‘Best of Rio’ is a series in celebration of the city’s rich and varied cultural tapestry. From architectural design to wellness retreats and art galleries, Rio de Janeiro is home to some of the most innovative and inspiring creations, and we are shining a spotlight on them.
Submerged within the hillside town of Santa Teresa, Rio de Janeiro lies Mama Ruisa; an 1881 colonial house-turned-boutique hotel facing the bay of Guanabara and encircled by a tropical garden festooned with banana and mango trees, residential dwellings and expansive mountains. Mama Ruisa presents a divergent perspective of the vivacious city; it’s far removed from the hustle and bustle of Rio’s metropolitan centre and modernist architecture.
We spoke to owner Jean Michel Ruis to discover more about the unique hotel, who explains that,
‘The concept of the hotel is to welcome you into an elegant Brazilian house with the flavour of the Belle Époque. Staying with us you discover the Brazilian design, as all furniture comes from the major names of Brazilian design such as Sergio Rodrigues, Jorge Zalszupin, Geraldo de Barros and Brunno Jahara.’
This mélange of historical Brazilian colonial architecture and 19th-century French artistry is more than apparent in the romantically exotic sensibility that the hotel holds both aesthetically and holistically. Fringed hammocks are elegantly draped from palm trees that arch over and frame the outdoor pool, off-white linen curtains fall languidly from the roofs of the balconies of which you can be served a breakfast of fresh fruits native to the city or tea in Chinese porcelain – although the hotel doesn’t have a restaurant, it does have a 24-hour room service menu.
Mama Ruisa’s concierge goes beyond to ensure that their guest has an earnest Carioca experience.
‘We created a special Rio guide with a list of local restaurants, bars and design and fashion establishments for you to experience a Carioca way of life. We offer the best service of concierge, our team is composed of Valeria, an architect who’s interested in everything cultural, Remy, a French Carioca that knows every corner of the nightlife of Rio, and me, who works on the design and fashion side of the experience.
The butlers have worked with me since the opening and know all of the needs of everyone, especially our regular guests – as we have a lot of returning guests who say that they love the energy of the hotel and its elegant nonchalance’
‘The concept of the hotel is to welcome you into an elegant Brazilian house with the flavour of the Belle Époque.’
This ‘nonchalance’ is in part due to the area that it is situated.
‘Santa Teresa is the only conserved historical area in Rio. All houses are from the beginning of the century when the area was the aristocratic part of the city. From Santa Teresa we have the view of the Sugarloaf Mountain, the bay of Guanabara, and of course the tramway. You have a lot of restaurants in walking distance that serve Brazilian food and bars with music around. It is only 20 minutes from the beach and 10 from downtown. The hotel located in Santa Teresa enables to give (Mama Ruisa) a Brazilian flavour.’
Another aspect is the considered curation of furniture and interior decor, of which is owner Jean Michel Ruis is responsible for.
‘The design is made by me with the idea to showcase the best of Brazilian style. All of the furniture at the hotel is on sale; after having a lot of guests wanting to buy the furniture I decided to open a vintage furniture design shop and display the items in the hotel. If you like a painting, an item of furniture, or whatever you can buy it.’‘Mama Ruisa is so special because it is an example of a simple, but elegant style of living.
You can really relaxed and feel that you are in Brazil and not in another trendy boutique hotel with all the typical furniture that you see everywhere. We try to be unique in this way.’
And unique Mama Ruisa certainly is. There are very few hotels of which you wake to the morning songs of Spix’s Macaws, dine with views mountains, city and sea, and are invited to purchase an item of furniture.