Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Villa Clarisse

She's only seventeen months old, but she's about to have her own hotel. This is what it looks like now:

An old house on a street just steps from the divine Hotel Toiras in St Martin de Re. A blank limestone front, a door right on the street. But inside, ah, inside...a hallway to a courtyard. Paved in ancient stone, overgrown with hollyhocks and palm trees, low wildflowers that have seeded among the paving stones, The house wraps around  three sides, the fourth is a high garden wall. You can see yourself having breakfast here, curling up with a book on a summer afternoon. Perhaps a fireplace? to warm a cool evening.

Open the door at the back of the courtyard (expecting a toolshed, a dusty closet) and you are in fairyland. A garden stretches back for what seems like miles. There are ancient fig trees, more hollyhocks. Roses scramble up the garden walls. Tall grasses have seeded in and wave in the breeze. It is like being in The Secret Garden - remember the Francis Hodgson Burnett book, and Mary and Colin and Dickon? This place has that magic.

Olivia showed us - if you open the street door, the door to the courtyard and the door to the Secret Garden, you can see all the way to the very back of the garden. She will put glass in all the doors, there will be a tantalizing view from the street. A sunny reception area, rooms and suites with the old tile or stone floors that are still there. Beamed ceilings, light on all sides.

A pool in the back. WIth glass for the cool days. A spa. A garden that reflects the gorgeous wild landscape of the Ile de Re. Places to walk, places to sit. Places to just be.

The woman who owned this house wanted Olivia to have it, to keep its character and make it better. And she has left treasures - a Captain's hat sits on a newel post. Huge dusty baskets are piled on a hearth.  A collection of old tools is laid out on a floor upstairs. Two sleigh beds sit opposite each other in the huge beamed room above the front door. Collections of old cooking pots fill the old kitchen. A treasure in every corner.

This place will be magic. Olivia has made Hotel Toiras feel like the home of a wealthy but unpretentious friend...

This will be different. It will have the essence of the island distilled into muted colors, more rustic fabrics, gardens that echo the wildness just outside the walls. Peace. Calm. With impeccable taste and unpretentious luxury. In possible the most perfect town in the world.

She plans to be open within the year. Clarisse will be two and a half. I plan to be one of the first guests at the Villa Clarisse. I recommend you book early -  it will fill up fast.

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