21 September 2008

Group Sibuet - Romantic French Hotels, Part 1

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Jocelyne Sibuet, author of the popular decorating tome,  "A French  Country Home, Style and Entertaining," has been called the Martha Stewart of France.  But while Martha  concentrates her efforts  around the home,  Sibuet's forte is hotels.   Both Sibuet and her husband Jean-Louis hail from families in the hospitality business, so their interest in hotels came naturally.   In business now for over twenty years, their first effort was located in the west, high in the French Alps, where they renovated and restored a neglected property.  Today, they own a number of small, boutique hotels in the ski resort town of Megeve.   About eight years ago, a chance trip to the South of France, opened their eyes to the possibilities of a new venture, and they now own two hotels in the region. It would be a dream of a lifetime to experience each one of their hotels for a week or how about for a month - hey, as long we are dreaming, let's dream big!   To start, today, we'll visit La Bastide de Marie, the couple's first foray in hosting guests in the same area that Peter Mayle immortalized in A Year in Provence.  La Bastide, with 12 guest rooms,  is located in a centuries old farmhouse in Menerbes - just 24 miles east of Avignon in the Luberon Mountains.   The property is 37 acres, much of which is comprised of the Sibuet's vineyard that produces their label Domaine de Marie.   The atmosphere of the hotel is rural to be sure, but definitely not rustic.  Jocelyne's deft touch is everywhere:  from the fresh flowers, to the lush towels, to the linen napkins,  to the votive candles - the atmosphere is heady with the scents and sights of the Provencal lifestyle.   The Sibuet's goal is to make their guests feel as if they are actually at home here, that they belong here, rather than they are just visiting.

 

Jocelyne is not formally trained as an interior designer, yet La Bastide's interiors are an integral part of its charm.  Eschewing the popular Provencal bright yellow, red and blue Pierre Deux mini prints, La Bastide de Marie is a vision in griege, that perfect shade somewhere between gray and beige with just a hint of green.  The interiors are real.  There is no faux country French here, and certainly, there is no Americanization of that style, as some other boutique hotels in the area are.  The rooms do not appear to be staged, rather they seem to be rooms you might find in a private home, an effect Jocelyne has strived hard for.   Each room is different, as is each bath.  And each was thoughtfully pulled together by Sibuet who searched the countryside looking for  furniture in the nearby antique markets.  The ever present linen, in that wonderful griege color was culled from fabric houses such as Pierre Frey,  Canovas, and local artist Edith Mezard.  The rooms each have their owns  names inspired by their fabrics:  Gris de Sauge and  Miel d'Oranger - to name a few.   Jean-Louis was in charge of the restoration of the farmhouse and the renovation took just over a year to complete.  Guests have their choice of staying in the main hotel or in one of the two outbuildings located slightly further away.  There is a spa on the property, as well as two swimming pools.  Day trips include visits into town or to nearby areas such as L'Isle sur la Sorgue, the world famous country antique market or to nearby St. Remy.  Not surprisingly, Jocelyne reports that most guests prefer to stay put and revel in the quiet, lazy days of farm life.

 

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The nearby town of Menerbes - the closest neighbors to La Bastide de Marie.  Who is Marie?  The Sibuet's  daughter!

 

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Jocelyne, the French Martha Stewart, and Jean-Louis on the grounds of the Bastide.

 

 

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Gravel roads to the hotel are lined with tall cypress trees and lavender in the summer.  The Bastide is open spring through fall, and is closed for the winter.

 

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An aerial shot of the ancient farmhouse, built of native limestone with terra cotta tile roofs.  Here you can see neatly planted rows of the vineyard that produces Domaine de Marie.

 

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An overhead shot of the Bastide.  The  vineyard surrounds the hotel on all sides.

 

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This large window leads to the area that was once the barn and today is the main lobby.

 

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The same view,  taken in fall - isn't this gorgeous?

 

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One of the pools, located inside the walled area next to the former barn.

 

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Another shot of the romantic walled swimming pool, built to resemble a grotto.

 

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The hotel has two main swimming pools.  Here, is the second one which terraces down from a fountain.

 

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The hotel has its own spa, but massages can take place outside under the trees!  Nice!     

 

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A  dining terrace overlooks  the vineyards.  The tables are set with the white and griege linen cloths that Jocelyne so loves.  Atmospheric candles are set about  in glass votives  and in lanterns.      I love the curved black iron furniture.

                                                                                                                     

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Past the terrace, chairs   lined with scalloped matelasse, are set up on the lawn.  Notice the baskets and votives - details of Jocelyne's that make La Bastide de Marie unique and authentic.

 

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The large lobby, or living area as it is called, was originally part of the barn.  The huge fireplace is a natural gathering place.  The upstairs library is reflected in the mirror above the mantel.

 

  

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A close up of the massive stone fireplace in the lobby area.

 

 

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The staircase in the lobby leads to a library.

 

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A closer view of the stone staircase and library.   The floors and stairs are native French limestone - to die for!

 

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The large window, once most likely the barn door, looks out onto the dining terrace and the countryside beyond. 

 

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Lounge chairs are set up in front of the lobby's big window.  The shelves are filled with antique objet d'art and old books that Jocelyne collected for the Bastide.

 

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  Another living area in the lobby, surrounded by antique chairs upholstered in linen.

 

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Lunch is served outdoors, on shaded tables covered with white table linens and baskets of fresh herbs from the garden.  The kitchen is at the back through the limestone arch.

 

 

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Setting the table:    Jocelyne designed the hotel uniforms with their long linen aprons, khaki skirts and crisp white shirts.   Notice the scalloped tray that hold the napkins - darling!  No detail is too small for Jocelyne.

 

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The kitchen, where guests are welcome to come and take cooking lessons.

 

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Tables are set up in the kitchen for meals.  Beautiful antique chairs surround a long, wood table.

 

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The dining room.  A console with scalloped sides holds a sculpture and lit candles.  Potted rosemary substitutes for fresh flowers on the tables.

 

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At night, tables are lit by candlelight in another area.

 

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Each room in the main Bastide is decorated differently.  Here, a native boutis covers the iron canopy bed, draped with linen.  The floor is terra cotta pavers.  A wainscot is painted a rich persimmon. 

 

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The other side of the bedroom, showing a beautiful French settee sitting under the oval mirror.

 

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This bathroom has two large vessel sinks.  No cabinet doors - the griege linen covers the pipes!

 

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This suite has an iron canopy bed, with linen curtains.  A writing desk steps in for a  night table.

 

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The other side of the suite, showing it's own fireplace and slipcovered sofa with seagrass rug - my favorites!

 

 

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The suite's bathroom is set behind paneled walls - open at the ceiling.  Linen curtains substitute for doors.

 

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This room is decorated with a toile inserted wood headboard.  Linen curtains hang from the bed's corona.  The bath is behind the half wall to the left.

 

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A vignette in one of the guest rooms.

 

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This bathroom is below, reached by a set of winding limestone stairs - how romantic!  To let in light, a small window was carved out of the stone next to the tub.

 

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Red toile and white and griege linen decorates this room.

 

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An antique mirror and claw foot tub are the highlights of this bath.  The wainscot is faux marble.

 

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This chicly uniformed employee carries a basket of towels to the Bastide's outlying building - the private guest house located off the property.

 

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The two outbuildings, pictured above, further away from the main Bastide are available for let - for those who desire even more privacy than the 12 room main hotel provides!

 

 

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The staff, bring linens to the outbuildings in authentic french wicker baskets.

 

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Gorgeous lavender lines the walkway to the private outbuildings.  Just beautiful!!

 

 

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The outbuildings come with their own pool.  Ahhhhh.

 

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The main living area of one of the outbuildings.  Each of the two outbuildings holds 10 guests.  The limestone stairs lead to guest rooms.

 

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A dining room  in one of the outbuildings.   Guests who stay here  may have their meals delivered to their room, or they may join the other guests in the main Bastide.  Each outbuilding has it's own kitchen.   At the hotel, all meals are included in the room price, except for lunch. 

 

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This living area has bookcases painted gray - here all the books have white or cream paper covers.  I love that look!

 

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One of the bedrooms in the outbuilding. 

 

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Another bedroom - with a view towards the bathroom.

 

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One the bathrooms in the outbuildings.

 

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The map showing the towns where  Group Sibuet has hotels.  La Bastide de Marie is located in Menerbes, in the south.

 

I hope you've enjoyed our virtual visit to the South of France!  Hopefully, one day, we can all go in person.  Be sure to visit the web site for La Bastide de Marie here.   And to order Jocelyne Sibuet's book, go here