From the Oberoi Mena House in Cairo overlooking the city’s ancient pyramids to the Ritz Carlton in Mauritius, Inge Moore is an expert at creating spaces that reflect the uniqueness their surroundings.
With its robust tapestry of culture and history, Jerusalem offered a rich canvas for the veteran interior designer who just completed her work at the Orient Hotel, the latest offering from the Isrotel hotel chain.
Although Moore has struck out on her own, opening her own firm, Muza Lab, she worked on this project as part of the world-renowned interior design company Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA). HBA and Isrotel gutted former 19th and 20th century Templar homes and designed a space that is modern, but also tips its hat to the ancient world it used to occupy.
Of course, Moore did not operate alone.
Working beside her was Eyal Ziv who restored the historic site along with Yehuda and Yoel Feigin who served as the building’s architects. The architects aimed to “soften” the building’s facades by “designing [it] to look like several buildings rather than one, through the use of differently-sized openings and balconies emphasized with iron and aluminum frames,” Yoel Feigin said in a statement.
“I wish the Orient Hotel – situated at an important historical-cultural junction near Jerusalem’s old railway station between the Jerusalem Theater and the Old City – great success as it embodies the values of Jerusalem, combining ancient history with innovation and modernity,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said of the hotel’s convenient German Colony location at the hotel’s opening in July.
The nine-story, 243 room hotel has Ottoman tiles gracing the floors, tables made from Jerusalem olive trees and its famous stone adorning the walls are just some touches that make a guest feel like they are in the Holy City.
“We wanted to make it really unique in the space, incorporating local crafts in a contemporary way,” Moore explained while giving a tour of the hotel.
In her effort to emphasize craftsmanship, she points to the large nails surrounding the edges of the doors as a way to pay homage to the men and women whose handwork has been part of the city’s culture for generations.
The private heritage rooms have accents of turquoise – or techelet – a color often referred to in the Bible and used in the tassels of Jewish prayer shawls.
As Moore prepares for designing any space, whether it be Moscow or Jerusalem, she spends time sorting through local markets and doing intensive online research in order to have her finger on the pulse of what makes a each locale come alive.
“No projects are made in isolation. It really is a melting pot of ideas. That’s the joy of it. There are always so many different people involved,” she said.
In an era of political over-correctness, it is easy to accuse designers of oversimplifying a culture. Moore, for her part, concedes that her visions end up being a mosaic of what each locale has to offer, not a scientific or historic blueprint with 100% accuracy.
“We’re not trying to create a museum here,” she says. “We think of everything from a design perspective and what works and what a modern traveler is looking for.”
Case in point, the hotel room bathrooms are an area that has to put function ahead of design. So while some new upscale hotels often have translucent glass separating a bathroom and a sleeping area, hotel executives advised more to design more traditional bathrooms to cater to a conservative-leaning audience. “We listened to Isrotel for guidance,” she acknowledges. “Isrotel was fantastic to work with. [Isrotel CEO] Lior [Raviv] was open to ideas.”
For Moore, the Orient is a departure from most hotels in Israel, which she finds ordinary and uninspired.
With Isrotel, she was given wide breadth to use her imagination and create a hotel that is functional, yet innovative in its design.
The hotel chain also maintained its tradition of showcasing local artwork at the Orient, as paintings by Israeli artists adorn the hallways.
“Hotels must involve the local community,” she said, “By using local products and using local artists, the hotel becomes more like an exhibition space.”
But at the end of the day, a guest wants to relax and kick back a little. As such, every Moore design has its own sense of fun.
“I like spaces that make you smile. Quirky art, fun colors...” she said. And with the neon green couches in the lobby and a rooftop pool that shimmers and shines at night, the Orient makes sure it doesn’t take itself (or its guests) too seriously.
While the decorative items pop out, the shining star really is the city itself. “Location is vital for the story. Sometimes it’s difficult, but here it’s so easy. Everything is vibrant,” Moore’s HBA associate Sarah Williams said.