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If you’re considering a North African break this year and want to stay somewhere very special, book into the Dar HI Eco-lodge and Spa in Nefta, Tunisia. The hotel was designed by vaunted Paris-based designer Matali Crasset.
Once again working with hoteliers Philippe Chapelet and Patrick Elouarghi who commissioned her for the successful design of the HI Hotel in Nice, Matali’s approach to this venture was steadfastly located in responding to this specific town on the edge of the Tunisian desert.
It’s dripping with the bright and luminescent palette that defines both the surrounding landscape and, quite naturally, the Tunisian design culture that has grown out of the environment. Rich ochres, shimmering azures and sun-laden yellows all find their way into her interiors that miraculously manage to retain almost an element of minimalism about them; enough detail to make clear connections to the local context without ever resorting to tourist kitsch.
Crasset said that the one thing she has not done is to attempt to make the hotel feel like being ‘at home’; that, in fact, this persistent obsession on the part of many hoteliers with attempting to make their guests feel ‘at home’ is a rather absurd since, by definition, when one is in a hotel, one is not at home.
Not in one of the usual tourist spots, the Dar HI Hotel is a beckoning oasis of relaxation and luxurious simplicity off the beaten Tunisian tourist routes. And, in many ways, Matali Crasset’s commitment to ideas like sustainability and a local sense of ownership have taken a very tangible form in the realisation of the project. For example, her contemporary furniture designs were all realised by local artisans before being incorporated into the building that seems entirely in keeping with the local culture whilst at the same time offering a modernist sleekness and all the necessary luxuries for the visitor with high expectations and a desire to relax.
So, if you have yet to make a decision about your holiday destination, Nefta could fit the bill; perfect for any jaded, seasoned traveller just a little tired of hotels and resorts that are an endless parade of attempts to wow and woo those who have pretty much experienced everything that hotels have to offer. Perhaps the sincerity of Matali Crasset’s design will offer you something new.

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