HOTEL INSPIRATION: Tribal Hotel in Granada, Nicaragua

As a residential designer, I don’t usually get inspired by hotels – their lobbies and rooms and the demands of their furnishings are a different beast from the spaces I work on. But just last week, I got to spend a night at the Tribal Hotel in Granada, Nicaragua, which is so impeccably designed that it made me want to (literally) move in and stay forever.

I first heard about Tribal Hotel in a roundup of highlights in Nicaragua; after this boutique hotel was featured on the cover of Conde Nastinterest from tourists has exploded (while there, visitors would just stop by to ask to peep the space) – so we were super lucky to get to stay in one of Tribal’s indoor-outdoor suites.

Actually, visiting Tribal Hotel was a bit of an honor: the owners, who designed and curated every part of the hotel themselves from the building to every chair and pillow, are NYC hospitality superstars Jean-Marc Houmard + Yvan Cussigh. I met Yvan when we checked in, and he told me that to achieve the style they envisioned, some of the pieces could be sourced locally in Nicaragua, but other textiles / materials were brought in from NYC and around the world.

THE LOBBY:

NOZNOZNOZ - Tribal Hotel Granada Nicaragua - Lobby

Can we talk about these FLOORS? The perfectly global-tribal-geometric floor tiles are laid w/ a thin border of contrasting tiles to create the effect of two “area rugs” in the lobby as you walk in.

NOZNOZNOZ - Tribal Hotel Granada Nicaragua - Front desk

Despite having ogled so many photos online, seeing the check-in desk in person felt surreal – like I was walking into this super chic open-air Alice in Wonderland space.

Seriously though – these FLOORS!

Seriously though – these FLOORS!

Another interesting detail about Nicaraguan cities is that every building is responsible for maintaining its sidewalk. When you walk down a block, the tiles change in style and condition constantly. Outside tribal Hotel, the black/white tile continues, but they've been laid in different patterns per stair, which are different from their treatment inside, which is such a thoughtful detail.

An interesting detail about Nicaraguan cities is that every building is responsible for maintaining its own sidewalk. When you walk down a block, the tiles change in style and condition constantly. Outside Tribal Hotel, the black/white tile continues, but they’ve been laid in a different pattern from inside, which is such a thoughtful detail. OMG ARE YOU INSPIRED YET?!

THE COURTYARD AND POOL:

One of my favorite things about Granada was its colonial architecture. Most of the blocks around the gridded town appear to be long uninterrupted buildings (the changing colors indicate different owners) with basically no windows. The sunlight + fresh air come from the internal courtyards.

NOZNOZNOZ - Tribal Hotel Granada Nicaragua - Cabanas At Tribal Hotel, the courtyard was a blending of midcentury modern, African, and Central American details, set among super lush greenery. You can lounge in one of the cabanas or lounge chairs around the adorable mod-tiled pool, or at one of the 3 conversational pods with built-in benches.

I think I was most excited about *moving into* one of these conversation areas. In the evening, the hotel staff lights all the candles and pendants in the space, and it is baaaasically a dream.

I think I was most excited about *moving into* one of these conversation areas. In the evening, the hotel staff lights all the candles and pendants in the space, and it is baaaasically a dream.

NOZNOZNOZ - Tribal Hotel Granada Nicaragua - Courtyard closeup

Detail shot of the art, upholstery, + decorative objects in each of the conversational spaces. Of the 3 spaces, this one is meant for larger groups and has a dining-height table.

NOZNOZNOZ - Tribal Hotel Granada Nicaragua - Courtyard 1

One of my favorite photos of our trip so far!

OUR UPSTAIRS SUITE:

Of Tribal Hotel’s 5 guest rooms, we stayed in one of the upstairs “junior” suites, overlooking the courtyard. While the bathroom, closet, and bedroom are inside with A/C and high ceilings, the living/lounge space is open-air with white linen drapes for privacy.

Besides lounging in the living area of the suite, you can also have your breakfast served here!

Besides lounging in the living area of the suite, you can also have your breakfast served here!

Mostly n00b-posing, but also I'm in the shot to provide scale as to how large the space + how high the ceilings!

Mostly n00b-posing, but also I’m in the shot to provide scale as to how large the space is. Also, throughout the hotel’s spaces are live-edge and beautifully carved wood furnishings and art. This flame-like piece was one of my favorites. 

The bed + nightstands are built-ins like the courtyard bench seating. I'm so obsessed at how relaxed and easy the black/white theme felt in the room – like the all-white built-ins against a black cement floor.  Also can we talk about how thoughtfully curated + arranged the artwork is?! Not pictured is another floor-lamp-like art piece in the corner.

The bed + nightstands are built-ins. I’m so obsessed at how relaxed and effortless the black/white theme felt in the room – like the all-white built-ins against a black cement floor. Also can we talk about how thoughtfully curated + arranged the artwork is?! Not pictured is another floor-lamp-like art piece in the corner.

If you have the chance to travel to Granada, Nicaragua, absolutely 1,000% stay at Tribal Hotel. It’s right in the heart of of the city only a couple minutes’ walk to the central park, and yet, once you walk in, you’ll be transported. Wish we could have stayed much longer than a day and a night here (or, like I said, moved in!) – but next time. ¡Hasta luego!

Diary Moment: Did my Dad know I’d end up in Interior Design?

Yesterday somewhere between 1:30am and 2am was the 7-year anniversary of my dad’s passing. Missing him hit me much harder than it has in recent years, so I wrote a cathartic Facebook post reflecting on the past year since I started my lil interior design business:

Seven years ago, right around this time of night, my dad left this earth. And while it’s “gotten easier” since, tonight is really, really emotional.

I think it’s because, in the past year that I’ve been working on my little business, there have been so many times that I wish I could have asked him for his advice, or for his stories I’d never thought to ask about. Like, “When you had to publish your Business Name Statement, which newspaper did you pick?” “Why were your swags bamboo fans and chip clips?” “When did you realize that you could survive the rough patches?” or “Did you ever get over how terrifying and futile it all feels sometimes?”… and I’ve wondered what he’d think of my business cards or what I keep under his old paperweights.

But while my dad was alive, despite being an entrepreneur his whole career, he never suggested it as an option to me. Looking back, given the racism he faced as a post-WWII Japanese American, and given that he was removed from UCLA to be sent to the internment camps and not given the chance to complete college, I can imagine he might not have thought he had other options like a “white collar job” at some big firm when he was young. So a part of me suspects he wanted an easier life for me: graduate from a good university, get a nice-paying corporate job, struggle little, stress not… because now that I’ve been through my first incredibly trying year of setting out on my own, I completely relate to the self-doubt, depression, and paralyzing fear that loom over this path of self-employment.

And yet, I think if he were here today, he’d still have told me to go for it – so I’ll keep that with me whenever things get difficult. But for tonight, I’ll let myself cry it out and miss my Daddy. And then I’ll get back to business.

My favorite photo of me and my dad, taken on his fishing boat when I was about 4. He got me and my sis Little Mermaid life jackets, which was like the most exciting thoughtful thing ever to lil baby Noz.

Even though my dad was very proud that I’d be working at Clorox in Marketing after I graduated (I accepted the job offer 6 months before he passed), I’ve so wished that he were alive to know that I followed quite closely in his footsteps. My dad’s main businesses while I was growing up were in real estate + construction: a fully vertical model, he would sell land to a client as the Broker, and then he’d put on his General Contractor hat and build the buildings on that land. He also designed + managed the construction of his dream “forever family home” in the burbs of LA that I spent almost all of my childhood in.

But while I wish I could have told him that my first very own company is an interior design business, all day I’ve been reflecting on the time I had with him, wondering whether my dad might in fact have totally figured I’d end up in interior design eventually. I mean, there were a lot of signs:

  1. First off, I was obsessed with details of the homes I grew up in. The home we rented while our “forever family home” was being built had this heinous forest green carpet, which I LOVED and was devastated to leave behind. Later when I was older, I brought up the carpet and the weird tacky wishing fountain in the rental home’s foyer, and both my mom and dad were shocked that I had such vivid memories of that home – I was only 2-3 years old when we lived there!
  2. Given my attachment to that green carpet, my dad actually let little 3-year-old me “pick” the carpet that would go into our new home! This is another vivid memory: he showed me different samples, and I picked a speckled tufted carpet that was salmon-pink with speckles in rainbow colors. OBVIOUSLY a toddler would pick the most ridiculously colorful option. But instead, he went with an oatmeal-colored loop carpet that ALSO had multi-colored speckles (but they were brown, navy, and grey). So when we moved in a year later and I was so disappointed he didn’t install the carpet I had picked, I think he was really surprised that I 1. remembered at all, and 2. had expected so seriously for the carpet to have been the one I chose.
  3. When my dad was doing materials specifications on our home, he asked me what color I’d want for the toilets/bathtubs and tile. He had already planned on blue bathrooms, and my favorite color at the time was blue, so Little Me was thrilled when all 3 bathrooms ended up blue. I mean, have you ever seen a blue toilet in a house built in the last 30 years? It’s so random! I think my dad beamed a little bit whenever I’d give my friends the tour of the house and gloat when they were like, “Awww man! We only have boring white toilets!”

    The bathtub was also blue. And the sink basins. And the counters. Also note the blue linoleum. And I already covered the blue toilets.

    The bathtub was also blue. And the sink basins. And the counters. Also note the blue linoleum + bath mat. I’m the one with hella buckteeth.

  4. Whenever I played with Legos, all I ever built were homes. I would make a rectangle all the way around the baseplate (maximizing the square footage of the house based on the size of the “lot”, obvi), and then I would create partitions and make different layouts. I remember once lamenting to my dad that there was no Lego toilet piece, because I had to improvise with a 2×3 block with a 1×2 on top (the 1×2 was the tank), and that took up way more square footage than a Lego toilet would have.
  5. My dad often took my sister and me on outings to the local bookstore (anyone remember Bookstar??), and while my sister would run to the kid’s section, I would invariably, from the time I was maybe 6 years old, plunk down in the home decor book section and fan through the pages of books about bathroom design and living room design. My dad would always try to recommend books about kitchens, letting me know that kitchen design and kitchen renovations were where all the value was. But alas, as a little kid, I never played in the kitchen (because fire and boiling water and knives), so I was always like “Okay Daddy whatevs.”
  6. When I was grounded and sent to my room (often), I would spend most of the time decorating my bedroom with grocery store items, like when I tried to drape blue plastic wrap along the ceiling so it’d feel like I was inside a genie’s lamp.
  7. Not to mention when I was in middle school, I told my dad I wanted to be an architect, and took a year of old school drafting my freshman year of high school – which I discovered I was very good at. My dad was actually the one who told me that I should pursue a business career instead of architecture based on the fact that most architects didn’t make much money (see the italicized section above for context about the path my dad hoped for me), and Teenage Me took that advice to heart.

So I dunno, maybe it was obvious and maybe he did imagine that my journey through life might ultimately meander towards this space (in which case, he definitely should have gone with that rainbow speckle salmon carpet because clearly Baby Noz had mad interior design sensibilities!).

But while this time of year is always difficult and a part of me will always wish he could have known that I’m my own boss now, having my own business and working in residential interiors makes me feel so much more connected to his legacy. And who knows, maybe one day a client will ask me to design a bathroom with a blue toilet, and that will be my little sign from the universe that he knew all along 🙂