One of the family
Cheval Blanc, Paris
LVMH’s hospitality division came about when the French group’s chairman and ceo, Bernard Arnault, began building a villa in Courchevel 1850 (a section of the ski resort named for its height above sea level). The project morphed into the brand Cheval Blanc. “Our owner was in love with Courchevel; he was convinced we could do better than what was there,” says Olivier Lefebvre, head of hotel activities for LVMH Hotel Management, as he settles into a chair at the company’s offices on Paris’s Avenue Montaigne. “The project started from scratch – and proved to be very successful.”
Cheval Blanc has expanded swiftly but gingerly since 2006, when the resort opened in the Alps. Each project is conceived as a maison rather than a hotel, with the aim of creating a residential, locally integrated feel. Its second hotel lies in the Maldives, with villas designed by Jean-Michel Gathy, who combines modernism with rattan, bamboo, coral and shagreen. Next came the purchase of a hospitality gem: the Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France hotel in Saint-Barthélemy. After the travails of Hurricane Irma, French designer Jacques Grange was called upon to refurbish the St-Barth property on Flamands Beach, which reopened at the end of last year.
Lefebvre is sanguine about the advantages of being in the LVMH fold. He acknowledges the kudos he started with and the power of the brand’s reputation but hints at a burden of living up to all of that. “First it gives you some kind of legitimacy and then you have to deserve this legitimacy.”
There is clearly a tradition of ambition that gives his division an incredible scope: LVMH recently announced that it will purchase Belmond, the luxury group that owns 46 hotels as well as the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express and the Royal Scotsman, to increase its presence.
For all its global ambition, Cheval Blanc’s next moves will be very Gallic. First up, the yellow-and-white-striped sun loungers at its new Saint Tropez maison will be rolled out next to the Mediterranean in May. Like a set from Bonjour Tristesse, La Résidence de la Pinède is a seaside villa with fresh blue-and-cream bedrooms designed by Frenchman Jean-Michel Wilmotte.
But Cheval Blanc’s most eagerly anticipated opening this year will appear in La Samaritaine, the 1870-founded department store in Paris’ 1st arrondissement that LVMH has been renovating for the past few years. La Samaritaine has been the talk of Paris ever since it closed in 2005; its Henri Sauvage 1920-era building is a much loved landmark. For Cheval Blanc, the pressure is on. Lefebvre must create a hotel that will define the luxury prowess of LVMH in the group’s home city, where a flurry of new upmarket hotels have recently launched.
“It was key to have our own identity; architect Peter Marino won’t be following the others,” says Lefebvre, excited to be part of a hospitality renaissance of sorts. “Things are moving. It’s great for the city and great for us.”
Q&A – Daniel Gorin, General manager
Hotel Arpoador, Rio de Janeiro
Gorin fills us in on the newly reopened Hotel Arpoador, Grupo Arpoador’s second venue in Rio de Janeiro.
Do hotels run in the family?
I’m a third-generation hotelier. My grandfather, Manoel Strosberg, opened the Arpoador in 1974. He built it himself. I joined the family business seven-and-a-half years ago, after working in London as a curator. I’ve always been the one in the family who’s most interested in branding and marketing.
Why renovate the Arpoador?
Rio was selected for the World Cup and Olympic Games; we saw it as an opportunity to revamp the business by renovating the hotels. We first renovated the Ipanema Inn. Both hotels are well located but the Arpoador is in a unique location: on the beach between Ipanema and Copacabana.
Are you happy with the result?
It’s been a very emotional process as my grandfather built the hotel. But we worked with fantastic architects: Bernardes Arquitetura. There was nothing left of the original building but one staircase, which we restored. The soul of the hotel remains the same. It has this beach vibe; very light and full of wood.
What sets Arpoador apart?
We want our guests to feel at ease; when they arrive they are offered homemade drinks and ice cream. We celebrate the local culture and our service is very approachable.
Enjoy the view
Les Bords de Mer, Marseille
This retreat by the sea is a stone’s throw from Catalans Beach and a short stroll from Marseille’s Vieux Port (Old Harbour). Originally constructed in the 1930s, the charming hotel embraces its art deco heritage and offers undisturbed views of the Mediterranean from its 19 guestrooms, rooftop pool and in-house restaurant Les Ronds dans l’Eau, which serves the catch of the day. It’s also easy to explore the city and the Frioul Islands from here.
Life House, Miami
“We specialise in bringing life into an area,” says Rami Zeidan, ceo of New York-based hospitality brand Life House, which opened its first property in Miami’s Little Havana at the end of 2018 and launches its second in South Beach in March. “We want our properties to be defining not only of the city but of a neighbourhood,” adds Zeidan, whose Little Havana hotel embraces the district’s Cuban soul; the other is an intimate seaside retreat in South Beach’s only surf spot.
Handled with care
Before reopening last year in its current guise as a 70-room urban escape, Craftsman was a getaway for US soldiers during the Vietnam War and later became a 1990s love motel. The U-shaped 1950s building, set around a courtyard pool, is in the Ari neighbourhood of Phaya Thai. This leafy spot is witnessing an influx of new cafés and restaurants, attracting young Thais seeking solace from busy Sukhumvit to the south.
“The rooms are very simple,” says interior designer Sam Limpaphatanavanich of Studio Freehand. “We’ve taken a contemporary approach to referencing some typical design elements from Thai modernism.” Guests looking to indulge in business rather than pleasure can head to the co-working space or rent a meeting room. For the rest there’s Baby Bar, an all-day dining room, pool bar and cocktail lounge.
Something to savour
Domaine Tarbouriech, Marseillan
“Visitors were asking where they could stay to prolong their experience of our farm,” says Florent Tarbouriech, patriarch of one of France’s premier oyster farms. “There was no place close by so I created one.” The result is Domaine Tarbouriech, a hotel and spa close to Montpellier. The beauty of the region is evoked in a raw aesthetic, including door handles made of driftwood found on the beach.
Top weekend getaways
Stay: L’Arlatan for a stay among art and olive trees. arlatan.com
Eat: La Chassagnette for lunch. chassagnette.fr
Visit: Musée Réattu for art by Jacques Réattu and Picasso. museereattu.arles.fr
Stay: La Maison du Bassin for a charming sojourn. lamaisondubassin.com
Eat: Chez Hortense for seafood by the ocean. lacabanedhortense.fr
Visit: La plage de l’Horizon on a sunny day.
Stay: Hotel Madrid for ocean-view rooms. lemadrid.com
Eat: Providence Guéthary for coffee, art and shopping. providenceguethary.com
Visit: Bidart Guéthary Parlementia for better surf skills. ecole-de-surf-guethary-bidart.com
Stay: JK Place (open in spring). jkplace.paris
Eat: Déviant for delicacies. vivantparis.com
Visit: Jeu de Paume for thought-provoking photography. jeudepaume.org
Taking the country route
D’une île, Rémalard-en-Perche
Many Parisian restaurant owners are investing in rural addresses to lure customers outside of the city – which is exactly what Bertrand Grébaut and Théophile Pourriat, owners of Septime and Clamato in Paris, decided to do in taking over D’une île. This charming hotel, a two-hour drive from the capital, is housed in a 17th-century farm. Its restaurant serves rustic dishes such as Perche-style rillettes; the idea all around is to offer something authentic.