Nova Scotian Design and Materials Inform The Muir, Autograph Collection Hotel

Discussing the tactile elements of our recent stay with Marriott International's VP of Design, Aliya Khan

Along the bustling waterfront of Halifax—the capital city of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia—the Muir, Autograph Collection welcomes guests into a nuanced hospitality experience. From its unique architecture and soothing design to the impeccable service and exciting food and beverage outlets, the hotel exceeds expectation. Nova Scotian practice MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects worked with Canadian designer Alessandro Munge of Studio Munge, both in collaboration with Marriott International’s Global Design teams, to imagine an utterly unique property born from (and inspired by) local materials, with references to the maritime city’s shipbuilding heritage throughout.

There’s a consistent tonal and textural feel that extends from the lobby into the ground-floor restaurant and up through the luxuriant pool facility, all the way to the minimal yet sophisticated guest rooms. Although plush emerald-colored chairs and design accents glow in the hotel’s speakeasy (even in low light), these items are enveloped by a muted natural palette that aligns with the destination’s overall aesthetic. Further, much of the furniture populating these rooms is made in Canada, and artistic pieces hail from local artists. To learn more about the role of design and materiality in the Muir, Autograph Collection’s magnificent spaces we spoke with Aliya Khan, VP of Design, Global Design Strategies, Marriott International. Khan was able to ground our comfortable, sensory experience in the tactile decisions of the designers.

What makes the Muir, Autograph Collection distinctly Nova Scotian? And how does it embody the overall design ethos of the Autograph Collection?

Everything about Muir, Autograph Collection is distinctly Nova Scotian, and because of that it is perfectly aligned with Autograph Collection Hotels’ values—inspired by a clear vision, soul and story, and meticulously designed to evoke a strong sense of place. Simply put, this hotel just could not exist anywhere else.

The designers were inspired by the natural hues, tones, textures and landscape of this city and surroundings. Nova Scotian sandstone, distinctive in olive and tan colors, is complemented by the iconic salt-and-pepper provincial granite. Muntz metal, which accents the building, represents a modern interpretation of ship hulls, further reinforcing the significance and influence of marine culture. Their approach to architecture and design connects guests to the destination and allows visitors to discover why Nova Scotia and Halifax, in particular, is a place like no other.

How did the Muir, Autograph Collection’s unexpected architecture and prime waterfront position impact the design?

Muir, which is Scots Gaelic for “sea,” juts out dramatically over the Atlantic Ocean, so the distinct location of the hotel and the materials of the region are woven into the hotel’s art, architecture and design. The hotel goes beyond embracing its natural environment, and frames specific views of the landscape surrounding it with nearly all of the 109 rooms and suites and its public spaces offering sweeping sea views. In addition to the views, the way natural light plays with and reflects from the surrounding ocean shapes the way guests experience the hotel’s design—different by time of day and season—warm, inviting and magical.

With the hotel’s prime location in the vibrant Halifax waterfront, in the heart of the Queen’s Marque district, the hotel pays respect to this notable location and poetic architecture. Appropriately, the hotel’s architectural story symbolizes marine forms of grand vessels docking on the waterfront, accurately representing Halifax’s shipbuilding past while defining the city’s future.

You mentioned the word warm. During our stay, we were impressed by the warm design inside the Muir, Autograph Collection and the way that is tied to materials. Can you talk about the process behind selecting the property’s materials?

The warmth of the design is another superb example of the interplay between architecture and interior design. The rugged yet refined architecture portrays a contemporary marine, wharf-like design anchored by the materiality from that local salt-and-pepper granite and sandstone to the Muntz metal. These elements read as cool and minimalist, but when they are paired with interiors and furnishings that are textured, layered and inviting, you create an enveloping design experience with a deep sense of place.

Throughout the property, accents of reimagined Nova Scotian art and craftsmanship are introduced to create a tailored and unique environment. Staterooms and suites are internally programmed to maximize the Atlantic Ocean harbor-front views. The living room design was inspired by Nova Scotia’s natural textures and muted colors along with a local craft influence, bringing a sense of residential atmosphere.

We’d love to know more about the process behind selecting the furnishings, as well.

Throughout Muir, Alessandro curated custom furniture, textiles and lighting—designed and created in Canada—that work together to reflect a modern Nova Scotian aesthetic. Guest rooms and suites feature curved white oak walls and plank flooring, while the warmth and tradition of Nova Scotia is felt through the textiles, including a custom-designed tartan throw featured in every room. A collection of bespoke furniture includes a walnut floating worktable, walnut-framed beds and a full-size bar paying homage to luminous ship portholes. And each spa-like bathroom is lined with granite and features a separate wet room surrounded by frosted glass suggesting the subtle haze of Halifax’s morning fog.

Public spaces are intimate and inviting with softly lit cove lighting warmed by lively fireplaces. Statement pieces from local artists appear throughout, including a handwoven tapestry depicting a spectacular Nova Scotia landscape by Allison Pinsent-Baker, which is proudly hung behind the reception desk.

Muir’s design extends to all of the hotel’s public spaces, including its signature restaurant, Drift, which celebrated Canadian chef Anthony Walsh and chef de cuisine Jamie MacAulay calls “a culinary love letter to Nova Scotia’s land, people and history.” It’s a restaurant you truly experience with all senses. From a design perspective, the dining room offers stunning waterfront views with floor-to-ceiling marble fluted fireplaces and leather-wrapped walls. This spectacular sense of ‘reveal’ also extends to BKS, Muir’s speakeasy, an enclave of curved wooden walls, muted marble and luxurious banquettes.

Images courtesy of Autograph Collection