3 Bathroom DIY Ideas to Steal From This Hotel’s Pastel Roman Baths
And what to contract out.
Published Feb 12, 2022 2:46 AM
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Hotel brand Mama Shelter—based in Paris, with locations in Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro and all over Europe—is known for bold design schemes. There are bedside sconces crowned with Star Wars masks, walls festooned with musical instruments, love seats wrapped with geometric-patterned upholstery over abstract carpets—you know, everyday stuff.
So in July 2021, when Mama Shelter debuted a 217-room Rome offshoot not far from the Vatican, it went hard, in the design sense, with one amenity in particular: a spa area called Mama Baths. Instead of adopting the all-white tranquility of most wellness destinations, Mama Shelter doubled down on its unique design ethos by creating a fantasy-driven space with trompe l’oeil tile, an aboveground pool, and ceiling mural by Lyon, France–based artist Beniloys.
Benjamin El Doghaili, Mama Shelter’s head of design, wanted the spa to be a natural extension of the brand, where colorful public spaces are meant to facilitate social connections. “Wellness does not come from the primary function of the spa, but rather from its relationship to conviviality,” he explains, citing the historic baths all over ancient Rome. Back then, the underground pools were intuitively embedded into the social fabric of the empire, and El Doghaili designed the first Mama Baths to inspire a similar atmosphere. “I imagined children playing in the water, as well as a grandfather chatting with a couple of travelers,” he says.
El Doghaili explains that using the tiles’ glossy surface as a design foundation was “clearly radical, but they allow you to dive into the world of bathing, while avoiding the spa imagery that we see everywhere else.” Furniture and accessories helped, too: The rope-wrapped decorative stools, concrete benches, nautical-striped textiles, wood doors that lead to the sauna, and sculptural metal chairs in bright yellow all create visual layers. And the finished product is an aesthete’s dream. “A bit like the idea of a surprise box, this full-pattern decor is relatively pure but nevertheless whimsical,” he says.
But just because you don’t have a sauna in your basement doesn’t mean you can’t steal ideas from the space. Here are just a few ways to apply some of Mama Baths’s most iconic design moments to your own bathroom.
Use Tiles for Miles
Brandwide at Mama Shelter, tiles are used aplenty, such as in guest bathrooms. But according to El Doghaili, his all-tile approach in Mama Baths can really be “applied to all spaces, be it your home’s living room or even an office.” He advises against cutting tiles to fit the space, however. (The spa went with 10-centimeter square ones.) “You kind of have to adapt your space to the tile,” he says. “And don’t overwhelm your aesthetic by using too many colors. Tiles—with their smooth, shiny quality—are already incredibly attention grabbing, so stick with two or three different colors that tie together in a visually cohesive way.” To really show off your work, try a contrasting grout. “This amplifies the concept of a fully tiled area,” he explains.
Go Bold With Your Art Choices
Look up from the pool and you’ll notice striking illustrations by Beniloys, but El Doghaili doesn’t advise taking on a DIY mural project unless you’re a confident artist. “Never try this at home without a specialist; painting on ceilings or walls is a skill that very few people actually have,” he cautions. But you can always buy prints that complement the aesthetic of your space and hang them in an odd or off-center location. This can help expand the visual scope of a room, directing the eye to various corners that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Bring the Outdoors In
Because this is a basement-level space with no real access to direct sunlight or the outdoors, El Doghaili had to get clever with how to bring the outside in. Once again, tiles proved useful in creating trompe l’oeil windows, which, at home, you could also do through paint. Another way he brightened up the space was by using outdoor furniture as well as patterns and textiles associated with seaside locales. There are decorative vases wrapped in jute for a bit of rustic charm, metal chairs in shades of lime and bubblegum pink, and daybeds stuffed into striped fabrics made exclusively by the Mama Design Studio to capture the feeling of being on the Côte d’Azur. “They’re reminiscent of the umbrellas, deck chairs, and towels found along the beaches of the French coast,” says El Doghaili. “They are a real tradition, of course, but they also soften the overall ambience.”