Indie hip hotel brand Mama Shelter has quietly branched out from its Paris HQ and launched new properties in Lyon, Marseille and even Istanbul. The Marseille branch designed by the Mama Shelter’s design of choice – the ubiquitous Philippe Starck, opened with a view of taking advantage of the influx of young, bohemian and price conscious visitors descending onto the sea-side capital for the 2013 European City of Culture Festival. And not before time, too!
If you’re wondering how an ‘indie brand’ is doing so well, so fast, that’s because they’re not so, er, indie – backers are the Trigano family who co-founded Club Med! While the Organised Fun is nowhere to be seen, there’s a certain ethos of sociability and playfulness of the Mama Shelter brand that perhaps connects to the original concept. Thankfully, in a good way. And if the concept to Club Med was to create a haven irrespective – and sometimes even opposed to – cultural/geographic location, it seems that this time around the idea is to engage with the place and the culture, creating a space that’s more dynamic and interesting and a dialogue between city and visitor.
You’ll find 127 rooms positioned over five floors. The design concept is playful (think bright colour schemes and hipster acroutements such as table-football and guitar installations) in a very controlled Philippe Starck kind of way. If you’ll forgive us a generalisation about French interior design, when the French go out on a limb (and they rarely do) they do not do it in a relaxed kind of a way so the design concept is perhaps a little more forced than ideal, having said that, it does create a convivial and youthful atmosphere.
The hotel is about a 10 minute walk to the Vieux Port, the heart of Marseille’s touristic activity, it’s located in a bohemian quarter of Cours Julien. It’s an arty neighbourhood where you’ll find loads of galleries, interesting boutiques, cute restaurants and bars. The shutters – and the odd wall – bare the traces of graffiti-style artists of varying skills and legal statu…in short, lively with a grassroots boho edge.
What We Love
Guests speak of the friendly service, youthful atmosphere, the very reasonable prices (deals from €49!) there there’s the generous sunny terrace, mod-cons such as I-Macs, free movies, and cartoon masks in the bedroom if you feel that way inclined….etc. But for us, what makes the hotel interesting is the opportunity to delve a little into the local arts culture – the DJs, the music performances, the pop-up events. It brings a little slice of Marseille to you without having to leave the premises.
Room to Improve
Gripes here include noise – the downside of the Saturday night Djs; restaurant service is friendly but can be scatty and some of the bathroom designs seem less than optomised for practical application.
The news that smoking is bad for you is yet to reach French shores. The average French citizen will fight TO THE DEATH ( if necessary) to protect their God-given right to consume fiendishly addictive nicotine products until circumstances drive them into the overloaded public health system in search of a new lung. All this to say that when smoking was banned in bars and restaurants, noise complaints increased dramatically – avoid rooms facing the hotel entry on weekends because this is where the pre-cancerous citizens will be gathering.
64, rue de la Loubière