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Recession? What recession?

Credit crunch or no credit crunch. Marcel Wanders takes his brand of exaggerated luxury around the world with interior designs for Villa Moda Bahrain and Kameha Grand Bonn.

By Katie Dominy / 14-05-2009

The International Souk debuts and the business hotel gets a Wanders-style makeover.

For a first venture into store design, Marcel Wanders certainly thinks big – no parochial corner shop for him! Instead, the chance to design the ultra-luxurious new Villa Moda store in Bahrain. The over 1000 square metre space is the seventh store for the Kuwaiti-based group, founded by Sheikh Majed Al-Sabah who discovered Wanders through his furniture designs and says, “I was looking for someone who’d never designed a real fashion store before.”

Al-Sabah is known for taking chances and his brief to Wanders was to be inspired by the ‘chaos of the souk’. Al-Sabah took Wanders on a tour of the Middle East, exploring souks and traditional retail concepts, leading to designs created around the theme of the ‘International Souk’. “We wanted to create a shop that is really surprising,” Wanders explains. “Every time you go there you discover something new.”

Wanders designed the store as if it were a small city, giving the space an architectural feel as customers move from one area to another. The façade is covered in giant pearl-like spheres, referencing back to Bahrain’s heritage as the pearl stock market of the Middle East. Customers walk through a long, slender corridor that opens out into a dramatic, high-ceilinged space with giant over-scaled patterns in black and white on carpets, ceiling and walls. Local motifs and traditions are combined with Wanders’ fantastical aesthetic, developing an environment with an 'Alice-in-Wanders-land' appeal, as he jokingly puts it.

 “We worked with craftsmen from the region and around the world,” Wanders adds, “but confused them with our way of looking at these crafts; we used their expertise but asked them to do things they wouldn’t normally do.” A good example is the giant sculptural floral design produced in plaster that covers one wall, as well as walls decorated with Bisazza mosaics. “We are trying to do work which takes you to new places, which makes you see the world in a new way.”

“It’s a fun playground for shoppers”, Al-Sabah explains, describing the store as a “luxury souk where customers can find a €20 t-shirt or a €20,000 evening dress.”

Meanwhile, over in Germany, Wanders has been hard at work on the interior of the hotel Kameha Grand Bonn, which is aiming for a cross-over market of business and leisure. “Typical business hotels are very serious and practical, usually very boring too” says Wanders. “Corporate and event hotels should be exciting, stimulating and inspiring; they should offer a high standard of living and a corresponding lifestyle.”

As with Villa Moda, Wanders has divided the large public spaces, such as restaurants and bars, into small, intimate areas that can be changed back into a large space when it’s required. Ultra-light fabric curtains hang down from the high ceilings to create private ‘meeting islands’ set within the busy environment of the hotel. Wanders signature exaggerated scale can also be seen here in the oversized chandeliers, the supersize pool table for up to eleven people and the bulbous columns and giant sofas.

Wanders also had fun with the hotel rooms themselves. There are ‘workaholic
rooms’ for guests who want to work all night, equipped with printers, scanners and special meeting areas. The ‘Ladies Suite’ is specially designed for business women and comes complete with well-lit make-up table, soft interior colours, indirect light, magazines and special cosmetics. The ‘Game Suite, which will be 99% used by men, one expects!, comes with Wii console, dart board, golf putting green and even a pinball machine.

Main image + image 1: Bahrain
Images 2-4: Bonn

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