Beauty through the lens of design with Jean Marc Tang


The architect, interior designer, former VP Architecture & Design at the Ian Schrager Company, and founder of Studio des Iles in Mauritius talks designing hotels versus homes, crafting a line of furniture, and reimagining the historic LUX* Belle Mare resort.

What is your oldest Design/ Architectural memory?

It was my childhood home, a Mauritian colonial house in the middle of Port Louis, with interconnecting rooms; each had a different character and feel. It was an extended family dwelling where people came and went. What I remember the most is how all the spaces served as a private and yet communal place for everyone. The house woke up in the morning, bustling with the preparations for the day, and transformed at night into a social place for us to gather and be connected.

Who, and what do you draw inspiration from?

I absorb everything around me every day. I look at how people build and create their own environment. I am a global citizen, I have lived in London, New York and now Mauritius, and have had the privilege, throughout my work and my travels, to stay in beautiful places and meet inspiring people that inform my work every day.


Who are your design heroes?

They are the people that I worked closely with; they are my mentors. They made me what I am today. I have had the privilege of working closely with David Rockwell and Ian Schrager, whom I consider to be two of the genius minds in our design and hospitality industry today. I learned about the world of hospitality from David Rockwell, a famous New York architect known for his iconic restaurants, clubs, hotel, and theatre design. He taught me the importance of design with a sense of theatre in all spaces. Ian Schrager, was my other mentor. He is the guru of the hotel design world, infamous for running Studio 54, the legendary night club in the 80’s, and who went on to create the new generation of iconic boutique hotels with Philip Stark and other notorious architects and designers. I learnt about the business of making a great hotel, with, and most importantly, the need to always break the mold and innovate.


Is there a difference between designing a home versus a hotel? What do you take into consideration for a hotel?

A hotel room versus a bedroom are two totally different types of spaces, one more transitional than the other, but the two are related. What you can see is that people aspire to design their bedroom to look like a hotel, and hoteliers design hotel rooms to make guests feel like they are at home. Comfort is an essential element in both designs, but when it comes to designing hotels, guests are looking for more. They want to feel special, feel transported to a new environment, to share a truly memorable moment.


How do you describe your style?

I would not say I have a style, but I see it more as a common thread, a point of view, because it changes depending on the audience. You will always find the same approach is behind it; I love to create stories and transport people to a new imagined environment.


What do you like best about your job?

Being able to share my vision with my collaborators, and of course being able to see the vision realised at the end.


Can you walk us through the design process of LUX* Belle Mare?

We started by understanding the brand, the people who loved the hotel and those who regularly stayed there. The brief from LUX* was not to make a radical change but to upgrade existing spaces and elevate them. When guests come back, we wanted them to feel a sense of surprise and delight, that the hotel had been transformed yet the space is still somehow familiar.


You are known for making unique objects and furniture. Can you tell us about the pink-hued Aperitivo bar made of sand at LUX* Belle Mare?

It started with a discussion that I had with a local artisan, I wanted to make a line of locally designed furniture and objects out of reclaimed sand. LUX* Belle Mare became an opportunity to make this project a reality since the white sand beach is its main attraction, it was a natural fit! It was an intense process of exploratory trials, working with craftsmen who believed in the idea and experimented with me on different mixes and colours. We matched the colour of the beach for the room furniture, and then developed a pink shade sand finish for the spritz bar, the perfect colour to draw you to the fruit-infused spritzes and cocktails served at the bar.


You returned to Mauritius after a decade in New York City, at a peak point in your career. What was the impetus?

My life experiences are marked with milestones where I embrace change. I left Mauritius to embrace life in the UK where I pursued a career path in commercial architecture. To broaden my expertise, I wanted to focus on interior environments, so I expanded my skills in New York, to eventually command the development and opening of one of the most anticipated design hotels in New York – The Times Square Edition. In 2018 my kids were 7 years old; The Edition had just launched and at the time it felt as though it was the right moment to try something new. I have always wanted to come back to my home island, to bring something back, and elevate the skill here in Mauritius.


What are three design tips or aspects to consider for a bedroom?

Firstly, it’s a place of rest and recharge so eliminate as much clutter as possible, stow away everything else behind cupboards or inside drawers. Second is to invest as much as you can in a good mattress and pillows, you spend the most time of your life with these, it’s not something to skimp on. Third is to take care of your other senses. Choose natural cotton or linen fabrics that feel good and keep you cool. Choose a scent that makes you feel relaxed and have it by your bedside.


How do you reconcile your own taste with trends?

I absorb images from social platforms, magazines, and books; however, I want to design spaces that defy the trends. In today’s world it takes more imagination to create spaces that are timeless. It’s easy to overuse pieces that you see published in the latest magazines or design to the latest fashion. Originality and innovation are the key challenges that I strive for.

Stay at the reimagined LUX* Belle Mare on the east coast of Mauritius.



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