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November 17, 2017

Jocelyne Sibuet On Designing Luxury Spas

By Will Grice

After conquering the hotel world with her breathtaking Les Fermes de Marie, in Megeve, Jocelyne Sibuet moved into wellness and spa, combining innovative interior design with some of the best treatments available across the world. Elite Traveler speak to Sibuet about how she made the move from hotels to spas.

How did you first get into interior design?

I have always been interested in interior design, particularly since opening our first hotel in Megéve. For the last 30 years we have not worked with other interior designers or architects as we have always wanted to imbue our own spirit and style into our hotels, and we get very involved in all our projects.

My ex-husband Jean Louis Sibuet is a visionary, and is very involved with the design and architectural structure of all the hotels. He always has a precise idea of what he wants to achieve – for our first hotel project, Les Fermes de Marie, we refurbished a hamlet of nine chalets with building materials from the Savoie and Haute-Savoie region – we worked mainly with wood which dated back over 100 years. It was a highly unusual project at the time (more than thirty years ago) – we had a clear vision of what we wanted but the renovation was a huge investment for us.

What has inspired you in your design process?

In each hotel we seek to connect with the original spirit of the destination, to share its roots, to find harmony in the setting, and to cultivate authentic luxury. Our hotels are not showy, not ostentatious, not bling bling – rather we seek beauty in simplicity. We take the history of the local area and let it provide a narrative for our hotels. In each of the three hotels in Megeve I sought to express the values and the traditions in a way that was in harmony with the structure and spirit of the buildings. At the hotel Mont Blanc, also in Megeve, this meant concentrating on its historic past, an artist’s hangout, where the energy and ambiance inspired great poets, singers, songwriters, sculptors and artists. We transformed these themes, whether that be in the signature fabrics, the warmth of the wood, or the daring color combinations.

Le Lodge Park was originally an Art Deco style building, I wanted to bring another vision of the mountains in Megeve to life, one inspired by lodges around the world, with touches of leather, fur, and roughhewn logs and kilim fabrics. When we went to Val Thorens, where we launched Altapura, we created a new vision and a new style for Maisons & Hotels Sibuet with a touch of Nordic inspiration. The resort doesn’t have a style of its own having been created from scratch. The Hotel des Dromonts in Avoriaz has a 1960s style thanks to the particular architecture in resort (which was built in this decade). The hotel design takes inspiration from this period with flashy colors and at the bar Le Festival, we have a collection of sixties vintage pieces. At Terminal Neige Totem in Flaine we launched a new mountain concept created by my children Nicolas and Marie Sibuet, mostly supported by the Bauhaus/ brutalist style which the resort is famous for. Our newest hotel in Chamonix, Terminal Neige Refuge, is a historic refuge dating from the end of the 19th century and we wanted to keep the spirit of the refuge alive by using materials like old wood and stone granite but bringing to this a touch of modernity.

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You’ve now made the move into opening spas and even your own cosmetic line, how did that come about?

I have always been oriented towards wellness and beauty and this is something that has served me well in the hotel industry. I was happy to be able to combine my passion for both with the development of our hotel spas and our natural cosmetics line, Pure Altitude. We were the first ones to bring this idea of spa and wellness to the mountain hotel industry in France, in the early nineties. Our flagship spa in Megève, at Les Fermes de Marie, was the first of many and we now have spas at our three hotels in Megève, and in Avoriaz, Val Thorens, Lyon, Flaine, Menerbes, St Barths and St Tropez. Our Pure Altitude cosmetics line was a natural next step bringing the beauty, strength and power of mountain plants to our clients. The inspiration came from the Alpine garden we created at Les Fermes de Marie. I discovered the skin care benefits of edelweiss and this led to the idea of creating our own skin care range.

How difficult is it designing spas in comparison to hotels?

There are technical elements to respect when designing a spa like the functionality of using the spa, for example the dry and wet zones. The style and design of our spas are inspired by their location in the same way that the hotels are, but we do have to consider these technical elements as well.

Which hotel are you most proud of designing?

Each hotel has a different story and I am so proud of them all – if I have to pick one it would be Les Fermes de Marie in Megève, just because of the history there and as it was our first hotel. We wanted to create more than just a hotel but also a a place to live and not just for winter sports and skiing! This is why we focused on the spa and the restaurants, and the hotel has since evolved to meet the many wishes of our guests. In 2019, Les Fermes de Marie will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2019 and we are constantly thinking of ways to evolve the hotel.

Which one was the most difficult?

Each project is a challenge both in terms of completion and the time required to do the work. My son, Nicolas, would say that the Terminal Neige Refuge renovation in Chamonix this year was a tricky project to complete. We had to respect the history of the building and there are no roads to the site so all materials were brought up from Chamonix on the small Montenvers train! Coupled with the temperamental weather in the alps and the short summer season it was certainly a challenge to complete. 7. How do you define luxury? For us luxury is about being under-stated, not ostentatious and authentic. For us extreme luxury comes through the unique experience that we give our customers. For example – having dinner under the stars in our alpine chalet is an experience we consider to be a luxury.

Do you have any exciting plans for the future?

We have just opened two new hotels, Villa Marie Saint-Barth in Saint Barthélémy in December 2016 and Terminal Neige Refuge on the Montenvers site in Chamonix this July. For the time being we are focused on these exciting new openings but we look forward to what the future holds…

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