Nestled between the Al Hajjar mountain range and the Gulf of Oman, the ancient Islamic port of Sohar is steeped in history and the interior design of the recently opened Mercure hotel relies on this rich heritage. Giving it a strong sense of place, a 152-key hotel was designed by Dubai-based MMAC design.
Anil Mangalat, design director and partner at MMAC Design, tells Commercial Interior Design that the hotel was originally designed as an IBIS Styles three-star hotel, an Accor brand that is known for attracting a young clientele.
“The client decided to upgrade the hotel to a Mercure (four-star) after it was constructed. They felt that the hotel design justified the advancement in the category and had universal appeal with the makings of a successful destination,” explains Mangalat.
The design team found different ways to incorporate Omani tribal patterns, ethnic artwork and architectural photography within the interiors. Sohar is known as the mythical birthplace of Sinbad the Sailor, so the design team incorporated a series of illustrated wallpapers in the public areas to tell the tale of his seven journeys. An Austrian manufacturer 360 decoro produced high-quality digital prints for these areas, including guestrooms, reception, corridors and public toilets.
“We were inspired to use this piece of folklore to infuse the interior with a humorous theme,” Mangalat continues. “Working closely with the artist Lama Khatib Daniel (through Capsule Arts) we developed custom wallpapers depicting scenes from Sindbad’s adventures.”
Be it a whale or a cyclops, the story of Sinbad subtly works its way into the background. It visually unifies the public spaces under a central theme. A deliberate attempt was made to tone down the clutter and decoration in favour of clean lines and sleek forms so as to leave the emphasis on the graphic theme.
Mangalat explains that the architectural footprint of the building was very straightforward with a rectangular zoning of areas and functions.
“We believed we needed to add a twist to the layout to create an initial spark of interest. By introducing an angle in the interiors, we created an unexpected and dynamic re-alignment of the spaces,” he says.
Visitors to the hotel would first be met with a full view of the vibrant lobby lounge and café. The appeal of the brightly coloured and hip lounge café seating is further enhanced by the serene backdrop of the pool. The bold Omani patterns in the hand-tufted wool carpets add to the visual statement.
The café wall is lined with laminated glass panels with an etched Arabic pattern. Tucked away to the side, the reception pods are dressed in white Thasos marble and set against a themed background. A diamond shaped pattern has been etched into the front faces of the white counters adding a subtle sense of detail.
Meanwhile, the visitor’s attention might stray to the adjacent wall which is completely covered in text and illustrations from an interesting excerpt from the adventures of Sinbad.