For Bruno Moinard, one half of Paris-based interior design agency Moinard Bétaille, hotels have a certain sense of theatre about them. Their presence, something felt and experienced fleetingly, rather than lived in as you would a residential space, is one created by “sets”, with its characters, secrets and individual moments of intrigue creating something truly transformative.
To Claire Bétaille, the other half of the lauded design team, reinvigorating these storied spaces carries a responsibility akin to guardianship – a duty of protecting the true nature of a building for generations to come. “We take over these stories, allowing the hotels to continue to write them,” Claire says. “Never cutting the thread, but rather reviving them by soaking them up, consuming them and listening to the tales that are told.”
A retelling of sorts, Moinard Bétaille’s gentle approach to the renovation of Hotel Cala di Volpe on Sardinia’s Costa Smeralda pays homage to its original architect, the late “sculptor of houses” Jacques Couëlle, with a new narrative that speaks of a storied past while being anchored firmly in the present. Four years in the making, the renovation has warmly embraced the original concept of its maker, staying true to his revelatory surrealist vision initially designed to feel like an ancient Mediterranean fishing village.
Hotel Cala Di Volpe in Sardinia by Moinard Bétaille Agency
Guests to the hotel (now part of Marriott’s Luxury Collection) are still greeted by an extraordinary exterior with its interconnecting terracotta rooftops, turrets, porticoes and terraces – alive with bougainvillea – but are welcomed inside by fully reimagined shared spaces, as well as a host of private luxury suites, guest rooms and in-house restaurants.
“Our ambition was to give this magical place its lustre,” the design duo reveals. “But also find its function in today’s world,” they add – a calling that saw Moinard Bétaille begin the renovation process in the hotel lobby and lounge, retaining the structural elements – rustic beams and grand vaulted ceilings – while revising the lighting, layout and furnishings for a new generation.
Due to the architectural significance of the hotel and its inherent artistry, all the furniture is bespoke, crafted by local artisans and some of Europe’s most esteemed makers. Any original furniture has been repurposed or painted in soft pastels to meet the vision of the new design. Wood, woven fabric and buttery soft leather rest naturally against the stucco walls and textured plaster, while ceilings clad in cane, held tightly by rough-hewn timber beams and trusses, add a richness of atmosphere that encapsulates the magical Mediterranean offering.
The powerful, refuge-like building curves and weaves throughout its expansive waterfront site, with hallways acting as arteries off the beating heart of the hotel’s centre. Throughout, white walls are punctured with both new and original coloured glass artworks – tonal lenses through which the beauty of the coastline is framed, sending waves of tinged light across the rustic surfaces. Windows and doorways in the guest rooms act as organically shaped portals, or invitations to the blue horizon beyond, each as beguiling as the next.
Perhaps where the renovation shines most is in its contemporary interpretation of the hotel’s many dining spaces – Le Grand, The Atrium Bar, Beefbar and The Pool Bar (the hotel is also home to Italy’s only Nobu Matsuhisa). Entirely new fit-outs, worthy of their spectacular setting, grace the rustic terracotta and granite floors, with custom bentwood seating, a 2000-bottle wine cellar and a famous maturation cellar in Beefbar showcasing the luxury on offer.
“We wanted to re-explore this maze, awaken the energies that were hiding there, make this living organism breathe again and reinvent the circulation,” Bruno says of his and Claire’s efforts in Sardinia. “As the work progressed, we reunited the Cala di Volpe in a coherent hotel concept, speaking a single language and writing a single story once again.”
We wanted to re-explore this maze, awaken the energies that were hiding there, make this living organism breathe again and reinvent the circulation.
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