Uruguay’s Punta del Este is a stunning, multi-faceted city with glorious beaches, elegant seaside homes and plush yachts. It is often likened to the Hamptons or St Tropez, a place for the glamorous and famous to party, where hotel rooms in the high season can cost upwards of $1000 per night. Yet Punta del Este is much more than a destination for the jet set.
Located on a peninsula jutting into the ocean, with the wild Atlantic to the east and the calmer Rio de la Plata to the west, its name lends itself to the wider area embracing the communities of La Barra, José Ignacio and Manantiales. These sleepy, secluded communities retain that famous Latin-American laid-back vibe, with dirt roads and hand painted road signs. The landscape here is rugged and dramatic with rocky crags and wild sand dunes. Acres of forest and uncluttered beaches stretch for miles and the only sounds are those of the ocean and the wind. This natural beauty and tranquil atmosphere has attracted many creative people and the area is full of galleries, workshops and antique shops. Author Martin Amis was drawn here to escape the “world hum”, artist Carlos Páez Vilaró spent many years building the unique and quirky Casapueblo and master sculptor, Pablo Atchugarry has his workshop here.
Punta del Este has a strong pull for people. Families and friends return year after year to reconnect with each other and their surroundings; to enjoy large asados (barbeques), Beach parties, sailing, surfing, fishing and swimming. The relaxed and understated atmosphere that comes from being around the ocean and on the Beach plays a large part in helping to recharge and reinvigorate.
It is against this backdrop that Christine Serhal and Alessandro Aquilina, created Marané. “There is a phrase in the Guarani language, ‘ivy maraney’ which means ‘a land without evil’,” explains Christine “and we felt that this perfectly sums up this place we love so much and would be perfect to explain what we are all about.”
Marané embodies a feeling of freedom and escape and for these lifelong friends, whose families have known each other for over three generations, Punta del Este is their escape. “We used to spend the summers between the campo and the mar,” Alessandro recalls, “swimming all morning and riding all afternoon. I will always return to Punta, it’s home and where I have made some of my happiest memories.”
They took two years to develop the Manantiales swim short, carefully searching out the best fabrics, finishes and techniques and then naming the end result for their home town. “We wanted to create something that would reflect this place,” says Christine. The shorts’ colour palette is inspired by the natural environment of Punta del Este and there is a small but brilliant flash of Marané blue on one side to reflect the ocean. Given the areas thriving artistic community, it seemed natural to collaborate with a local artist. Claudio Pincas painted three stunning watercolours, Atlantic Sky, Sunset and After the Storm, capturing the spirit of Punta’s skyline.
The Marané store in Manantiales is the heart of Christine and Alessandro’s vision. They collaborated with local architect, Andres Villalba, and designer, Maria Gutierrez, to create a contemporary structure that blends in with the natural surroundings. In the summer it is an open and inviting space but during the winter months it can simply close up like a mysterious box.
The store was built in just 25 days by local builder, Pablo Pi, who is also a sculptor. Local pine and eucalyptus wood was used extensively and doors, windows and shutters were recovered from an old building in Montevideo. All the furniture in the store are bespoke creations by Frederico, whose own workshop is just across the street.
The building fits in so well, seeming to have always been there, and is much more than just a store. It represents community and a place to gather and share ideas, to be inspired and to enjoy the beauty of a very special place. “Every evening we light a fire at the front and everyone is welcome to share some wine, empanadas and company. During the winter months, when things are quieter, our store becomes a studio, a meeting place and a haven. We will be inviting artists, musicians, writers and poems to join us and hopefully they will be as inspired by this place as much as we are.”
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