‘A hipsters playground’ is probably among the many fitting taglines that have been bestowed upon the remarkable Mama Shelter, located in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. Since 2008, the boutique hotel has earned a rep for being the edgy digs in arty quarters that effortlessly pulls in a likeminded, international crowd – models hang out here for Fashion Week, yuppies come for the pizzeria and cocktails and everyone else hits the bar to nod along to a DJ who knows a thing or two about 90s hip-hop: I loved every bit of it.
A fortnight ago, I popped over to Paris to run their half marathon and stayed in the Shelter for the weekend, quickly discovering why it’s become so popular. Designed by Philippe Starck – whose knack for the unconventional made infamous pitstops in Miami (The Delano) and New York (The Paramount) – the native Frenchman’s hotel combines contemporary styling with heavy doses of graffiti and eclectic finishes that could border on the kitsch were it not so creative. The first thing I noticed in my cosy single room was the Toy Story Woody mask lit up by a side lamp – quirky – while the Apple Macs offer the in-room entertainment (which is also the source of the free wifi and more impressively, free films). The room lighting was too dim mind you, and the bathroom a bit small (shower only), but this was made up by the fact it was stocked with Kiehl products, which was just another reminder of the hotel’s quality factor.
As for the restaurant, its fun interiors sees portraits of “mothers” adorn armchairs, children’s swimming rings hang off ceiling lights and chalk drawings decorate the blackboard ceiling – but none of this could take away from their delicious breakfast buffet, which at 15euros, is worth every cent. Dinner’s a tad pricer and the restaurant can get extremely busy in the evenings, so it’s wise to make a reservation, even if you’re a guest. Like most places in Paris, it’s also good to know a tiny bit of French – staff are friendly and know their English, but you’d be surprised how the odd “avez-vous” can go a long way.
MS’s only real shortcoming is that it’s quite a walk away from the nearest Metros (roughly a 10 minute walk from Gambetta, Alexandre Dumais or Porte de Bagnolet) – yet it’s a small price to pay for a reasonably-priced hotel that ticks so many boxes, and doing an excellent job thinking outside of them too.
For more info, visit www.mamashelter.fr