Artist Camille Walala on the Joys of Bright, Bold and Beautiful Design

Artist Camille Walala on the Joys of Bright, Bold and Beautiful Design

Walala counts Miami, Mexico City and Morocco among the most vibrant places she’s ever visited. Here she riffs on the best design cities – from vibrant New York to innovative Tokyo – the makings of a good hotel and must-sees on a trip to Mauritius.

blues, sunny yellows and bold monochromatic stripes. Camille
Walala’s inaugural project for SALT of Palmar hotel in
Mauritius doesn’t stray too far from her home-grown aesthetic.
Creating environments that stimulate the senses and inspire joy,
Walala’s work is readily identifiable thanks to its energetic
graphics and eye-popping colours.

The first in a series of SALT hotels (a China outpost is
also in the works), Walala’s design influences are far-reaching,
fusing Mediterranean colours with patterns influenced by the
Ndebele tribe of South Africa. From her breakthrough project – the
interiors of XOYO, a nightclub in London’s Shoreditch – to her
latest project, Walala’s trajectory is impressive.

A woman “psychologically incapable of travelling light”, Walala
counts Miami,
and Morocco
among the most vibrant places she’s ever visited. Here she riffs on
the best design cities – from vibrant New York to innovative Tokyo
– the makings of a good hotel and must-sees on a trip to

SALT resorts
was your first interiors project; how was that

It’s a very different process from creating a mural or
installation, say. Colours and patterns need to complement and
respond to one another harmoniously, and textures, light and mood
all have to be taken into account. It was important for me to align
the design of the hotel with this ethos, so I made sure to get out
and explore the villages, meeting with local designers and
artisans. Drawing inspiration from the landscape, the people and
the vibrant homes across island really helped me give the hotel an
authentic feel, with beautiful, bold, bright details at every

What do you think makes a good hotel?

For me, a good hotel should be true to its location. There are
so many hotels where if you don’t look beyond the grounds, you
could be anywhere in the world. SALT isn’t like that, and that’s
why I was drawn to it from the beginning. It celebrates local
talent, culture, music, food, and Mauritius’ distinct sense of
style. A good hotel should nurture new experiences and encourage
new encounters. At SALT, we’ve set out to create an
environment where guests can come together – from the group tables
in the bakery and restaurant to the open-plan library and beach
bar. Most importantly, a good hotel today has to champion
sustainability and really live that value, not just pay lip service
to it. We achieved this at SALT by using local, sustainable
materials to build the hotel, completely ditching single-use
plastics and sourcing all food locally. That’s about to get even
easier soon – SALT‘s own farm opens in

How do you define your aesthetic?

It’s really very simple: joyful, bright and bold.

Which are your most frequented travel destinations?

I’m lucky to get to travel a lot and often to very different
destinations. Obviously, because of SALT I spent a lot of time in
Mauritius last year – what a place to work. Projects aside, I love
visiting New York because it’s where I
always seem to pick up inspiration there. My family is split
and the South of France, so I try to go “home” as often
as I can.

A trip to Mauritius must include…

A sunrise walk on the east coast, a dip in the Indian Ocean and,
if you can face the climb, a hike up the Piton de la Petite Rivière
Noire – no photo can do justice to that view. The most rewarding
thing to do, however (and this is probably true anywhere) is to
talk to the people. That’s the only way to get a sense of the real
Mauritius. For example, through SALT, I got the opportunity to
learn basket weaving from a wonderful lady who has been making
baskets for 50 years and dined in the home of a fascinating local

What destinations inspire your creativity?

I think the most inspiring trip I ever took was to Mexico City.
The streets really are alive with colour and I love the
architecture of Luis Barragán – he really succeeded in bringing
something very positive and energetic into the urban

Which are the best cities for design?

I love the vibrancy of
New York
– the scale of the city and the sheer abundance of
museums and galleries – but it’s Tokyo
that utterly blows my mind. I remember the first time I went there;
I’d never seen anything like it. I’ve been yearning to go back ever
since, almost to the point of obsession. Then, of course, there’s
I wouldn’t have lived here for 20 years if I didn’t find
inspiration in the city in one way or another, everyday.

Five of the most colourful places you’ve ever visited…

They’re split between the Americas and North Africa. On the
Latin side there’s Miami, Mexico City and Buenos Aires. Then
Morocco, Marrakech and Chefchaouen.

Tell us about some creative references you return to time and
time again.

One of the biggest influences on my work has always been the
Ndebele tribe in South Africa. I return to the forms and symbols of
their unique style of house painting again and again – it’s so
visually powerful.

What have been some of your favourite projects to date?

Splice in Old Street was my first big mural project and will
always have a special place in my heart. Years later, it still
brings me so much joy thinking about it. I really enjoyed working
on the playground of Queensbridge School in Hackney too – it’s not
exactly my highest-profile work but it was hugely gratifying to see
the children’s response to it and to know that they would have a
relationship to the space everyday of their school lives. In a
similar way, my work with the charity Standing Voice in Tanzania
last summer was a wonderful experience. We painted the water tanks
for the villagers on Ukerewe Island and I felt such a strong sense
of community there. And, of course, working on the design of SALT.
a few years ago, I’d never have imagined I’d one day design an
entire hotel – I still can’t quite believe it, to be honest.

What are you reading at the moment?

Playing to the Gallery by Grayson Perry. I am a little bit
obsessed by him.

Best coffee shops in
for freelancers…

Living in East London, we have so much choice for good coffee. I
love Allpress in Dalston – I call in almost every morning on my way
to the studio. I’m also a fan of L’Atelier Dalston, I go there to
mix it up.

One piece of travel advice…

Check you have your passport before leaving the house. Then
check again. I’ve learned that the hard way.

What are your travel essentials?

Sunscreen, comfy trainers, red lipstick and podcasts.

And finally, what’s in your SUITCASE?

Too many clothes, shoes and accessories. Without fail, I
overpack and end up wearing a fraction of what I bring with me. I
really should have learned by now. I suspect I may be
psychologically incapable of travelling light.

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