We’re always on the lookout for unique hotels in Russia that turn your stay away from home into something special, an adventure in its own right. The hotels that are about personality, character and experiences worth remembering. So we're more than happy to beat the drums about MOSS Hotel which has recently opened in Moscow as a glorious mixture of a luxury hotel, an art gallery, and penthouse apartments united under one roof. Hidden behind a dilapidated 17th-century mansion that once belonged to the prominent Golitsyn Family, MOSS occupies a turn-of-the-century lodging house. It stands in one of the oldest neighbourhoods of the capital once known as the White Town which still preserves that unique old-Moscow vibe in its crooked lanes, baroque churches and charming lopsided mansions in various states of disarray.
MOSS is one of the pioneers of boutique hotels in Russia which underpins a shift towards conscious and meaningful travel. Since early '90s Moscow has primarily been a business travel mainstay and a package tour destination but in recent years it has emerged as an up and coming European destination with vibrant cultural scene, cool restaurants and edgy festivals. And MOSS making an appearance on the Moscow hotel scene is one of the results of these changes.
And yet MOSS is not content with just being a brainchild of Moscow's creative revolution, they want to take it even further by adding their own story about modern-day Moscow. The story that is different from the hustle and bustle of gaudy Arbat, traffic-congested Tverskaya Street or kitschy Izmailovsky Market where tourists usually throng. MOSS strives to offer an authentic reflection of Moscow's local community by bringing out contemporary vibe of the ever-changing Russian capital and creating their own buzz.
Tired of exclusive grand hotels, the hotel owners aim to create a happening hub, a social space with cosy and friendly ambience, which would attract travellers and locals alike, whether for a cup of coffee in a lobby café, an exhibition opening at the MOSS Art Gallery or a film screening in the backyard. Instead of separating visitors from the environment with an air of exclusivity, MOSS is intended to embed their lives in local city life. Anna, MOSS' clued-up concierge is always there to make sure you get a highly-sought ticket to the Bolshoi Ballet at short notice or find your way to a private view at the top Moscow galleries. She is a member of Les Clefs d'Or, an international organisation of high-end concierges with more than 3,000 members worldwide. Looking for an unusual experience? There're guided bicycle tours in English which will give you a different perspective of the city.
The vibe here is indeed quite different from the ever busy streets of central Moscow. Moss is a perfect example that you don't have to travel all that far to escape the urban bustle. It's a welcome enclave with serene environment right in the middle of this buzzing metropolis. The lobby is rather compact, but with plenty of seating in different configurations, perfect for quick meetings, reading, working, or simply hanging out and enjoying the good vibes by the fireplace. There's a small library which is, in fact, a sort of a cabinet of curiosities with various coffee table books, art objects, souvenirs, and games brought from all over the world.
The mixed-use lobby space guarantees there's enough space for everything from Dondup fashion corner (the owners' favourite) to a popular local coffee shop chain Coffeemania with some of the best (and most expensive) coffee in town. Besides, there's MOSS Art Gallery which is dedicated to establishing a platform for the creative class and giving the guests quality experiences. Artwork from more than 15 Russian and foreign artists, all sourced by Cultural Curator Oksana Bondarenko of Tretyakov Gallery, is woven into the guest experience, making the walls of the hotel serve as canvas for the constantly changing exhibitions. Besides, all works are on sale so you won't have to part with the painting that you particularly liked.
The furniture in the lobby is a juxtaposition of textures, part industrial and rugged - think exposed concrete, weathering steel plates and quirky colour changing lamps made from car air filters, - part soft and natural, dominated by wooden furniture and moss-strewn window embrasures. This half-urban, half-sylvan narrative creates a very special peaceful vibe, something that you don't come across often in Moscow. The architects kept a healthy dose of the history to make sure that the old building lives within the new one. Many original features like the 19th-century larch beams were given new life as interior elements and art objects.
There’s a dark, den-like feel in the corridors as if you just stepped into the woods, which is enhanced by the forest ambience sounds. The neon zigzag lamp is your guide through this forest, and also an homage to the crooked street on which the hotel stands. The surreal dimness of the corridors contrasts with a weightless look of a floating staircase connecting lobby with the rooms above.
The 29 rooms are all unique and were lovingly furnished with lots of attention to detail by decorators Bela Badmazhapova and Natalia Belonogova, the latter is the mastermind behind the famous interiors of Ugolek, Pinch, and Severyane restaurants in Moscow. Instead of usual category names MOSS created their own: there're nineteen Soft rooms, small and cosy, eight Sweet rooms (as a gentle reminder to Russian tourists who often pronounce the word 'suite' as 'suit') and two spacious High rooms. All rooms are outfitted with sourced artwork and individual pieces of furniture including hanging lamps by Ingo Maurer and wardrobes by Dirk Couseart. Bathrooms are indulgently spacious and feature roomy rainfall showers or soaking tubs. The focus is definitely on the natural materials and different tactile textures. Every room is decorated with finds from all over the world carefully brought to Moscow by its owners. Look out for the beautiful wooden furniture designed exclusively for MOSS by the Moscow-based Trud Studio.
MOSS is all about the senses. It’s the kind of place where you don’t just find a bed to crush but where you need to see, touch, smell, listen and taste in order to capture the essence of the place. It stimulates them but also plays with them, bringing together unusual combinations of textures, smells, and visual effects. Raw elements give a warmth and familiarity mixed with the excitement of the unexpected.
If you look closely, you’ll discover how much thought went into every detail. There’re tons of small, almost invisible touches which eventually make your stay a unique experience. The bedcover is a cashmere pashmina brought from Nepal, soft as a cloud. As you open the wardrobe you touch the handles made out of pebbles tenderly polished by the Black Sea. When taking a shower you see the water streaming down the rugged Brazilian marble. The tactile design of the rooms is enhanced by the Australian Aboriginal paintings painted with fingertips instead of brushes.
MOSS is like a boreal forest of dense evergreen trees with its own well-thought ecosystem dominated by the everpresent moss. Moss-strewn lift shaft and windowsills is not just eye candy, it is also a functional element which absorbs condensed moisture forming on the windows. It may seem somewhat murky and foggy but don't mistake it for lack of character or colour. There's a wide palette or earthy browns, stony grays and forest greens. It's an enchanted landscape, both scary and mysteriously inviting.