The former Palm Beach reopens its doors under NH Hotel Group’s nhow brand. For the company that owns it, Société Hôtelière du PalmBeach, it was essential to stay ahead of the profound changes the hotelier business is experiencing to give back to the hotel the attractiveness, vitality and location it deserves. Completely refurbished by Marseille-based architects Claire Fatosme and Christian Lefèvre, and in the case of certain ground floor public areas by the Italian architect Teresa Sapey, the nhow Marseille affirms its Marseille identity, between the land and the sea, between the city and the beach.
Client: NH Hotel Group
Designers/Architects: Claire Fatosme, Christian Lefèvre, Teresa Sapey
Digital print: Vescom wallcovering
A legendary hotel in Marseille, nestled in the rocky coastline, almost on the sea, the former Palm Beach reopens its doors under NH Hotel Group’s nhow brand. For the company that owns it, Société Hôtelière du PalmBeach, it was essential to stay ahead of the profound changes the hotelier business is experiencing to give back to the hotel the attractiveness, vitality and location it deserves. Completely refurbished by Marseille-based architects Claire Fatosme and Christian Lefèvre, and in the case of certain ground floor public areas by the Italian architect Teresa Sapey, the nhow Marseille affirms its Marseille identity, between the land and the sea, between the city and the beach.
With its 150 rooms, its restaurant, its roof bar overlooking the Mediterranean, its Phytomer spa, its waterside pool, its 14 meeting rooms, its auditorium, the nhow Marseille is the most emblematic hotel of Marseille and its contrasts, between the sun and the sea, between the city and its at times feverish bustle. For a vacation or idyllic stay by the seaside, or for memorable seminars and professional events, the nhow Marseille is an essential venue on the Mediterranean coast. A young and experienced dynamic team, under the supervision of Moïse Aykanat, applies all the know-how and standards of NH Hotel Group and its nhow brand in terms of comfort, welcome and services all set in a stunning décor. Something is always happening in the nhow Marseille, a pioneering location, emblematic of the city’s capacity to regenerate and surprise, again and always.
The nhow Marseille is built over the Roucas Blanc (white rock) spring, recorded in the oldest historical documents, classed as a thermal spring of public interest in 1852 thanks to the curative properties of its water rich in sodium chloride. A spa opened its doors in 1872, during the gold age of Marseille as gateway to the Orient. The spring provided the water for interior pools dedicated to spa treatments and leisure, with a temperature of 21 degrees and a constant flow of 50 litres per second. Dams were built, booths were developed to receive safely the numerous tourists attracted by a concept that was not yet widespread at the time. The spa disappeared after the Second World War, leaving only a large pool supplied with water from the spring, which became a highly valued leisure location for the residents of Marseille under the name of Palm Beach.
In 1974, alongside the development of the nearby Prado beach, a hotel that included a spa using water from the spring was created under the Concorde Palm Beach brand. Its exceptional location quickly made it the place to go in Marseille for bathing, nautical sports and relaxation. Time took its toll on the site and significant renovation work was undertaken in 2000, which led to modifications in the way the hotel operates. Guests are welcomed in a hall built on the roof on floor level with the Corniche and offering a magnificent view of the bay of Marseille, while the former entrance on the ground floor, darker and narrower, is used as the service entrance. The hotel reopened in 2002, managed by the Accord group under the Sofitel brand, and then by Pullman until 2017.
In 2018 the hotel has reopened its doors under NH Hotel Group’s nhow brand, with a quirky concept and a décor in keeping with the evolution of Marseille, the fame of which grows in France and throughout the world for the beauty of its location, its diversity, its contracts, and its bustling economic and culture life.
nhow Marseille, designer postcard of a roguish Marseille The nhow Marseille conceived by Claire Fatosme and Christian Lefèvre, accompanied by Teresa Sapey, is the expression of the clash between two contrasting universes: the Provence, with its light and its nature which inspire joy and symbolize vacations, and the city of Marseille with the shadow of its disorder, its disobedience and its pride. The nhow Marseille is in no way a mixture of these very different universes, but it expresses their authenticity alternately, to recreate their strong sensations, and backed by the original visual identity of the nhow brand.
The sea view imposes its presence by itself, unaltered. It represents the bright side of Marseille, its Provençal identity, its light and joie de vivre, and inspires all the open spaces overlooking the sea: the lobby, the bar, the restaurant, the rooms and the function rooms. Areas that do not have a view are those treated with a more complex vision, that of the dark side of Marseille, with a mixture of coarser, more rugged materials, the predominance of black, punctuated with splashes of yellow.
The nhow Marseille is a path between areas of light and dark areas where visitors can have the feeling of getting lost, but which offers them discoveries with sensations that will become etched on their memory like no other place.
The areas created by Claire Fatosme and Christian Lefevre: DNA made in Marseille
The lobby From the entrance, the visitor is balanced at the boundary between shadow and light, between the clarity of the view overlooking the sea and the fresh shade of the interior areas. Behind the desk, the visitor’s gaze is drawn to a fresco by Marseille-based artist Tristan Bonnemain depicting historical or contemporary, real or fictitious characters from Marseille.
The sky-bar It draws the visitor like a magnet towards the light, crowned by a chandelier made up of 4000 steel sardines, created for Sciabetti by English artist Frances Bromley. With its elegant furniture evoking waves and shingle, the light blue of the sky and the dark blue of the watery depths, the sky-bar is a magnificent visual dive into the bay of Marseille.
The belvedere On the second floor, a glass belvedere showcases the rock of the spring and gives the impression of being able to touch it, like the young locals who dive from the Corniche. Shown in the simplicity of its raw material, the rock serves as the backdrop for visual animations of the artist Tristan Bonnemain.
Transit areas Access to the rooms is gained amid the coolness of corridors decorated in a grey and black palette, evoking the narrow lanes of Marseille’s old Panier district, punctuated by metal strips that mark the entrance to the rooms and announce the light. The walls are enlivened with prints made from tags photographed on the streets of Marseille and recomposed by Marseille-based graphic artist Guy Bargin. Signage and all visual graphic elements have been created by Marseille-based graphic artist Adrien Bargin who took inspiration from street art pieces to bring an urban touch to the overall look and thus provide a reminder of the proximity of the city.
The rooms, an ode to light and the sea The entrance to the 150 rooms is like a sluice that allows a gradual progression from shade to light with tag motifs created by Guy Bargin, blacks and whites or blacks and yellows confronting each other. Overlooking the sea through a bay window leading to a terrace, the rooms are bathed with natural light reflected by white furniture. The lines of the desk and bed headboard in white Corian evoke the ridge of the Calanques, and a white sail hanging on the wall shows the exact longitude and latitude of the hotel. The whiteness of the ensemble, which can also be found in the lamps and curtains, is broken by a single Zanotta Alpha chaise longue, in bright yellow like the sun.
The layout is inspired on Marseille beach huts and the standards of the nhow brand. Everything is wide open, like the wardrobes without doors, and in some rooms, the bathroom is also integrated into the overall space in an open plan design. Everything has been designed to give as much access as possible to the light and the view.
Comfort is of course top-notch, as in all nhow hotels. The bathrooms have a rain-effect shower, which is very easy to use, and a professional hairdryer, perfect for fixing your hairdo after bathing. In all rooms, a Nespresso machine and a courtesy tray are at guests’ disposal, as well as a very wellstocked minibar with drinks and savoury and sweet snacks to be savoured while watching the large flat screen TV offering a large choice of national and international channels.
nhow suite The 130 m² of the nhow Suite are arranged over two levels on the second and third floors of the hotel. The entrance, small and completely in black, introduces the meeting area, a vast white area on two levels. A spectacular staircase, fine blade of yellow steel, a large AIM chandelier by Frères Bouroulec, a fresco by Tristan Bonnemain featuring the singer Brigitte Galapia devouring the staircase, give this space its emblematic character. The shelves, desks and bed headboards in white Corian, specifically designed by the architects, mark soft motifs on the walls. Above, the bedroom and bathroom with its large bath and huge shower form a mezzanine overlooking the large space. The terrace, also on two levels, offers a splendid view of the Frioul Islands.
The spa Located on the ground floor like the Tunnel Bar, le spa also assures the transition between the city and Mediterranean nature. The pool, supplied by the Roucas Blanc spring, is in black and white. The black part, with a very vertical volume, is slightly lightened by a dark blue skylight that evokes the surface of the water seen from the depths. The white part is located under a mirror that reflects the nearby sea and offers a complete view of the Roucas Blanc bay. The rest area is an ode to the sun, with its floor, walls and ceiling entirely in yellow, and wraps the visitor in a radiant light of solar inspiration. Outside, next to the Jacuzzi, a small bath inspired on a «can of sardines », recalls the legendary sardine that blocked the port of Marseille.
The areas designed by Teresa Sapey
The Italian architect designed public areas of the nhow Marseille on the ground floor, such as the bar, the restaurant, the terrace, as well as areas dedicated to meetings and events. Inspired by the contradictions and the energy of the site and of Marseille, Teresa Sapey focused on bringing them closer to the nhow brand identity, which seeks to surprise and provoke strong sensations in visitors. Based on the brand’s slogan “ Elevate your stay” , Teresa Sapey sought to give the hotel a unique and decidedly Marseille personality.
The Cactus bar An islet of bright yellow that almost dazzles amid a large space dominated by shade, the Cactus Bar is an area of relaxation that evokes the exotic gardens of the Mediterranean coast and announces the nearby Provençal sun. Like a garden sheltered from the wind, the Cactus Bar is the place for private conversations, parentheses of ephemeral solitude and unexpected encounters in the heart of the nhow Marseille . The space in which the Cactus Bar is located resembles a vast underwater platform under the rock of the Corniche. Dark and cool, it is the hub for passages that lead to the sea, the spa or the restaurant and the pool. The seemingly white columns that punctuate the space are revealed to be made of aquatic characters with fins once the visitor passes them. The toilets, accessible from here, overlook the spring and its rock, thus creating a surprise effect. The washbasins shaped like Marseille soap confirm the identity of the location.
The Tunnel bar The nhow Marseille is located between two waters: the freshwater of the Roucas Blanc spring in the original part of the building and the salt water of the sea into which the form flows. It is this passage between shade and light, coolness and heat that expresses the masterpiece of the décor designed by Teresa Sapey, the Tunnel Bar. A ritual path that is crossed at top speed or on which the visitor strolls and poses, the Tunnel Bar oscillates between the cold of the deep blue of the watery depths, the light blue of the flowing spring and of the surface of the water, and the dynamic warmth of yellow, orange and pink. In this way the visitor passes through different sensory states, whether arriving from the hotel interior and heading towards the light, or leaving the light to penetrate the depths of the location.
The ensemble is inspired on the work of Vasarely and his hypnotic geometric shapes, like a long gallery of psychedelic art, punctuated by designer pieces like the Capellin’s Drum chair and Tube Chair, or Moroso’s Shadowy chair. On leaving the tunnel, the visitor rediscovers the light of the bay, in a bar that evokes a shop selling Marseille soap, something between a drugstore and an old pharmacy, revisited by the creative eye of Teresa Sapey. The denim-clad tables and chairs are a nod to a popular Marseille, the Marseille of fishermen and criers of the Old Port.
The restaurant At the end of the initiatory passage towards the sea, the restaurant overlooks the blue of the sky and of the sea and the light of the sun. The tiled floor is a continuation of the Tunnel Bar, the blues become lighter and sometimes tend towards emerald green, as the sea changes colour depending on the sky, white asserts its presence, notably with the Lapse lamps from Flos. The furniture in soft and pure lines and colours evokes the simplicity and cheerfulness of life by the seaside.