Beyond The Byblos pix
With the Benkiraï, Patrick Jouin's first hotel, Saint-Tropez, France, leaves the glitter behind
Lanie Goodman -- Interior Design, 10/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
In the lobby of the Benkiraï, a Patrick Jouin–designed hotel in Saint-Tropez, France, his own leather-covered sofa is accompanied by Piero Lissoni's glass tables.
Extending the stone wall 30 feet and inserting a 20-foot-long window completely transformed the hotel facade.
Jouin's lighting design appears first as a lacquered sconce in the lobby, then in different applications and finishes throughout the hotel.
Faux leather on stools at the restaurant bar.
A custom teak-topped table furnishes the terrace of the suite.
The suite's headboard, upholstered in faux leather, slides apart to reveal the bathtub.
A guest room's custom double-faced mirror and lacquered sink vanity.
The outdoor restaurant's custom umbrellas, with their stainless frames and PVC-coated polyester lining.
Custom mirrored pendant fixtures in the restaurant bar.
Benkirai wood wrapping the balcony of the Panoramic suite.
Aluminum chaise longues poolside.
Jouin's powder-coated ceiling fixture on the suite's balcony.
His wrought-iron stools line up at the restaurant's lava-stone bar.
The Thai restaurant features Jouin's chrome-framed plastic chairs as well as custom teak-topped tables.
|The Benkiraï is discreetly set back from a leafy road on the outskirts of Saint-Tropez. In this onetime French fishing village renowned for celebrity-packed luxury palaces with plush carpets and gold faucets, Patrick Jouin has dreamed up an oasis of quiet glamour. "The ambience is restful while also having a festive energy," he says. The 42-room Benkiraï not only represents Saint-Tropez's first plunge into bracingly playful hotel design but is also a first for Jouin: Though he's designed many hotel restaurants, he'd never before taken on an entire hotel.
When Charm & More decided to upgrade the property—formerly a two-star family hotel—executives were already familiar with Jouin's design for Alain Ducasse's Saint-Tropez restaurant, Spoon Byblos, and they gave Jouin carte blanche. One of the first obstacles he tackled during the 10-month renovation was how to fill the void between the lobby, in the main building, and the guest rooms across the garden. His solution was to construct a vast multilevel deck. The hotel's Thai restaurant and bar spill out of the main building and onto the deck's upper levels. Eventually, it steps down to the indigo-tiled pool, where, as Jouin puts it, the "heart of the action is."
The hotel takes its name from the decking material. "We decided against teak for ecological reasons. Instead, we used a beautiful exotic wood called benkirai, which grows abundantly in Indonesia," Jouin says. The gleaming reddish planks appear everywhere, from a low-slung table in the outdoor bar to the guest balconies. "All that wood exudes calm," he adds. "To relax, I like looking at just one surface, with no details, the way you'd gaze at the sky."
No art hangs on the Benkiraï's walls, and there are few rugs on the concrete floors. A mysterious purple glow emanates from the toilets. In guest rooms, the gauzy cotton curtains shift from white at the top to blue at the bottom, as if they were dipped in paint.
To maximize space in the guest rooms—which, at 250 square feet, are fairly small—Jouin broke down the walls between the bedrooms and bathrooms. "So you can drift freely from the bed to the shower to the terrace. The rooms feel sexy and cool," he says with a smile. One of the only clear separating devices is a sudden change in the overall palette, from white to blue.
In standard rooms and junior suites, there's also a giant round double-faced mirror suspended from the ceiling between sleeping and bathing areas. For those who prefer a bit of privacy, the flick of a switch brings white curtains whooshing out to section off the bathroom. In larger suites, the bathtub is hidden by the bed's tall upholstered headboard. It may not be obvious at first, but the headboard is split down the middle; when the halves slide apart, guests could do a back flip from their pillows right into the tub.
The guest balconies are illuminated by a custom ceiling fixture, a rust-colored powder-coated aluminum circle crisscrossed with strips that cast intricate shadows. A lacquered version of the lamp serves as a sconce in each guest room and the lobby. Mostly, though, the hotel's Jouin designs are production pieces: a white leather-covered sofa in the lobby, white plastic-draped armchairs in the restaurant, wrought-iron stools in the bar, where the Benkiraï serves its Exotic Passion Sour, a mix of vodka, lychees, lemons, mint, and Thai basil.
The outdoor part of the bar is sheltered by a cluster of Jouin's eye-catching umbrellas. Of varying sizes, set at varying angles, these stainless-steel designs have round shades lined with khaki fabric and rimmed by small lightbulbs that give off a warm glow. "They add a touch of strangeness," he says. "Something like planting my own personal UFO's in the middle of the deck."
Jouin hopes that guests will sometimes stay put and enjoy the serenity, opting out of the buzzing village scene and the sandy Ramatuelle beaches. "For me, happiness would be sitting right there," he says, pointing to a platform built around a towering tree. "Saint-Tropez is also about listening to the cicadas while you're reading a book or drinking iced mint tea with a group of friends in the shade of an umbrella pine."