Flower murals decorate the exterior walls of the 10 cottages that make up Fleur Noire Hotel in Palm Springs.
PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY FLEUR NOIRE HOTEL
Chris Pardo didn’t go very far to open his next hotel in Palm Springs. His latest creation sits literally across the street from his signature ARRIVE hotel.
Fleur Noire Hotel, slated to open next month, is nothing like the midcentury oasis Pardo created in 2016. This time he took over an existing structure and completely reimagined it, recruiting mural artist Louise Jones (Ouizi on Instagram) to paint her larger than life flower murals on the series of 10 cottages that make up the property.
“The buildings aren’t architecturally remarkable, so the murals became the buildings themselves,” said Pardo, noting the site originally housed Burket's Trade Winds Hotel and Apartments. “That’s what was exciting to us. It almost looks like they are growing out of the earth.”
Mural artist Louise Jones painted native flowers similar to the wall murals Chris Pardo had seen in Miami, Florida.
Pardo liked the idea of adding a boutique hotel to the neighborhood, which offers a variety of eating experiences within walking distance. He envisions Fleur Noire to be attractive to both hotel guests and Airbnb vacation renters.
“Because of the casitas it's going to feel more residential, but guests will get the service level of a hotel,” Pardo says. “We are trying to create a place where our guests feel comfortable between the bar, the fire pits, the games; we have multiple outdoor living spaces, the pool area, and the cabanas. Guests can stay on property for a week and relax, but also have all the restaurants and nightlife of the city when they leave the backdoor.”
Pardo and business partner Corey St. John chat further with Palm Springs Life about the Fleur Noire Hotel, and what guests can expect when it opens.
How difficult was it for you to purchase and refurbish the hotel during the pandemic?
Chris Pardo: We actually started working on it a year and a half before the pandemic. We were operating it as the former property. We wanted to live and breathe the property so we can see what potential it can have. We knew that we'd want to do the larger remodel later. The pandemic actually gave us the opportunity to start construction because obviously, occupancy went away. It jump-started a full construction mode.
What was the inspiration for the hotel’s look?
Pardo: The first thing we thought about was really making it more uniform. It had that beige look originally, so we thought about the black color. Corey and I are really into art and have spent time at Wynwood in Miami (Florida).
That’s where the idea of these big graphic murals came from. We did play with the idea of having different murals on each building, but we felt like that didn't reinforce the idea of trying to create a cohesive property. Both of us kept on being drawn to Louise Jones. She goes by Ouizi. She does those incredible floral murals.
Ellie Cashman says her designs "are meant to serve as narratives of optimism and celebrations of beauty," according to her website.
Corey St. John: We basically sent her a few of the murals that we loved of her work, but outside of that, there wasn't much direction. It was her idea to do the desert California natives. Louise hand-painted all the murals with very small brushes. It took longer than she had originally thought. Louise was really into the project along the way so she brought in Johnny Alexander to help her at the end. He is another muralist, a friend of hers and a colleague from San Diego.
Pardo: We had to expand the scope of how many walls will have murals because they're amazing. We stood together and talked: "Well, what if we wrap this corner? What if we do that?" And Louise was all about it.
I saw that for the interiors you worked with Ellie Cashman, who lives in the Netherlands and takes her inspiration from still life painters of the Dutch Golden Age. She is creating wallpapers and fabric with big floral designs.
Pardo: I've always been really impressed by Ellie’s work. I've used some of her art wallpaper in houses before, so we reached out to her on this one and just explained the concept. So in each room it's custom, laid out, and sized. So you'll see as you go around that the flowers are all in different areas and we did a 300 time zoom on it to really try and play with the exterior flowers a little bit more. The reason I love her work is there's just so much depth. As the light changes throughout the day, it changes completely. So much mood at night.
St. John: We've had a lot of people that have come through that asked if they worked together, the two artists. They're completely independent of each other and neither saw the other's work.
How did your experiences at the ARRIVE and the Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs help you with designing spaces for the Fleur Noir Hotel?
Pardo: The experiences with both hotels gave me the perspective of working in this environment. This is a really, really harsh outdoor environment. ARRIVE was my first hotel in the Coachella Valley and I learned quickly what's going to withstand the weather and what isn't. That helped us with the selection of outdoor furniture and materials. I had the fortune of living here for six years. I learned and understood what daily life in Palm Springs is. I'm really connected with the community, which helped to understand what would be additive, because every project we do, we want to be something that's really additive to the community.
Each of your designs seem to be unique to its place. How do you generate your ideas? What is your recipe for being so creative?
Pardo: I think, as an artist, you don't like to repeat yourself in general. I never tried doing anything just to be different, for the sake of being different. Buildings speak to me. I look at a building and once we decided on what the concept is going to be, then it started flowing and everything kind of plays off itself. This is super exciting to me. That's what I love about my job. I've been able and fortunate to create these different spaces. At the very end, when my job is done, we get to watch other people experience the building and it becomes something completely different, typically. When you see it through the eyes of the visitors, it’s just amazing. That's what inspires me to do it again and change it up a little bit.
Do you have any other projects you are currently working or planning on?
Pardo: Actually, Corey and I, with a few other partners are building a 20-unit hotel right now behind Wang’s in the Desert in Palm Springs. I call it black house. We got it permitted in 2016, but partly just the market in general and then COVID delayed it. I designed it as four separate buildings that can be operated as either individual five-bedroom houses, or as a 20-unit hotel, as well. It's really great for larger groups.