I’ve written about d’Une île before, but this place continues to get better and better. Occupying the former stables of the medieval settlement in the French countryside, their buzzing workshop is a constant source of built-by-hand creations — a new bench with a spindle back, a rough-hewn wooden tree swing built by hand, a sunken bed built into the multi-level floor, a ladder made with found branches, all of it their own design. Owners Michel and Sofie sent over some recent images of their work at the inn, and as a part-time innkeeper (who understands how busy they are running an actual business, not to mention all the cooking, serving, luggage schlepping), I’m in awe of their dedication to expanding their offerings (they just added four new rooms) while sticking tight to their ideals by treating the physical space as a form of self-expression. The last time we talked, Michel described it as a “creative environment where we’re constantly playing with the things we love.” It strikes me as such a symbiotic relationship — this beautiful place provides them so much inspiration, which they keep pouring back into the space, which makes more and more guests happy, which makes their world an even more beautiful place. Will it ever stop? Let’s hope not.
Ben Lambers of Studio Aandacht hung out at (and took photos of) this place–part hotel, part nature park, part creative retreat–which he has visited a couple times since it opened last spring. In the midst of planning the foray of Honor & Folly into the country, I’m particularly inspired by this medieval settlement on the edge of a national park an hour and a half outside Paris. Situated on seven acres of forest with two springs and a creek, D’une île consists of a sprawling manor house and its medieval cottages repurposed as a getaway dedicated to the enjoyment of nature, art and food. The ambitious couple who opened it–after a grueling year of DIY rehabbing, roof-repairing, plastering, painting, landscaping, decorating, and creating furniture–bring no short supply of talent and guts (they had to bathe outside with cold water from the well). Michel Mulder, a composer, musician and professional chef handles the food at D’une île, and Sofie Sleumer is an interior designer. Together, and with lots of help from friends, they outfitted the rustic spaces with flea market finds, art, and furniture they restore themselves. They also cook for and dote on guests, as well as coordinate in-room art installations like the robot-like wood and wire mobiles by artist Just van der Loos.
Here, a short Q&A with Michel about starting and running such a thoughtful, creative hotel (that’s not at all a hotel) in the French countryside:
What made you decide to open D’une île?
Sofie and I wanted to leave Amsterdam after living there for 12 and 14 years, respectively. We marveled on the idea of creating a beautiful and well-functioning playground where all our occupations could flourish in one concept. We tried thinking of Barcelona, Quebec, Paris until we stumbled upon our little domaine. So we found the place, and then we had to think up what to do with it. A small hotel would be logical and the more we thought about it, the more appealing this idea became. But it had to be our hotel, and it had to stay our playground. So we thought, ‘ok, this is about the good life, so we need good, friendly people to share that with us.’
As an owner-innkeeper, how do you spend your time?
In contact with our guests and our local producers, building rooms and bathrooms, designing the rooms, restoring furniture, discovering new wines and even better products to cook with. We have up to 28 beds and more than 10,000 square feet of hotel space, a small restaurant and seven acres of land, there’s always work to do. But more importantly, there’s always room for new ideas!
What do you love most about D’une île?
I love the trees, all their different colors, how they change during the season, the view out of our bedroom window over the orchard, which is now packed with apples and pears. I love how the medieval buildings form a tiny little village with a small square in the middle and the big walnut tree towering over it. For us it’s a fulltime job. Apart from the hôtellerie we host weddings, exclusive dinner parties, styling assignments, and sell vintage design. D’une île is our place to live, to work, in every aspect. Sofie and I, we create things, and d’une île is our favorite.
[PHOTOS: All images by Ben Lambers via Trend Tablet]
I came across this fantastical, fairytale-channeling property about a year ago in World of Interiors, and more recently mentioned on travelandleisure.com, where the editors referenced its location, Vendee, in the countryside of France, as one Europe’s secret hot spots. It’s not surprising, considering that the owners–the three guys behind London’s much-ballyhooed Les Trois Garcons and Maison Trois Garcons–are the intrepid interior masterminds.
The 1872 chateau, with its floating turrets, spins a whimsical, over-the-top tale on the inside, matching the splendor of the exterior with wit and frivolity. Two-story chandeliers, spiral staircases, anatomical models, stuffed birds, Balinese elephant chairs and century-spanning antiques — everything is an extravagant gesture. Especially those symmetrically mounted horse heads with narwal horns. And a detail that escaped notice the first time I poured over the photos, the holiday chateau can be rented. Well, for a price (ahem, almost $12,000 for a long weekend). After all, the place sleeps 54 across seven ensuite bathrooms (plus 17 more in the ancillary buildings). Beyond the impressively long list of reading rooms, studies and formal dining rooms, there’s an 18-meter pool, 18 acres, and a small forest to frolic in.
Calling all romantic, aspiring innkeepers: Someone buy this hotel. The Hôtel du Parc, which recently made a heart-stopping appearance in World of Interiors, is going to close in the next year if the owner can’t find someone to take it over. Tim Beddow’s beautiful images show off the hand-painted work of Antoine Barateaud, who was the son of the hotel proprietor’s best friend. It’s a fascinating story that reads like an artistic timestamp of an era: grand hotel particular bought by young couple in love; World War I; recovering, wounded soldier with a penchant for Art Nouveau. You’ll have to nab a copy of the article (February issue) to get all the details, because it doesn’t feel right giving them all away here. And if even if you can’t buy the place, the old beauty is definitely worth traveling for.
There are so many things to say about Paris. I’m not sure I can add much that hasn’t already been rhapsodized to death. It both embodies and defies its stereotypes (yes, those stylish French ladies do wear a lot of stripes! yes, those baguettes are a little bit like heaven! no, French people aren’t all elitist snobs!)–visually, emotionally… gastronomically–and can completely take you in, make you love or hate it, depending on the block. The most special part of this trip was exploring a new neighborhood– one that we stayed in, thanks to expat Anne Ditmeyer, who already wrote about the Hotel Amour on designtripper.
For us, it wasn’t just about the hotel, although for the record, it’s everything Anne promised it would be plus a little more. It’s stylish yet markedly unfussy (in a “we’re way too cool to care about interiors, perhaps you might enjoy the ironic Micky Mouse statue at the front desk with a giant penis”-sort-of-way); really, really laid back (as in “you might wait a half an hour before we take your order, but we promise, it will be totally worth it.” It usually was. And the servers all wear football jerseys, strangely, and denim skirts, yet somehow it doesn’t feel nauseatingly contrived), and the grandest of all perks, it’s located in the center of the 9th arrondissement, which is full of the most beautiful food shops I have ever seen. Charcuterie stacked to the ceiling, sausages wrapped in towers and hanging by twine. Fresh fruit pyramids. I could smell the strawberries from half a block away. Patisserie after patisserie, each one more delicious-looking than the last. Endless fromage shops. There’s even a shop solely dedicated to confiture, La Chambre Aux, which sells confitures, marmalades and chutneys in infinite combination: raspberry with flower, clementine with vanilla, fig with cognac, pear with ginger. There are so many great restaurants in Paris, but we hardly left our neighborhood for food, unless it was to take our bulging market bag to a destination park for a picnic. And they close the street on Sundays, so you can do your shopping!
I have been to Paris a handful of times, but this neighborhood made me fall in love with it again. Like experiencing it for the first time. Is that another Paris cliche? I think I’m OK with that.
I’m going to be in Paris over the weekend and I’ve yet to find a place I’d rather stay. Sure, this historic apartment that looks like it was decorated by some fanciful eccentric with a magic paintbrush isn’t exactly a vacation rental, but it wouldn’t take much–a mattress on the floor? Right under the ceiling with painted rays streaming from the intricate cross-shaped medallion. Situated between Place Vendome and Place du Marché Saint-Honoré (and dangerously close to Colette), it’s one of the most unconventionally inspiring spaces I’ve ever seen. And even if you can’t sleep there, you can rent it for parties, photo shoots and other creative endeavors at Loft Connexion. I’ll be back next week!
The Marais House is as quintessentially Parisian and eclectic as they get. Situated on one of the oldest street in the Marais, the 16th-century, five-story b&b also doubles as a highly coveted location for film productions and photo shoots (including a glamorous spread with Laura Dern in W magazine a few years ago). The owner completely transformed the upscale city chateau, formerly a gold-leaf workshop where artisans crafted traditional lettered facades for storefronts, bringing in the requisite elements–a wrought-iron staircase, Venetian painted doors, and count them, eight 17th century stone fireplaces–to make it feel like it’s been like this forever. If you’re so inclined, you can even rent the whole rambling place–cellars, drawing room, planted terrace with a view of the rooftops and all.
We finally decided on Paris. We’re leaving next week, and we just booked our tickets–which means that finding a place to stay hasn’t been exactly easy with less than two weeks notice. But can I say this here? It doesn’t really matter where you stay in Paris. In other cities, I love having an apartment so I can cook my own food and spread out a bit, but here, I’d rather take my baguette and cheese to a park for a picnic, or my book to the corner cafe and half-watch people all day long over the pages.
Nonetheless, I did find a few super charming, already booked Parisian flats for rent, including Appartement Blanc (which I spotted on Prêt à Voyager’s Where to Sleep in Paris post). Situated between Oberkampf and Marais quarters, the space was decorated with works by French designers Créations Herbes Rouges, Tsé-Tsé Associés, Serge Barbier et Design du lieu by Juliette Barbier. I love that there’s great effort in providing linens and cutlery, so you can “set a beautiful table,” and two favorite details–worn parquet floors and a small terrace over the courtyard–make it feel quintessentially Parisian.
Two bedrooms, open living room and kitchen. $220 a night with discounts for longer stays. Rent it at appartement-blanc.fr.
A few years ago, the owners of the Marston House, which I visited this summer on our annual summer trip to Maine, bought part of a grand, old house–in complete disrepair–in the historic center of Apt, France. After a year of “dreaming and designing,” they began slowly renovating as three separate holiday rentals. So far, there’s a one and two-bedroom apartment, with a third apartment on the way. Below, a Q&A with Sharon Mrozinski about the process.
When did you buy your first place in France?
We bought our home in Bonnieux in 1999. We had discovered this area, the Luberon, in the early ’80s and had felt an awakening in these sleeping ancient ruins. We felt as though they were all yawning waking from a deep sleep.
Paul was fascinated by the structure and materials used, all earth-born and local ( right under your feet). He had never seen anything like these. There seemed to be no beginning or end, somehow continuous and completely organic and unlike any structures he had studied while getting a degree in Architecture at Arizona State University. We dreamed of returning one day.
What attracted you to the apartments in Apt?
We fell in love with this rawness and lack of modernization and the grandness of it. The entry and staircase are huge showing obvious great wealth at one time, and we bought what we thought we could afford. In 2007, we began some serious remodeling after a year of dreaming and designing. We knew we could stretch it into three lovely apartments. We have one apartment left to finish on the ground floor, and it is the most amazing space. The stable will become the bedroom.
Where do you find all the beautiful furnishings?
We source the furnishings locally from dealers in Apt and Isle sur la Sorgue. We spend most of our time and buying in a 30-mile radius of our apartments in The Luberon. The entire region about 20 miles long is surrounded and covered in agriculture: farms, fields, orchards, vineyards as far as the eye can see. In fact, Apt has been the marketplace for the region for centuries. The Saturday market is the biggest and oldest to be found. It stretches from one end of town to the other and weaves through all the old cobbled streets and ancient alleys.
We don’t think we have a particular style. Utility is our goal. Everything must work in our spaces. The pieces need to “earn their keep.” Nothing sits on a shelf because it is pretty. We have a strong American eye for simplicity and always buy only what we love and want to live with forever. We do not have an easy time buying French furnishings generally–too many curves, too elaborate, too French is our biggest challenge. With the exception of their ancient homespun peasant cloth; We can never get enough of this.
What are your favorite design elements about the home?
We can only afford small spaces that are a real challenge to make livable. This is where Paul thrives.. He loves making the impossible into a cozy nest.. With these spaces he counts on extending the natural light. fooling the eye to feel bigger.. The ceilings are 12″ high, so the volume is amazing. They are hard to photograph well but to live in them is remarkable. Fireplaces are an absolute in our design demands. They are the center or the soul of a home to us. We could not build or live in a space without a fireplace… or seven.
Tell us about Apt. What do you love about the town?
Apt is famous for production and supplies of candied fruits for the world as well as the pottery that has been produced from the earth here for centuries. Apt doesn’t have “curb appeal,” but it’s at the beginning (or end) of the Luberon and still affordable so lots of young families and business booms. It is a place you need to dig deeply and discover. Not everyone likes this. We love the challenge of finding beauty in a town that hides its history, culture and beauty. It is all there. One must look harder, dig deeper and look upward–the steeples abound.
London-based designer Bambi Sloan’s latest creation of wacky extravagance is the spectacularly revamped interiors of the 100-plus-year-old St. James–a 100-plus-year-old chateau gone hotel particular. With all the push-pull tension of Bambi’s signature over-the-top restraint, the hotel is as outrageously original as her other work–like, say, the Jura Lodge (Scotland’s Isle of Jura scotch property the internet loves to love). I mean, who else can fashion a decor element from an old-fashioned hot air balloon, which she prominently features as a tent on the garden terrace and wallpaper motif in the hallway? Sure, the neo-classical mansion was built on Paris’ first hot air balloon airfield, but still. Hot air balloons! Well done, Bambi Sloane.
[Photos courtesy at Tablet Hotels, where you can book a room at the Saint James]
My husband Ryan and I are planning a trip to Paris and Antwerp. It’s a long-overdue Christmas present, but I’m still waffling for a number of reasons: tickets to Paris are exorbitant right now; I love fall in the Midwest; I’ve been meaning to visit Porto. Coincidentally, our good friend from Detroit called this weekend from Portugal while he’s touring with Deerhunter to tell us that we have to go to Porto. He promised us that we’d love it–kind of dirty and utterly romantic.
Then I remembered that someone was recently gushing about the Hotel Particular Montmartre. The glamorous interiors, designed by Morgane Rousseau, are indeed quite sharp but perhaps a little too fancy for my tastes–in a dripping crystal, gilded mirror, tufted wall kind of way. As I was clicking around aimlessly on the hotel’s website, I stumbled across a familiar piece of art currently on exhibit there: a delicate, frilly dress sculpture by fellow Detroiter and immensely talented Cristin Richard. Created from pig intestines she gets at Eastern Market, Cristin’s ethereal dresses–which do stunning job of exploring female sexuality, haute couture and the perception of beauty–are worth traveling for. Luckily, given the price of plane tickets to Paris right now, you can come to Detroit instead–the Paris of the Midwest.
Designtripper contributor D. Graham Kostic gives a special report on La Pauline, a b&b outside of Aix-en-Provence.
Originally we had wanted to do a Southwest USA road trip. You know, rent a convertible and wear a silk scarf that would flap in the breeze behind me while stopping at towns that have become famous for alien encounters. Or we said we wanted to do a Provence and the French Riviera road trip. So when we’d tell friends our options, they’d turn their nose at the Southwest and get all goo-goo-eyed for Provence. Well, it wasn’t long before we were jet-lagged in Paris and on the TGV to Avignon to rent a car and go. It was a mad-cap adventure through the south of France (and on to Italy afterwards), but there was one place that stood out among the rest. Outside of Aix-en-Provence is La Pauline, a bed and breakfast that left an indelible mark on our hearts. So the story goes that Napoleon (as in that little man who tucked his hand into his shirt) had a sister named Pauline and Pauline fell in love with a man who owned a lot of land in Provence. The man, however, was married, but still wanted Pauline close. So he built Pauline a country estate where they would rendezvous. History aside, the place is absolutely beautiful and the service unmatched. We pulled up to large ornate iron gates that looked on to a long drive lined with yew-trees and were greeted by the hotel manager Silvia, who I decided has to be on our Christmas card list. The small five-room bed and breakfast is well-appointed with the best smelling linens we’ve ever smelled and a carrera marble bathroom that overlooks a small hedge maze (side note: I’ve always wanted a garden maze, so I was completely floored). A lofty common room with colorful chairs and a long farm table makes for a wonderful place to eat a homemade breakfast that I still think about. When I called to book our reservation, Silvia asked if we would be joining her for breakfast. Mais oui, i said and then she asked what we would want from the farmer’s market. I told her to surprise us. Cheeses, meats, hard-boiled eggs, fresh breads, jams, fresh squeezed orange juice—it was, hands-down, the most delicious breakfast I’ve ever had.
And dinner? Well, we wanted to head into Aix for dinner that evening, but something about our comfortable room and the calm grounds made us want to stay there forever. We found the nearest grocery store and had a picnic late at night. The rooms (separated from the main house, which is the owner’s residence) was provençale to a T—cool, white plaster walls and a cement floor with simple furniture. Local linens on the beds and windows finished the look. The whole place sort of made me want to throw open the shutters and sing that opening song from Beauty and the Beast. Well, I actually did do that a few times and it felt so good.
Designed by Maison Martin Margiela, the highly anticipated, newly unveiled interior of la Maison Champs-Elysées is a study in contrasts–spare and decadent, serious and playful, black and white, clever and a total fantasy. It’s also one of the most beautiful hotel interiors I have ever seen.
[Photos via hypebeast.com]
When a super-hipster scenester decides to update a sleepy little hillside hotel on the French Riviera, the results are usually sleek and soulless. But here’s an exception. Nightclub owner/graffiti artist Andrea Saraiva purchased the Hotel Ermitage in St. Tropez two years ago, but he decided to skip the typical resort-town extravagance in favor of the 19th-century villa’s inherent low-key appeal. That means that the petanque court has stayed intact, its once-ramshackle interiors have been carefully updated to preserve a sense of quirky elegance, and the bay views are still the hotel’s single most-relaxing attraction. The overall look and vibe keeps that magical/mystical Riviera vibe intact, giving a feeling that a young Jean Seberg might pop in at any minute. Saraiva has appointed friends like Marc Newson, Christian Louboutin and Olivier Zahm to decorate some of its 27 rooms, which have pieces from the likes of Jean Prouve and Ettore Sottsass, the better to evoke St. Tropez’s global heyday in the 1950s.