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!

5 House Party Tips for the Up-&-Coming Host or Hostess

I love a good house party – in particular, I love hosting them. Hedge and I just threw our annual holiday party last weekend (a tradition of mine since 2009, and one we have shared since 2013!!), which we relish in trying to make bigger and better every year – more guests, fancier food + drink, more features. That said, we’re both “normal” people, throwing parties on a budget, so we’ve gotten pretty clever at stretching our spend to reach for Gatsby-esque party glitz.

For those of us hosts + hostesses who similarly have grown out of red Solo cup parties but aren’t quite at hiring full-service caterers + valets, here are some tips to take your next house party to the next level:

1. RENT YOUR GLASSWARE

This was the "drinks station" we set up for the 2013 holiday party.

This was the “drinks station” we set up for the 2013 holiday party.

A lot of people don’t realize you can rent wine glasses, champagne flutes, low balls, etc. (not to mention serving plates, silverware, etc.) from party rental companies. These are the same companies that outfit large-scale events like corporate parties and weddings, but they also accept small orders that you can pick up and drop off at will-call. Just google “[your city] stemware rental” to find some options.

Not only does real glassware take the “class” level up immeasurably from plastic disposable options, it’s also much more environmentally friendly. Plus, I’ve noticed that guests are better-behaved when holding a real glass – maybe out of fear of breaking it, but also I think because it adds a different elegant tone to the party.

Good news too: when the party’s over, you don’t need to wash or rinse anything: just put everything back in the shipping crates and bring it back the next weekday.

Cost: it varies by the style (I mean, you can rent actual crystal!), but expect a wine glass to cost $0.75-$2.00 a piece to rent from Friday afternoon to Monday morning, and a lowball to stay under $1.00.

2. START A TRADITION

Of course, traditions are only official after they have happened more than once, but even if you think you might throw another party again, it’s worth thinking of something special you would like to your guests to remember about your events. For instance, Hedge used to live in Sevilla; and during the holidays in Spain, a family will put out a big leg of jamon serrano (or ibérico, if you’re fancy) and slice pieces off throughout the season. He wanted to share that Spanish tradition with our friends last year, and it was such a hit that we knew it needed to be a feature of our holiday parties every year.

Before and after: our leg of jamon serrano. Note to the wise that in 2013 we had the leg be a participatory thing, but we decided going forward that drunk friends wielding 14" fileting knives = not the safest.

Before and after: our leg of jamon serrano. Note to the wise that in 2013 we had the leg be a participatory thing, but we decided going forward that drunk friends wielding 14″ fileting knives = not the safest.

3. SET UP A PHOTO BOOTH

In this age of social media and digital storage limitlessness, people love taking photos at events – and house parties should be no exception! Hedge’s awesome idea for this year’s holiday party was to turn his man cave into a photo booth for guests, using my Nikon DSLR, backdrop decor + silly festive hats from Amazon.com, and this $50 photo booth software for his laptop.

Our little photo booth template, which I created in Illustrator. Lil Viv in her reindeer antlers stars in the template, as well as photos!

Our little photo booth template, which I created in Illustrator. Lil Viv in her reindeer antlers stars in the template, as well as photos!

Another cute thing about this software is that you can create custom templates for guests’ photos to be arranged into – from a single photo to multiple, and include party messages or hashtags. We chose to make the largest photo in the template the *third* photo taken, since we figured the first would be practice and the third would be the wackiest.

Then, guests can email the finished photo booth output to themselves, or even text (but it costs $0.0075 per text, via Twilio).

NOZNOZNOZ - House Party Tips - Photo Booth example photo

Hedge’s friends from college and +1s, a few hours into the party (lolz), sporting festive headwear.

For backdrop inspiration, I turned to the interwebs for how to get something cheap + decent looking for our first photo booth attempt – turns out a lot of fabulous bloggers have shared their insanely creative photo booth decor ideas. Next year, the backdrop will be taken to the next level: green screen (maybe. Or just less janky).

NOZNOZNOZ - House Party Tips - Photo Booth backdrop 1

Our backdrop, a little haggard the day after the party. It’s made of 2 cheap plastic tablecloths, and 2 packs of tinsel “curtains,” all from Amazon.

4. CONSIDER BOXED WINE IN DECANTERS (Yes, really!)

Our go-to boxed wine brand is Wine Cube (far right), available at Target of all places.

Our go-to boxed wine brand is Wine Cube (far right), available at Target of all places.

Boxed wine has come a long way since the Franzia days. Really legit winemakers have been introducing new brands of boxed wine whose quality is on-par with very reputable *traditional bottled* wine. I have taste-tested many Wine Cube wines with my wine-loving friends over the past couple years, and they’ve all been so surprised and impressed.

Another benefit, besides cost-effectiveness (average $4-5/750mL), is how much waste you minimize with boxed wine. 8 boxes of Wine Cube (at 3L in each box) takes up only 2 cubic feet of space, and only weighs what the wine weighs inside – compare that to its weight and space-taking equivalent of 32 bottles! You’re saving from consuming and disposing of all that glass, as well as (if you’re an eco-friendly nerd like me) the amount of energy + fuel it takes to produce the bottles and transport them. PLUS… Hedge and I live in a 3rd story walk-up, so party prep AND clean-up involves carrying everything up and down a bunch of stairs. It was a lot tougher when we were trucking cases and cases of wine vs. just a few boxes.

That said, don’t serve boxed wine out of the box – that’s tacky. Decanters, on the other hand, are so beautiful, and functionally help aerate the wine. I’ve collected a few over the years, and a very thoughtful friend bought me one as a hostess gift; but if you don’t have enough for your party, guess what – yes, party rental places do rent decanters as well 🙂

Wacky Carafes

Some wacky decanters, which wouldn’t hold a ton of wine, but would definitely impress some guests and start conversation

5. GET A COAT RACK

It sounds really minor, but giving your guests a civilized place to put away their coats and bags when they arrive at your house (especially during winter parties) makes such a difference – particularly if you live in a city-sized place, as we do. I’ve always felt that having your guests throw their belongings down on a bed or a couch in another room makes their process of leaving the party more stressful. Inevitably, someone loses their coat, or takes someone else’s, or their coat falls off the bed and gets stepped on.

Party rental companies rent coat racks (super affordable – ours was a 6 foot rack that folded down for transportation, and only $16 for the weekend!), but you can also buy them on Amazon for $20-80 (“garment rack, or rolling garment rack”), if you have room to store one after. Note: whether your rent or buy a coat rack, the rack will NOT come with hangers. So you’ll need to get some online or borrow a bunch from your neighborhood dry cleaners.

Do you have any other house party advice for those of us with fancy party tastes on a budget? Share the wealth!! And happiest of holidays, everyone!!

DIY: Halloween! SF Giants! GOURDS.

In honor of today, which is both Halloween and the day my city of San Francisco shut half the streets down for the World Series parade (Go Giants!!), I finally gave into Decorative Gourd Season and decorated some mother fucking gourds!!!!NOZNOZNOZ - Halloween SF Giants Cover

Since it’s the last day of October, I avoided having more than 1 overtly “spooky / Halloweeny” gourd (the butternut squash) and went with a black/white/gold theme that will be fall-holiday (that totally portmanteaus into “falliday, btw) relevant for as long as these gourds keep – hopefully until it’s Christmas Tree time.

Total time spent: 45 minutes including driving to the grocery store (would have taken less but I screwed up the gold SF pumpkin the first time)

Total cost: about $6 for 2 little pumpkins, 1 butternut squash, and 1 wonky ass swan-gourd – I already had the nails and paint.

GOURD 1: Literally found this wonky bumpy twisty swan-neck-looking gourd in the “Decorative Gourds” basket. Pretty sure this isn’t meant to be eaten, but the bumps and porousness of the gourd skin make spray painting this one REALLY easy and efficient.

Spray painting pro tip: set the gourd down exactly as you want it on display and then spray paint from all angles without moving the gourd. This way the bottom doesn’t get painty and end up sticking to your table/mantle/wherever you display it. (More spray paint tips here)

NOZNOZNOZ - Halloween SF Giants 1

GOURD 2: Inspired by brass tack pumpkin DIYs, I went for a slightly more Edward Scissorhands/bondage-y butternut squash look. Also I decided to do this gourd DIY rather spontaneously and wanted to see what I could do just with the stuff I have at home – thusly, nails.

Pro tip: if you’re ever spray painting something that you’re going to then stab with nails/tacks/etc, spray paint the object FIRST, then add the nails, then spray paint again. NOZNOZNOZ - Halloween SF Giants 2

GOURDS 3 + 4: My beloved SF Giants pumpkins!! This year was the first year I 1. understood baseball strategy, 2. watched a decent amount of baseball, and 3. decided I like Pablo Sandoval, aka: The Panda. And so, these cutie pumpkins. The process on both of these was the same: spray paint, let dry, then use black acrylic paint to do the design. I’m especially proud of my kawaii Japanese Panda anime face.

Side note: the gold pumpkin was originally meant to be black with gold lettering. I made a stencil out of paper to spray paint a gold “SF” and realized that stenciling irregular round things doesn’t work. Also I definitely missed the bottom of the Panda pumpkin.

NOZNOZNOZ - Halloween SF Giants 3

ENJOY!!!!!!! There will definitely be more spray paint / DIY holiday posts as the winter season approaches, so let me know if you want to see anything done or if you’ve done a super sick gourd DIY this month!