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A welcome return to the Golden Age of Travel

Wednesday 16th August, 2017
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Muza Lab has exquisitely re-imagined the slow travel experience through their interior design of South America's first luxury sleeper train, Belmond Andean Explorer in Peru. Working closely with Belmond to complement the brand’s heritage for properties that sit at one with nature, the studio has harmoniously woven cultural connections with inspirations from the idyllic surroundings, creating a detailed backdrop for the breathtaking spectacle of the Peruvian Andes.

“We design journeys,” explains Inge Moore, founder of Muza Lab, “and with Belmond Andean Explorer, we have distilled the romance, nostalgia and freedom of the train voyage. The train is a place of transition where time seems to slow down between the departure and the arrival. Our vision was to design somewhere to ponder and dream, a space where the beauty of the land can infuse the soul.” Soft, neutral tones create an open, airy feel that allows the amazing vistas to take centre stage.

Drawing upon the palettes and textures of the majestic terrain, as well as Peruvian crafts and artistry, Muza has developed an understated concept of timeless luxury. Select nostalgic elements of the original train, Great South Pacific Express, have been restored or added as emblems of the golden age of train travel. Now, the 16 carriages have been contemporised with a refined, pared-back aesthetic suited to the preferences of today’s travellers. Beautifully crafted furnishings reflect Peru’s heritage and natural bounty to form a welcoming spirit that feels real and honest, from timber floors to linen roman blinds and colourful woven textiles, nearly everything has been locally sourced. Timber wall panels have been painted in muted shades of linen. Muza was also involved in the exterior palette, with the carriages’ original colouration of maroon and ivory updated to glossy blue livery in a nod to Belmond’s 50/50 partnership with PeruRail, whose day train locomotives are also vibrant blue.

Carrying up to 48 passengers, Belmond Andean Explorer has been designed with all the sumptuous amenities guests expect from a luxury travel experience. With each cabin named after Peruvian flora and fauna, four configurations of private, en-suite sleeper cars, along with the observation, piano, spa and two dining cars, all offer passengers the best of the best. Each sleeper car, whether with double, twin or bunk beds, is a sanctuary uniquely designed as a spacious suite. Timber wall panels have been painted in parchment tones and joinery details renewed; linen-look wallcovering gives the ceilings a tailored look, and seating has been covered in fabric and saffiano leather. A beautifully-designed neutral carpet has been introduced and lighting and plug-in points have been fully modernised. In the double-bed configuration, a full-height tufted leather headboard exudes a modern, confident style while two blue lounge chairs are ideal for a private breakfast or quiet contemplation. In the twin and bunk cabins, the beds covert to sofas for daytime flexibility. Muza considered every last detail to make each sleeper car special and unique, from the flower vases to the timeless brass room keys forged into the shape of the Chakana Cross, one of the most enduring shamanic symbols of Incan civilisation and the train’s official crest. Vibrant tapestries cover a pouf in each sleeping car, while baby alpaca accent blankets keep guests warm in chilly altitudes.

Passengers are offered an up-close immersion in the vibrant landscape from the outdoor deck of the Observation Car, named Ichu after the tall grasses dotted across the plains. Either leaning against the scrolled balcony rails or relaxing in the round seat covered in fabrics from traditional dresses sourced by Muza at a Cusco market, guests can enjoy nearly 360-degree views. Inside, decorative cushions upholstered in assorted tapestry patterns woven in different regions of Peru are offset by the deep teal colour of ceramic table lamps. Embossed leather chairs with nail heads affixed to chunky timber frames inject the spirit of traditional craft and a casual, laid-back style.

The train’s “indoor” social hub, the elegant Piano Bar Car named after the herb Maca, offers a different, more formal ambience where guests gather ‘round the glossy black grand piano and the bar to trade stories about their Peruvian adventures. Here, a sophisticated palette of refined grey tweed on the sofas and lounge chairs comes to life with splashes of cornflower blue and golden yellow in the cushion fringe, lampshades and delicate paintings reminiscent of patterns seen in butterfly wings. Smartly detailed roman blinds complete the clean, streamlined look.

The spa offers treatments devised especially for the Belmond Andean Explorer from local Peruvian herbs. The Picaflor Cars, named after the local hummingbird, are home to the spa’s three treatment rooms. “Our spa design encourages deep relaxation by tapping into the train journey’s dreamlike sense of suspended time,” Inge reveals. A soothing shade of white on the streamlined car panels helps create a moment of stillness as the colourful landscape whirs by, inspiring guests to internalise the beauty outside as the therapists work their magic. The design is both poetic and practical, with treatment beds securely affixed to the floor due to the train’s movements. Small, locally-made sunburst mirrors bring sparkle as passengers emerge refreshed and energised.

The Llama, an animal central to the Incan way of life, and Muña, a native mint-like herb, inspired the titles of the two Dining Cars. The atmosphere transitions from the more casual feel of the breakfast service into a refined, fine-dining ambiance for the evening meal. Pale shades of taupe and cream enhance the cars’ open spaciousness, while divider screens between seating groups are refreshed with white macramé that replaced inset timber panels. Rich, cognac-toned leather chairs bring a substantial feel that is complemented by the fine leather trim added to the millwork. The Llama carriage also features a library for guests’ perusal as well as a boutique shop with original, handcrafted items from each destination. Muza curated a boutique collection of art, encompassing a rich spectrum of Peruvian artistry, from bold, contemporary graphics to detailed, hand-drawn antique maps to creatively composed, heartfelt photos of Peruvians and regional animals. Individually-framed, these pieces are arranged in collages alongside butterfly and insect images selected to embrace the exquisite wildlife of the Andes.

“For me, bringing to life Belmond Andean Explorer was one of my most memorable projects, a truly unique chance to design South America’s first luxury train in one of Earth’s most beautiful countries,” explains Inge. “We design spaces that encourage moments of magic to come to life. By elevating what is already an incredible, awe-inspiring journey into a one-of-a-kind immersion into Peru’s culture, landscape and crafts, passengers have a new, contemporary way to enjoy the beauty of slow travel and create memories they will cherish forever.” The sensory thrill of the brisk wind rushing by as the train climbs 4,900 metres into the clouds makes for an unforgettable experience.

Photos courtesy of Belmond Andean Explorer.