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How to create an award-winning French B&B

Geneviève Longa's Pornic villa was voted France's Most Beautiful Bed and Breakfast 2019. She reveals the inspiration and philosophy behind her passion project.

Where in France is your B&B located?

In Pornic, in the Loire Atlantique, 800 metres from the ocean (45 minutes by car from Nantes and 30 minutes from Nantes airport) and 300 metres from the century-old Pornic golf course.

When did you buy the property/land and why?

We built La Rêverie in 2018, starting from bare land and completed the project in 10 months. Both our main house, in the central part, and also four guest rooms that we wanted to open for the beginning of the 2018 season – an objective we achieved! We wanted to create a building with all contemporary comforts but inspired by 19th-century Pornicaise seaside buildings, which were built in Pornic as soon as the train arrived in 1878.

Where are you from in France?

We are from the Paris region, and our lives have brought us to the Loire Atlantique. We fell in love with Pornic, for its authenticity, its small town spirit, its creeks, its port and especially its protected coastal path bordered by numerous fisheries.

Pornic, located in the Pays de Retz between Brittany in the North and the Vendée in the South, is a rare seaside resort that retains an authentic spirit, with a preserved coastal path unique on the west coast of France.

What was your professional background?

After several years in cartoons and communication, I moved into the food trade, working for many famous Parisian caterers, such as Le Nôtre and Dalloyau, but also for prestigious management clubs and individuals.

Read more: Possible June reopening for France's cafés

Where did you build the property?

It was a piece of land from a division of ownership [division de propriété].

What were your main objectives and motivations for your B&B?

Our objective was to create a refined guest house, with clean lines, built around a beautiful heated swimming pool (29°C) and to offer quality service for a sweet stay, in the heart of greenery. In addition, to provide curved windows, and canopies inside the rooms to optimize the brightness.

Who managed the project?

We managed the project from A to Z, accompanied by our architect who understood and met our requirements.

What was your inspiration for the interior? 

Our priority has always been the well-being of our guests, without imposing our taste on them. Hence our desire to keep things white, to let as much sunshine in, and combined with light-toned, refined furniture. 

The furniture has been carefully chosen to be discreet and leave as much space as possible in the room. Each room has its own private bathroom, with different mosaics, but also, an outside space with garden furniture and parasol to enjoy the sun of the ‘Jade Coast’.

Read more: Guide to building your own home in France

Did you find it easy to source items?

Yes, it is very easy to find what you want with the internet today, but there are also objects or smaller items of furniture in recycling shops or markets in the area. I didn’t want to decorate La Rêverie by buying everything at Maison du Monde. I wanted each room to have its own identity and for each guest to feel comfortable.

Tell us about your best and worst experiences of the project?

The best experience of the project is the emotion you feel when the construction is almost finished and you know that what you are looking at now is reality and not just a computer simulation. There is no worst experience since each step (however difficult) allows you to achieve your dream.

Do you have any advice for those considering undertaking such an important construction job?

Yes, to choose your architect carefully. If you don’t ‘feel it’ with them, there’s no point in trying. Everything must be fluid in the relationship. It is absolutely necessary that the architect understands your choices and directs you using his skills, without it becoming the architect’s project rather than yours. We were very lucky to come across a professional who gave the best of himself in this project. Since then, he has become a friend.

Read more: Discover France's motoring heritage

You won a prestigious award in 2019. Please tell us a little bit about it.

Like anyone who fills out a supermarket ballot to win the super jackpot that you never win, I prepared an application with the booking site Gîtes de France, to present our project to win the award for Most Beautiful Bed and Breakfast 2019. It was a great pleasure to be selected and to be awarded this prestigious prize in Biarritz during a beautiful gala evening. 

It is a kind of blessing, but also an assurance that our project was well thought out and that all our efforts were rewarded. But the most beautiful reward is to see our guests happy to stay at La Rêverie, and to come back.

So what can guests expect during a stay?

We have drawn inspiration from our many travels to offer holidaymakers a warm stay in a refined seaside setting. It’s an invitation to relax and indulge in a delicious breakfast buffet, served under the glass roof, featuring homemade pastries and jams!

My experience in the great French houses and with a large clientele, have given me a know-how and knowledge of customer expectations. We are happy today to receive all year round the whole world at La Rêverie (British, Germans, Swiss, Belgians etc....) and to offer each of our guests a moment of softness and plenitude in a house conceived and built just for them.

Find out more and book:

Related: Do you own property in France? Take a look at our guide to owning a second home in France and other resources in our Helpguides section.

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