Philomena Schurer Merckoll “Qualities of Life” The human side of hospitality
For aeyde’s “Qualities of Life” series, we sat down with six women who inspire us with their unique views on work, life, and finding balance. In Part Three, we caught up with creative director, Philomena Schurer Merckoll, 37, who has made a name for herself curating places and people. Raised between Germany and England, Philomena went into business for herself in 2014 when she opened the seven-room hotel, Riad Mena & Beyond, in Marrakech. Apart from hospitality, the hotelier also does consultancy work in the creative industries and is a Contributing Editor at T Magazine. We spoke to Philomena about the joys of being in flow with a process, what makes a great hotel vibe, and the importance of relationships. Meet Philomena Schurer Merckoll.
Images: Julia Sellmann
Words: Angela Waters
“When I say I’m the creative director of the hotel, I just pack all of my interests into the whole hotel experience.”
aeyde: What does it mean to be the creative director of a hotel?
Philomena Schurer Merckoll: I came up with the concept and the design for the hotel as well as doing the client relations. It’s a very personal project, so I do most things, but mainly creative direction. When you do a hotel, you can put in whatever you want, because you’re creating a completely holistic space. You’re choosing the interior design and architecture, then you have the library in your hotel where you’re curating all of the books on topics you’re interested in. We opened a shop last year and that was an edit of all of my favorite things in Marrakech. The guests end up meeting all of my friends and eating all of my favorite foods. When I say I’m the creative director of the hotel, I just pack all of my interests into the whole hotel experience.
a: What was the decision like to go into business for yourself?
PSM: I think I always jump into things and then realize halfway through what I’ve done. In this case it felt really right. I think sometimes when you start something and you just have a lot of flow with it and you get the wind on your back, you just feel like you’re on the right path. I had a lot of amazing people in the industry support me along the way—that was really nice and made me feel like I was doing something right.
a: What can a boutique hotel, which is more affordable, offer that a luxury hotel can’t?
PSM: A lot of the hotels I know outside of Berlin are incredibly high-end—and that’s great, I love a luxury hotel. But for there to be a great vibe in a hotel, I think it’s about having a mix of people. So you need to create something that is obviously still of a great standard, but maybe appeals to a broader mix of people. It’s like a good dinner party. You don’t want five 30-year-olds at the table. You want a 70-year-old, a 20-year-old, a banker, and an artist. It is sort of creating that magical mix that creates the right friction for interesting conversations and sparking new thoughts.
“Sometimes when you start something and you just have a lot of flow with it and you get the wind on your back, you just feel like you’re on the right path.”
a: Being British and German, how do the two sides of your heritage affect the way you approach hospitality?
PSM: I think that the Brits have a humour and a lightness that works so well everywhere and just always kind of lightens the mood. Especially this year, I appreciated the quiet exactness and solidity of the Germans. I find people in Germany quite grounded in a certain way. I guess the thing is, when you grow up across so many countries, you kind of don’t fit in anywhere, but you fit in everywhere. It is quite fun, as you can seamlessly move between different places and you just take a little bit from each place, a little inspiration from each place.
a: How would your friends describe you?
PSM: They would probably say that I was a little bit bonkers but quite fun, slightly eccentric and also I should probably work out where to live at some point because this sort of moving countries every three years needs to end at some point. Fun, probably.
a: How would you define a quality life?
PSM: I think fulfillment comes from the quality of your connections with other people (and yourself!) and the quality of your relationships as well as having a good, positive, and loving energy in all of that.