Jocelyne has run Maisons & Hotels Sibuet – a collection of some of the finest and most innovative hotels in France – for 31 years. From the Alps to Provence, each hotel brings out the history and character of the building as well as the wider traditions of the area, meaning that a stay is an enticing delve into the design history of the region (and a place of supreme comfort). Jocelyne joins Condé Nast Traveller‘s publishing director Simon Leadsford on Tuesday 22 September to talk about how she weaves a story into every property she designs.
Conversations in Design: Creating Character – Hotels with a Difference, 11.30am, 22 September. Tickets are £10: book here
How did you become a hotelier? I have always been oriented towards wellness and beauty, and that has served me well in the hotel industry. We were the first ones to bring this idea of spa and wellness to the mountain hotel industry in France in the early 1990s, and our flagship spa in Megève at Les Fermes de Marie was the first of many.
How do you instill a sense of place in each hotel? The story of each our hotels exists, I just seek to bring a clear narrative to life. In each hotel we seek to connect with the original spirit, to share its roots, to find harmony in the setting and to cultivate an authentic luxury. It’s not showy or ostentatious, it’s not ‘bling-bling’; rather, it seeks beauty in simplicity.
We take the history of the locale and let it provide a narrative for our hotels. For example, in the hotel Mont Blanc in Megève this meant concentrating on its historic past – an artist’s hangout where the energy and ambiance inspired great poets, singers, songwriters, sculptors and artists. Le Lodge Park was originally in an Art Deco style and I wanted to bring to life another vision of the mountains in Megève – one inspired by lodges of the world, with touches of leather, fur, rough-hewn logs and kilim fabrics. But further south in Provence this decorating philosophy means something completely different: at the Bastide de Marie, it means bringing an authentic polish to the stones of an 18th-century farmhouse, nestled among the vineyards; it means baroque chairs reupholstered in denim from Nîmes and of course being inspired by the wonderful antique markets in the area, Isle sur la Sorgue, with old chemist jars, or portraits and paintings that I have found along my travels.
Does that idea of a sense of place go further than the decor? We go beyond interior design; we design an experience that our clients will enjoy. At the Bastide de Marie we offer a quintessential stay in Provence. Experiences include truffle hunting, riding bicycles through lavender fields, visiting the market with our chef followed by an intimate cookery course or offering the traditional 13 desserts of Provence at Christmas time.
Your hotel interiors are very convivial, but how do they differ from a home? We seek to make our spaces functional and practical, but it was never the goal to make them feel like a hotel; we want to create a second home for our guests. With our dedication to creating each place in harmony with its history and with its setting, a guest should feel like they have come home.
Your most challenging project? The biggest challenge is to take the time to listen to the story of the building and of the destination, and transform that into a place that inspires, that lets you breathe in calm, wellness and relaxation.
Where’s your favourite place to source antiques and vintage pieces? My daughter teases me that I have a gift for shopping (I was born to shop). She is right that I am always on the look out for the little details that bring a room together – whether that is in an artist’s atelier in Provence, an offbeat shop in London or an elegant boutique near my apartment in Paris.