Hotel Chez Swann, a 23-room bijou of a hotel in the heart of downtown Montreal, hits a unique flavour with its interior design. It is replete with art – not only on the walls, but in the design itself, which includes elements that exceed beyond practicality to make incredible aesthetic statements that hit a modern gothic note. In certain areas if feels practically theatrical, with dramatic pops of colour contrasting with one another into an animated, lively experience, all conceived by artist and designer Mary Moegenburg. We caught up with the globetrotter on the phone from New Mexico, where she was working on her latest project.
Are you based in Montreal? Yes, I have an office in Montreal that I haven’t seen in a while! I work mostly in branding, from graphics to websites to interior and furniture design. I smashed up the idea that you have to pick what sort of designer you are a long time ago. I figure if you’re creative, there’s nothing stopping you.
What was your overall vision for Hotel Chez Swann? As soon as I saw that Swiss chalet style on the outside, (and was restricted from changing it!), I realized I really wanted to play with perception: as in “what you see is not what you get”. I had various themes in mind: theatre, inspiration, play, sensuality and voyeurism
How did you work those themes into the common spaces? As soon as you walk through the glass doors there are lights in the floor that leads you to the reception – it’s definitely a runway. It’s all theatre. There are high ceilings and skylights so that the light shines on you like a spotlight. There are funky curtains near the reception desk, which itself is a magnificent piece – it’s a wooden desk, a collaboration I did with Montreal’s own Épure-Ébénisterie d’Art.
What did you do in the guestrooms? I toyed with the idea of public versus private in the rooms; and evoking the meeting of man and nature by bringingin different treatments of trees/wood, from raw, rough wood to polished surfaces. I created spaces within spaces by creating little seated areas that are demarcated by a shaggy green rug that looks like grass – it’s as if you’re having a picnic within your room. The larger suites have a bay window seat that’s curtained off – it feels like a private space in itself. I wanted to play with the idea of voyeurism, too, with the showers, for example: they’re peek-a-boo showers but they’re surrounded by huge, voluptuous coloured curtains that makes one feel as if you’re on a stage.
Did the buzz of downtown Montreal influence your design for Hotel Chez Swann? For me this project is totally Montreal. I always work site-specific. I wanted to collaborate with the best talent in the city, so almost everything in the hotel was fabricated in Quebec. From the furniture to the lighting to the armoires.
What’s your favourite spot in the entire hotel? Oh that’s hard! Probably one of the bay windows. My favourite design detail is the graphic work on the hall ceilings on the second and third floors.
What’s the first thing you’d recommend that visitors to Montreal do? Walk along the Old Port to get a nice view of Habitat 67 over the water. Or the Five Roses sign, at night – both those things really inspire me.
Hotel Chez Swann, 1444 Drummond Street, (514) 842-7070
Photos by Jean-Sébastien Cossette, Taline Nalbandian
Montréal Sweet Deal Package available at http://www.tourisme-montreal.org/Offers/Fall.