Experimental Club’s latest hotel, Menorca Experimental, is nestled in between the rocky hills and pine groves of sunny Menorca, where French interior designer Dorothée Meilichzon revived a 19th-century finca with her modern take on the island's heritage. With artists including Miró, Picasso and Dali in mind, she created a sensual, artistic simplicity defined by natural, smooth materials. They include drystone, waxed concrete, rough-hewn local wood plank floors and hand-glazed terracotta tiling. Her colour scheme captures the Menorcan landscape, with soft blues, warm yellow hues and earthy rust tones.
Parīlio Hotel by Interior Design Laboratorium in Greece
On the Greek island Paros, the new Parīlio hotel is a 33-suite resort whose architecture is inspired by the local monasteries that shield themselves against life outside. Inside, Athens architecture and interiors office Interior Design Laboratorium created rooms so serene that guests might not actually want to leave. They developed the historic sparsity into a refined minimalism, keeping the classic white walls but bringing in natural greys and browns, inspired by the cliffs, with wooden furniture and textiles. Art joins the mix of handmade craft objects in the form of wall rugs designed by Moroccan studio LRNCE.
La Hermandad de Villalba by Lucas y Hernández-Gil in Spain
The interior of La Hermandad de Villalba has an almost meditative quality, a guest house in the little Spanish town Villalba de los Barros. Madrid studio Lucas y Hernández-Gil awakened an 18th-century building, respecting its heritage while adapting it gently to modern needs and tastes. The walls are plastered with lime mortar and the vaults were treated with a limewash so they have a more organic texture. For the floors, the team approached local potters and sourced clay tiles to stay true to the character of the house. A few modern design pieces - including lighting by Flos and &tradition - add a contemporary quality.