The Cement Tiles at The Happy Hamlet
“I walked in and I never wanted to leave, to be honest,” Suska Karjalainen tells us of the first time she stepped into an unassuming Moroccan tile shop in a French medieval village. It was 2015, and she and her partner Nico had just purchased The Happy Hamlet, then, a ruin in the Southwestern French countryside. “The shop was like a heaven on earth because the owner had hundreds of colors and motifs, and they're just so beautiful. I actually bought several different types of tiles without really knowing where they would go,” Suska says. "I did know that the right spot would surely be found for each."
The ruin – a centuries-old farmhouse spanning 13 hectares of nature – was lovingly restored by Suska and Nico. Along the way, the tiles did find their spots: they were laid in four of the guest house's five bathrooms, and a common area in the barn, where dining takes (a dramatic) place.
“Each tile gave the color scheme for the bedroom that followed,” she says. They’ve been beloved and remarked upon by guests from all over the world, ever since The Happy Hamlet opened its doors.
“When you put four of them together, they consist of the big motif. Then it becomes like one of those eye games where you’re supposed to look at a picture and tell what you see or can’t see. There is a double way of seeing them. Someone will say that they see stars, but it’s not the first thing I see when I look at the whole overall picture.”
It was important to Suska that the tiles were (nearly) indestructible. “They’re super handy, but one time, someone broke a bottle of red wine onto them and left the spill there for 12 hours. We were lucky that the local (then-retired) artisan, who during the renovations had spent weeks to lay the tiles, managed with some miracle-like chemistry mix, some secret recipe, to make it disappear,” she says. “Everyone was pretty happy about the recovery.”
The tiles have a good life at The Happy Hamlet, and they are just a small part of the larger grid of memories you can take from being there, beauty beholden through your own unique lens.
To book a stay at The Happy Hamlet, click here.