After opening in February of this year, The Merchant House became the first 5-star boutique hotel in Bahrain. Located on the tiny island next to Saudi Arabia, this small luxury hotel breaks out of the traditional hotel mould and brands itself as a truly unique location. Built in 1949, the building originally housed the government’s administrative offices. Its renovation contributes to the regeneration of the local area which builds on the established vibrant community, filled with shops and restaurants that overlook the sea.  Nestled downtown, adjacent to the finance centre, the hotel has become the perfect place for any traveller visiting for business or pleasure.

 Hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray is responsible for the hotels striking design. The interiors boast a stunning mix of colourful furniture, exceptional art and, of course, a bespoke book collection. Merchant House’s art collection is almost as expansive as their library with a broad range of artworks featuring several prominent artists such as Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Chagall, Warhol, Damien Hirst and Gauguin! Of course, many other local artists are interspersed between these iconic works, keeping the community and culture of the island as the central theme of the hotel. 

The wonderfully curated art work is carefully displayed in such a way that makes the hotel feel like a home away from home rather than simple vacation stay, giving a new meaning to the phrase ‘luxury hotel’. With acclaimed paintings lining the walls, Merchant House removes the formality and distance that we often relate to viewing art. Instead of feeling like a gallery, the space carries an air of informality. The entire hotel is seemingly a one-of-a-kind invitation to immerse yourself amongst the art as you would the library.

Understanding the importance of  art and their unique culture was a key to curating the perfect library to fit with this hotel’s unique aesthetic. Ultimate Library started by focusing on key areas. Firstly, art, design and architecture are all elements of not only the hotel but of Bahrain and Islamic culture. Therefore, we sourced books that reflected the links between the modern European artists displayed on the walls. As well as several publications that reflected the immense history of Islamic artistry to link back to the local artisans that are so central to the hotel.

Secondly, we focused on another theme that is central to both The Merchant House and Ultimate Library; travel. Attracting guests from all around the globe, both the library and the artwork are crucial in framing the visitor’s experience of Bahrain as well as opening their minds for future travelling. So, we gathered books on the most memorable places to travel and the most beautiful sites to see around the world. We found books on underwater photography, the planet’s most beautiful destinations and the world’s greatest hiking trails, all hoping to inspire these world travellers onto their next destination.

We also focused on areas that were interwoven with local cultures such as food, fashion, jewellery and history.

The hotel is the perfect balance of old and new. The building has undergone a beautiful refurbishment, offering guests a restaurant and bar, an outdoor garden terrace, a spa, gym, and an emerald rooftop pool as well as a board room for meetings and events. This fusion of traditional and modern is reflected in both the art and books as we put together a collection of classic and contemporary literature and many engaging illustrated titles for the lobby library.

Merchant House’s investment into art and culture has made an immense difference to the guest’s experience of the hotel and to the experience of Bahrain itself. The traditional local culture is authenticated through Merchant House’s colourful hotel, creating a memorable stay for its guests. Rich with great artwork and literature from around the globe, the hotel leaves a vivacious and unique impression that is hard to find anywhere else.

Top 5 must reads from the collection:

JR: Can Art Change the World? by Nato Thompson & Joseph Remnant

Homes With Soul : Designing with Heart by Orly Robinzon

Islamic Art and Architecture : From Isfahan to the Taj Mahal by Henri Stierlin

The Flavours of Arabia : Cookery and Food in the Middle East by Florian Harms

Wanderlust : Hiking on Legendary Trails by Gestalten