The Muir hotel in Halifax is more than a novelty on the harbor
When is a hotel more than just a place to sleep? Visiting Muir’s Halifax site, which opens in late fall, a few answers are as clear as seeing the iconic Angus L. Macdonald Suspension Bridge: when it occupies part of an address historic waterfront of two hectares; when it is the first luxury hotel in a city little known for its fine accommodation; and when it launches in the midst of a global pandemic.
If that weren’t enough, Scott Armor McCrea, president of Armor Group, the real estate development and construction company that is transforming the site, cites no less that “Fogo Island meets Ritz-Carlton” as a target for the $ 200 million mixed project. of dollars. -use development, known as the Queen’s Marque. “I’m trying to create a Canadian monument, to be honest with you,” he says.
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Although humility runs in the blood of people born and raised in the Maritimes, McCrea’s bold aspirations capture a new confidence coming from the East. You can see this in Muir’s proud slogan, “Born of this Place,” and recent national news headlines on the opportunity for Halifax, both as a safe haven from COVID and as an affordable place to live, with almost deserted beaches just 20 minutes from downtown. With all the buzz, it’s no wonder that Condé Nast Traveler and CNN Travel have included Nova Scotia among the 21 Best Places to Go in 2021, making Muir one of the biggest draws.
Queen’s Marque’s three wharf buildings jut out into the harbor like majestic seaworthy ships and are the work of renowned Nova Scotia architect Brian MacKay-Lyons – the natural choice for the job. “We have one of the most important architects in the country who lives here, and yet he had never had an order of this magnitude in the province,” says McCrea. “It almost seemed wrong not to use it.”
The development, which includes shops, restaurants and a residence, was designed to be noticed and used, much like the central squares of European cities. Muir, which means “sea” in Gaelic, is the jewel in the shimmering, salt-bathed crown of Queen’s Marque.
Affiliated with Marriott’s Autograph Collection, Muir is independent in style and spirit. From the moment you walk past the hotel’s Range Rover parked outside and enter the lobby, which at the time of writing is still a construction zone, it’s easy to understand that if the materials speak a vernacular local – from salt and pepper granite to sandstone from Tatamagouche and Muntz, a marine metal – their lofty application is part of a new design language. “People’s perceptions of the Maritimes are overused, but a modern aesthetic is emerging and we can put an exclamation point on it,” McCrea says.
Enter Alessandro Munge of the award-winning Studio Munge in Toronto. With projects such as Nobu Toronto and the William Vale Hotel in Brooklyn under his belt, Munge knows luxury hospitality like few others. Having said that, Halifax is different, less studied and elegant. Did Munge feel the pressure to be hired as a company “from afar”? “I’m not used to chasing clients, but I really, really wanted to,” he says. “With larger urban projects, you are one of the many and you risk integrating yourself. Muir offered the opportunity to push the boundaries and affect the region in a positive way. For us, the key was not to come up with a humble approach that lives up to those who live there.
Muir’s 109 rooms, all but four with water views, are reminiscent of the cabins of a private yacht. The walls are curved and wrapped in weathered V-groove white oak. Both the bar and the bathroom mirror have a porthole-shaped backlit mirror. While the shipbuilding story cannot be avoided, its references are understated. “Yes, we’re on the ocean, but we stayed away from the theme,” Munge laughs. “There are no rope lights, no big anchor in the lobby – it’s not Vegas!”
Like beach glass or wave-softened driftwood, everything in the room begs to be touched, from the gleaming walnut arm of a Stickley-inspired chair to the leather-covered bedside tables. “If your hands are walking on all surfaces, that’s a sign of success for me,” says Munge. “I want people to relax and rub the arm of the chair or feel the raked texture of oak floors underfoot.”
Instead of a traditional desk, there is a walnut table with exposed joinery tucked away next to a modular sectional. “It’s more of a kitchen table than a desk,” McCrea told me, unable to resist an East Coast kitchen party joke. Above, a ceiling light mimics the silhouette of a traditional gas lantern with a touch of leather. On the wall of each room is a painting of Nova Scotia, and none of them are alike. On the bed, a thoughtful decision was made to avoid the usual white top sheet and go for fog gray.
Studio Munge even designed a Muir Tartan throw for the foot of the bed. “We deconstructed a Scottish tartan and there’s softness and almost tenderness in the palette – no color punch. It is our way of representing the landscape of Nova Scotia. If all of this sounds appealing to you, you can take it home for a price; some furniture and textiles are for sale, allowing visitors to extend their coastal experience.
Step out of the private space and back into the public and you’ll find an art gallery (part of Queen’s Marque’s $ 7 million collection), a wellness center with a halotherapy salt room, and even a clandestine bar reserved for guests and members serving upscale historic cocktails. . McCrea says the speakeasy could be called BKS, but refuses to spell the acronym. “I’ll never say it,” he said, raising an eyebrow. “It’s a secret.”
As for Muir, the word is out. This fall, this new waterside retreat will be a welcoming post-COVID home away from home – and more than just a place to sleep.
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