"Not too long ago we were thinking about the whole pop-up phenomenon in the retail world and saw kind of a subtle brilliance to the movement. Could Design Hotels, we wondered, take this concept and run with it?" The team at Design Hotels pondered on the idea - and just a few short months later they opened the worlds very first pop-up resort on the untouched beaches of Tulum, Mexico, (and now a second pop-up hotel in San Giorgio, Mykonos).
Naturally, watching a company change the entire hospitality industry is something that piqued our interest. So on the tail end of the Papaya Playa Project's 6 month stint, we flew down to the southern tip of Mexico to experience it all first hand.
A two hour drive south of Cancun led us deep into the lush jungle near the Ancient Mayan ruins. We had no idea that that cold air conditioner from our blacked out SUV would be the last of everything we knew from our modern life. At the Papaya Playa Project - you don't need much, and you don't want much. The collection of overgrown palm trees, turquoise waters, ripe coconuts, and Bohemian-chic cabanas is enough to make you feel more complete, than ever before.
After checking in, we made our way towards the swept dirt path which took us through the jungle, and onto the white sand beach where our little hut sat waiting for us. It read '22' on the small door, out of the 99 huts that are scattered onto dreamy oceanfront, originally owned by Emilio Heredia, a local man who is truly passionate about the region. Design Hotels worked out a champion deal with Heredia, where they would come in, renovate the property, occupy it for six months, then hand it right back over to him - basically, giving Heredia a brand new renovated hotel.
Design Hotels teamed up with Mamapapacola, a Germany-based creative agency to help put some off-beat ideas together for the renovation. Their ultimate wish was to bring a bit of European gypsy fun to the natural beauty of Tulum, in effort of creating a rural setting with an urban spirit. This concept really came to life in the huts with their earthy peach colored walls and turquoise floors; a floor rug striped with colors, flowing mosquito nets over the white linen handcrafted bed, and a wooden ladder to hang the thick towels on. The team refrained from "over-designing' the hotel and opted to create a "culturally rooted experience."
Throughout our stay we frequented 42ºRaw for nutrient-rich organic food. Freshly squeezed juices in the morning, and their tasty "Rawsagna," a delicious veggie version of lasagna, for lunch. 42ºRaw originated in Copenhagen and developed a huge following in the health world because nothing is cooked above 42º Celsius to avoid denaturation of food and loss of enzymes and vitamins. The restaurant joined forces with Design Hotels to create their own pop-up restaurant which is located near the lobby of the resort.
After slow, heated days of lying on the sand and kayaking through the crystal waters, we would watch the sun go down then follow the purple wicker lanterns hanging from the trees above which lit the way to the nightly festivities at KaterHolzig. The merry-makers at KaterHolzig, recent offspring of Berlin's legendary Bar25, were instrumental in setting the mood and creating activities at the resort (all-night full moon parties, movie nights on the beach, and other imaginative happenings). The restaurant/bar serves up seasonal local food from the grill and fresh breads from a custom-built clay oven. The restaurant has a natural amphitheater which starts on the beach and rises up into a tree house like deck where an assortment of random vintage furniture pieces, cricked withering wall art, a weathered piano, all create a part shipwreck and part Robinson Crusoe beach shack. nothing feels calculated.
Beyond being respectful to your surroundings, there aren't many rules at PPP. It's perfectly normal to see a few naked bodies swimming in the ocean, walk into restaurants and shops with no shoes on, and stroll through the town at dusk with a glass of wine in hand. A more freeing experience than my usual New York City life - where I live under so many rules, I almost don't even realize they are there anymore. Many times we passed by the lobby and over heard guests extending their stay, who would want to leave? But when it was time to go, we slowly collected our things, said our goodbyes to the amazing staff, and hopped back into the air conditioned blacked out SUV.
Claus Sendlinger, Founder & CEO of Design Hotels is not stopping in Tulum, Inspiring feedback received to the Papaya Playa Project has sparked further creative and off-radar luxury forms. This summer Design Hotels, in association the The Paradise Club have set up their second Pop-Up hotel in the Mediterranean at San Giorgio Mykonos.
"Today’s travelers expect more than just the standardized comfort and convenience, they are looking for a true and authentic experience." Which is the foundation of Design Hotels pop-up projects. "People are not seeking for luxury in a traditional definition any more. The word luxury is overused and irrelevant since talk of luxury has become cheap." In lieu of "Luxury" sophisticated travelers are looking for nature, relaxation, and a chance to get back to their basic needs - this is the idea of San Giorgio.
The 34-room property started in the ’90s thanks to a successful local fisherman who laid claim to a piece of Paradise Beach. Recently the nightlife champs over at Paradise Club have taken over the establishment. Proprietors Thomas Heyne and Mario Hertel together with Markos Daktilidis, owner of Paradise Beach, have a long standing close relationship with Design Hotels which assisted in making it the second pop-up hotel in the world.
Former Creative Director of Design Hotels and now design entrepreneur Michael Schickinger, together with interior designer and stylist Annabell Kutucu were responsible for the design. "What you see and feel at San Giorgio are equal measures of history, heritage, style and simplicity." A charming off-kilter design for the white-washed building consists of traditional Greek woven-top stools, hand crafted wicker light fixtures, wood framed mirrors, and fluffed pillows outfitted with traditional patterns.
The property has a harmonious mixture of natural air and light that filter inside because of the openness to the historical piece of architecture. Carefully chosen accessories give the right warmth to the open space, which could otherwise fell cold and stale. On site, guests can enjoy the spa, boxing, yoga, Horse riding, and a wedding chapel (just in case). Also, because the owners of the world renowned Paradise Club are involved in the project, guests have access to their nightclub, where high profile DJs like Armin Van Buuren, Moby and David Guetta will be spinning up some tunes.
The team at Design Hotels created the San Giorgio project for those who seek simple pleasures like waking up to views of the sea, sharing good food prepared with love and care, and feeling the euphoric energy of a crowd dancing under a starry sky. If you are in need of a life-saving retreat, don't let the San Giorgio project pass you by.
Photographs Courtesy of Design Hotels