Bahrain experiences its first boutique hotel Opened by Chic & Unique Hotels Group and designed by architecture and design firm House of Infinity
Known as The Domain, the new and first real boutique hotel to sweep Bahrain off its feet has broken design barriers for the country and introduced an entirely new concept for the Bahraini hospitality market.
Located in Manama’s Diplomatic District, the hotel overlooks the island’s beautiful coastal landscape and centres on a socially-charged operating system, where guests and locals can apply for membership and gain access to a number of the hotel’s facilities.
Such facilities include “The Conversation”, which refers to a social media platform that offers Domain members and residents a mode of networking with one another.
General Manager, Patrick de Groot says: “We are truly serious about calling ourselves modernist and social. For us, that does not mean simply engaging on Facebook or Twitter, it means moving those social media outlets off the screen and into real life.
They are great tools, but we need a bit of old fashioned clubhouse cool. You can sleep here, eat here, party here, try new things [and] meet new friends.” And for such a social and forward moving concept, the 36-storey hotel had to boast a design that coincided with such a philosophy.
The hotel, which evokes the sleekness of an Apple product, was designed by House of Infinity. A boutique design firm founded by Steven Hemphill and Mohamed Shaat, House of Infinity had previously focused on upscale residential palaces and resorts. The Domain marks the firm’s swift and successful transition to commercial boutique hotels.
Steven Hemphill, founder and managing director of House of Infinity, explains: “We worked closely with the owner of Chic & Unique Hotels Group, and his team who had the foresight to understand what was needed and to allow us to take hospitality design to the next level within Bahrain.
“This hotel project has indeed raised the bar for what is presently on offer in Bahrain,” remarks Hemphill. He continues: “This has been a House of Infinity goal for a long time—so the partnership was perfect. Having such freedom of creativity encouraged us to take risks and be bold with the conceptual design.”
The hotel consists of 63 luxury suites and 68 rooms, with each room maintaining wall-sized windows that offer views of Manama and the Arabian Gulf. Additionally, The Domain houses about nine social spaces, like trendy restaurants and lounges including Imari, Txoko, Le Sauvage and Le Domain.
“The Domain is a new hotel concept positioned as the region’s first social club and hotel, with a strong F&B offering. Our focus was to create a design-led, boutique-styled hotel that offered a fresh approach to hospitality and F&B. We considered designs that would carry across the Middle Eastern market and beyond, and created a physical and emotional sanctuary,” comments Hemphill.
The entrance to the hotel, which bypasses traditional lobby design, boasts a modern and artistic feel, which uses indirect light to create and perfect a soft and warm environment.
“Although geometric lines and simple shapes predominate the hotel, these are enhanced by a carefully thought out range of colours and textures,” notes Hemphill.
He adds: “Whilst our designs incorporate an Arabic touch, they deflect from heavy classical detailing. Bevelled and engraved mirrors can be seen in the lobby through to exquisite door features within Le Domain—playing with ‘Art Nouveau’ to create a current and fresh look.”
A consistent element throughout the hotel, from the carpet to the wall panels, is the contemporary application of luxurious gold which is coupled with rich hues of purple. Additionally, guests can enjoy the use of dimensional geometric shapes throughout the hotel, as noted from the reception desk to the Txoko column cladding and lighting.
From the nine social spaces the hotel has to offer, there is a wide range of styles, tastes and cultures to be experienced and appreciated.
Txoko, the Basque sky lounge, which crowns the top floor, provides different settings throughout the day. From afternoon tea to the night-time which attracts local foodies, Txoko presents chunky black angular woodwork complimented by dark glass. The setting is completed by gun metal and peacock green fabrics and suede.
Hemphill states: “Txoko design is a modern take and play of Txoko and the region it is derived from—Bilbao, Spain. Today, Bilbao hosts the most fabulous architecture and designs collaborations done by Fernando de la Masa, Jorge Bilbao, Pablo Castro and Gorka Garcia, and the glass skins found on those buildings can be seen incorporated within our interiors to enhance the energies and acoustics.”
Other spaces that reflect the diversity of The Domain’s design include Imari and The French Space, which houses Le Sauvage and Le Domain.
Imari combines Japanese cuisine with a blue and white palette. Inspired by the maritime culture shared between Bahrain and Japan, the blue and white theme creates a cool environment for Imari ceramics.
“Our design process started with researching the famous Imari Ceramics. The Imari leaf was famous in the mountainous region of Japan and was used as a design feature for local ceramics. It was then exported from the port of Imari to the modern world,” explains Hemphill.
The French space delineates the 34th floor of the hotel and consists of two restaurants which range from light French eatery to a hearty steakhouse.
“The minute one steps from the elevator onto level 34, it is clear that you have entered a very elegant French venue, evident from the black and white, floor to ceiling, mirrored walls in the lobby, and beautifully black deep engraved Nouveau scrolls,” describes Hemphill.
Le Sauvage, the steakhouse, maintains a more masculine design that incorporates black and white floor tiles, tree-trunk styled table tops and leather-bound elements. Simultaneously, Le Domain offers a high-end, fine dining French experience.
Speaking of Le Domain, Hemphill notes: “Our inspiration came firmly, but not exclusively, from the beautiful features of ‘Art nouveau’, said to be the first modern period of the twentieth century. As designers, we want to bring this visual art back to the forefront but [keep it] relevant [to] today’s market.”
Also, the use of mirrors and the play with reflections is a strong and consistent theme. With dashes of elegance and decadence emitting throughout, guests and visitors can enjoy the glamorous surrounding.
“You will see a lot of mirrors and glass, and reflective materials in white, black, silver, blue and then gold adding elegance and glamour…Italian ceramics with real gold leave accent clearly in every guest en-suite.
“Strong contrasting colours, shapes, fabrics and textures are also used, and the grounding element of wood is used in certain areas, [for example] the banqueting and conference hall and guest hallways,” remarks Hemphill.
Moreover, House of Infinity applied a fitting amount of artwork throughout the hotel. From the somewhat controversial graphic print posted in Le Sauvage to the special artwork created by local artist Marianne Pasman for the bedrooms, to the perhaps more interesting instalment of the “glass fish curtain” which decorates the lobby, The Domain’s artwork not only grabs the attention of those passing through, but it remains memorable and sets new standards, as does the rest of the hotel.