Ski hotels in French Alps are ‘just like home, but better!’

We spoke to an interiors architect about two upmarket Alpine ski resort renovations and what customers really want after a day on the slopes

L’Arboisie in Megève (left and top right) has natural warm feel; Ecrin Blanc in Courchevel (bottom right) has fresh, pure lines

Flexibility in her approach and a commitment to the client brief are clearly credentials that serve interiors architect Chantal Peyrat well – for evidence, just browse her design studio’s ever growing list of haut de gamme clients seeking her design touch for a hotel, spa, restaurant or casino renovation or new-build.

There is the très chic Hôtel Barrière L’Hermitage in La Baule with its seaside touches; the modern, elegant comfort of the Hôtel Le Général d’Elbée on the island of Noirmoutier; and the Casino Barrière l’Eléphant d’Or in Abidjan (Ivory Coast) to name but three.

But two Alpine ski resort hotel renovations – Ecrin Blanc in Courchevel and L’Arboisie in Megève – threw up entirely different challenges.

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Balance between aesthetic and warm

The mountain hideaway trend in the luxury market is driven by the desire to create a certain homeliness, notably with the use of local materials (plenty of solid wood) and an altogether more natural, warm feel.

Cocooning is a much-used word to describe ski accommodation comfort and after a hard day on the slopes, what is most appreciated by guests is a soft blanket, a super comfortable sofa and quality linens.

Emotion is at the core of a project for interior architect Chantal Peyrat; Photo: Studio Chantal Peyrat

“Studio Chantal Peyrat works on both new and renovation projects, so the approach is very different,” she told Connexion.

“Creating character and conviviality in new buildings, which is the case of Ecrin Blanc, and reinventing, rethinking, and rewriting the hotel history which had many lives, as in the case of the Arboisie.

“For both hotels, it is a search for balance between traditional and contemporary, complex and casual, aesthetic and warm... Emotion is at the core of our concerns.”

L’Arboisie - cosy and nostalgic with a sausage counter

The designer spent two years overseeing the complete renovation of L’Arboisie, located on the Mont d’Arbois Massif, in the fabulous ski village of Megève.

The aim for the makeover of this four-star hotel was to create a kind of a large family home where the public areas, such as bars and restaurants, become real places of life and exchange.

The hotel’s natural setting, with most rooms and suites (69 in total, ranging from 20 to 144 m2) offering forest views, is totally conducive to relaxation and escape.

Crucially, Peyrat opted for warm, subtle tones associated with natural materials as well as symbols and motifs that showcase the beauty of mountain life: Edelweiss flowers, pairs of old skis, soft wool plaids. The atmosphere is cosy and conducive to nostalgia.

Cosy bar and sausage counter at L’Arboisie; Photo: Francis Amiand

And then there are the dining and relaxation areas: “For the Arboisie, it is a tribute to France that we have proposed: Le Cellier, Chez Jean, le comptoir à saucisson (sausage counter)...

“Epicureanism and sharing were our mottos for this renovation project: a hotel for large tribes, encouraging exchanges between generations, laughter and good food.”

Snow can affect mountain renovations

This also applies to the guest accommodation: “This is reflected in the rooms with beautiful flats with dormitories, suites equipped with kitchens, generous balconies... Just like home but better!”

The main challenges, she says, when working on projects in mountain locations are the climatic difficulties, supplies, deadlines to be met because the snow neither waits nor warns.

While at L’Arboisie, there was the added pressure “to renovate while responding to the operation needs, in particular the upmarket equipment in the rooms.”

Read more: Hautes-Alpes: ‘Snow Plan’ launches in Briançon to keep access open

Ecrin Blanc is all about contrasts

So what specifically was her inspiration at Ecrin Blanc?

“To create emotion through a search for real materials – to bring back stone and old wood to flesh out the space.

“White is the main theme, of course, at the heart of the hotel concept and in its name (translated as “white screen” in English).

“In addition, we selected typical mountain patterns such as tartan, but revamped them with more pop colours, to bring back some freshness!

Back stone and old wood at Ecrin Blanc; Photo: Francis Amiand

The furniture, she says, is all about contrasts: “A mix and match between the old Chesterfield and the contemporary meridian, pure lines enhanced with animal skins... thoughtful but mismatched, like in a big and beautiful family chalet.”

Have fun with fabrics

As usual when Connexion has the ear of a notable interiors expert, we ask for some top tips for readers carrying out their own renovation or new-build project.

Mme Peyrat has this advice for those looking to buy, build or do up a mountain chalet: “Take elements you like and mix them up; give importance to light and space; and have fun with fabrics!”

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