etting foot in Granada can feel a bit like traveling back in time. As the oldest city in Nicaragua and in all of Central America, Granada is a haven for those searching for that old world feel while also experiencing archetypal Nicaraguan culture. While Central America is infamous among backpackers, Nicaragua’s off-the-beaten-path atmosphere, simple charm, and welcoming nature is attracting a new set of visitors- those who find magic and stay, creating incredibly unique experiences for themselves and those who visit.
Vibrantly painted colonial homes and cobble stone streets lead way to TRIBAL, Granada’s first boutique hotel, designed and created by New York restaurateurs Yvan Cussigh and Jean-Marc Houmard of Indochine and Acme. Located in the residential side of town where visitors are by default invited to meet and greet locals, TRIBAL resembles a countryside structure, blending in naturally with its surroundings. This did not happen by accident. Cussigh and Houmard had every intention to make TRIBAL feel like a home away from home. A perfect balance of antique and modern hand-crafted pieces foster an air of relaxation and comfort and TRIBAL’s seven rooms all carry the same feel.
We spoke with Cussigh and Houmard about their creative process, inspiration and why they chose Nicaragua as their second home.
Why did you choose Nicaragua?
Nicaragua had the ” unbeaten path” feeling that we were looking for in order to do something little out of the ordinary. The goal was to offer interesting design at a reasonable price point, and Nicaragua’s real estate prices allowed us to do that.
Where did you find design inspiration for Tribal?
The inspiration for the structure came originally from the oldest house in Granada, the only one that was left after the city burned down to the ground. It is more a countryside type of structure and not so much a traditional colonial house. From there we wanted to create an eclectic design using local resources and artisans craft in non-traditional ways, drawing inspiration form countries where we had traveled. We didn’t want to do a fake colonial design but rather mix traditional elements, like the Granada tiles, with some modern elements, like the polished concrete floors.
What would you say is the most unique characteristic of the hotel?
Our goal was to create an environment that felt very personal and cozy, like you are staying in someone’s house. Often hotels can feel a bit generic, and so we curated each piece of furniture, object, fabric, etc, like we would have for our own home. And we totally lucked out when we stumbled by chance on the Copacabana tiles we used for the pool, which became a bit our signature look.
The music selection was excellent. Are you trying to convey a specific vibe?
We curated the music the same way we approached design: we wanted to create an eclectic vibe where the music felt personal and not from a random playlist. The music evolves throughout the day with the sun, from classical during breakfast, to cuban in late morning, light grooves in the lazy afternoon hours. We mixed some current tunes with vintage things and world music that really worked well together in creating the mood we wanted for every hour of the day.
TRIBAL is in the middle of a residential area, surrounded by homes. Has that helped or hurt the flow of visitors?
The neighborhood was actually a very conscientious choice for TRIBAL, as we preferred a street that felt very local to one filled with hotels and restaurants. The fact that to get to the hotel you have to walk through residential streets, allows you to peek into open doors and courtyards and greet the families that gathered on the sidewalk for a late afternoon chat adds to the experience.
Where do you shop for furniture? Do you collect?
All the furniture, except for a couple of pieces that we found in local markets, were designed by us and made by local artisans, including the tiles, chairs, tables, and lamps. Some of the fabrics and kilim rugs were collected by my partner Jean-Marc in various countries he had traveled to, which ended up with an eclectic mix of stuff from Morocco, Turkey, Thailand, Burma, etc.
There were no children in the hotel. What’s the motive behind it?
The children policy was put in place from previous experiences when, kids being kids, things got a bit loud, especially around the pool, and disturbed other guests that came down here to use Tribal Hotel as their little oasis of relaxation.
That said, we can make exceptions for well behaved kids (and well-behaved parents!)
Published December 4, 2014