photography by ahmed ehab

designed: 2019 by ramzi makram-ebeid

When I first started my career in interiors and furniture, my dream was to design a boutique hotel.  A dozen years later, I finally got the chance when I was hired to redesign El Gouna’s Captain’s Inn.

I must admit that in completing my fair share of projects, I got used to having the majority of control over the design process. But when you work with someone incredible such as Iman Sakr – VP of Orascom Hotels – one learns to listen more.  This woman is incredibly hard-working, smart and experienced, and I personally learned a lot from this project. Though we have different tastes, to my luck, she loved my concept of ‘minimal desert chic’ and I was able to create something that was calming and relaxing.

During my first stay at Captain’s Inn, I asked to stay in their least appealing room.  By doing so, I was able to identify the hotel’s problems and in turn set them right everywhere else. My biggest surprise was how tight the rooms were.  While sitting on the toilet, for example, your feet were unnecessarily forced into the shower, despite there being enough room for both functions to be spaced comfortably.

I started off by exposing the bathrooms, this made the space feel much bigger and improved circulation.  Both the shower and the toilet room have glass doors to let the light in and to keep things feeling airy. In most of the rooms, a central station doubles as a bathroom sink and a mini-bar; I wanted to increase functionality, to save space and to have the fridge near a sink.  The vanity’s mirror is double-sided to create an illusion of space as well as to reflect the gorgeous sea views. Most importantly, however, this layout gives the rooms a little edge and adds sexiness. For the more complicated room layouts, I needed completely closed off bathrooms, as you can see in the photos.  

All the furniture was custom designed by me and inspired by the cactus plant (hence the use of cactus art throughout the hotel).  Since the rooms are tight, I resorted to sliding closet doors and left them semi-exposed. The door is mirrored, again to create the illusion of space, as well as bring a bit of spice next to the bed.  

The bed is elevated to create extra storage space beneath, a detail that prevents any heavy items from obstructing the view; it also means less clutter.  The headboard is upholstered for extra comfort, while the fabric complements the shade of green used throughout.  

Iman wanted to add color to the space, so I made the bedside tables green with exposed shelving.  The same green was used for the vanity’s legs, breaking the monotony of the wood and bringing a little bounce to the room. The vanity itself is long and narrow, making it comfortable to use without taking up too much space.  

The quality of the finishes was key in this design since it is so minimal.  Thanks to Iman we were able to use an antiqued finish marble, giving the space more texture and character.

Moving onto the hallway, I reinforced the desert motif I started out with. I continued using the same color palette as the rooms and gave them a quirky touch by installing hammocks.  Iman sourced an amazing metal artist whose work is displayed throughout. Between the cactus and the wolves, the minimal desert concept was officially brought to fruition.

Finally, I wanted the lobby of the hotel to be super minimal yet playful (literally). Right before getting this project, I was in Paris and came across the longest fuss-ball table I had ever seen.  Everyone seemed to be having a blast around it and I wanted to create the same thing. We closed off a space for the fuss-ball table (so the noise doesn’t distract the people in transit or checking in) but are waiting for an expert to build an extended fuss-ball table for our purpose.  The current is in fact temporary. 

The seating in the lobby comes courtesy of the phenomenal head designer of Orascom, Melissa Johnston (who used to work for one of my idols – David Chipperfield). She recommended more traditional seating and sent us a photo of a sofa she liked, and so of course, we used it.  Other seating options are hammocks, which bring a leisurely aspect to the space. 

A true learning experience, Captain’s Inn will always be a memorable project, to say the least.