Secrets of history

Christophe Tollemer : Medieval Chic comes to Mademoiselle

Portrait Christophe Tollemer

Val d’Isère’s locals have long been admiring the Luxury Hotel of the Airelles collection rise from the ground. And now the time has come for Mademoiselle to open its doors.

In what will be its first ever season, the hotel is ready to immerse its guests into its magical world and  medieval château décor.

How did this historical journey through time come to be? Passionate architect Christophe Tollemer speaks to us about his work.

Could you tell us about yourself and what you do?

“Once upon a time…” (laughs)

Then, more seriously, he says:

“I’m an interior designer. I was lucky enough to fall into the job when I was little; in primary school I would draw the insides of houses instead of listening to my teachers. The passion runs in the family: my dad was an engineer and inventor and my whole family paints and draws. It was a good environment for creativity. I started off my career at a fine woodworking school because I thought it was important to learn about wood, furniture, style, etc.

I had the chance to work on some amazing private projects all over the world…

Then, at 19, I started working on sites and over time I had the chance to work on some amazing private projects all over the world, to be artistic director for the wonderful Henry Jacques perfume house and to work for LOV Hotel Collection. It will now be 12 years in March.”

Sketch Christophe Tollemer Airelles Val d'Isère

Speaking of which, how did your relationship with Airelles start?

It’s all about the people: everything started 12 years ago with Les Airelles in Courchevel, where we had to maintain the building’s philosophy and soul. In a way, we had to change everything without changing anything.

And we were just on the same wavelength, because I believe that the job of an interior designer is to respect the people, the place and the history. I don’t like sticking to one style. By being open to everything, you leave room to explore, to take on new challenges and to ask those all-important questions that drive creativity.

We must stay open to our history…

We must stay open to our history: we, the French, have an extraordinary relationship with decorative, cultural and historical art that we cannot ignore.

The history behind Les Airelles makes it a totally unique place, and this has subsequently become the expression of all the Airelles hotels, which we try to preserve at all costs with each new building.

This journey through time is so interesting for an architect, and, in the end, we create hotels with philosophy and soul. When I design an Airelles hotel, I think of it as a private house, with the needs, restrictions and objectives of a family home.”

Salon hotel Airelles Val d'Isère

When you were told about the Val d’Isère project, how involved were you in creating Mademoiselle’s identity?

“With Séverine Petilaire [associated partner of Mademoiselle], we told each other a story and asked ourselves what we envisaged in it.

When you go up to Val d’Isère and cross through the village of Aime, there is a buckwheat tower that Séverine loves, and we said: that’s Mademoiselle!

This tower was the starting point for our ideas; the story began there…

This tower was the starting point for our ideas; the story began there. The beauty of this tower plunged us deep into the project, into the story we wanted to tell.

We also drew a lot of inspiration from Annecy’s château in terms of the wood colour, the door designs and the wall decorations. We saw some magnificent old chests there.”

Medieval Chic hotel Mademoiselle Val d'Isère

Yes, you scoured and found over 4,000 old items, including almost 40 collector’s pieces?

“Yes, everything in Mademoiselle has history. You are fully immersed in the era, even the spa is a reconstruction of an old stone wash house, sitting in a vast room with wooden ceilings, arches and bas-reliefs made traditionally like in the remains of former Abbeys.

We put our heart and soul into it and constantly imagine ourselves as customers to create a unique chemistry between the building and its guests.

It requires us to be highly inquisitive and stringent, because the quality must be up to standard…

It requires us to be highly inquisitive and stringent, because the quality must be up to standard: that’s crucial for me. Let’s take the bedroom flooring, for example: no matter what, I wanted old raw wooden flooring, as if the boards had always been there. That required months and months of searching but we found what we wanted: our rooms will have magnificent old wooden floorboards!”

Hotel room Mademoiselle Val d'Isère

So, medieval Chic comes down to the materials and savoir-faire used…

“Yes, absolutely: lots of wood, stone and coatings too. These are really the building’s 3 values and the materials are meticulously chosen to protect its authenticity. We needed an authentic that was old but still highly dynamic. For example, we put big linen sofas in the rooms to add a modern touch.”

Corridor hotel Mademoiselle Val d'Isère

Guests at the hotel, immersed in local Savoy history thanks to the Medieval Chic décor, can continue their time-travelling experience at Carnozet, one of the 3 restaurants at Mademoiselle, which serves a new twist on typical medieval dishes from the region.

They can delight their taste buds with warm and gourmet cuisine, including ‘tailli’ for breakfast, or ‘matouille’, ‘farcement’ and ‘pela’.

Children, transformed into knights and princes, can embark upon an adventure through the forest of Brocéliande, a fairy-tale fresco created by painter Laurent Tardy, in search of Merlin the wizard and discover the joys of typically medieval board games under the watch of Miss Kindness, the Mary Poppins-esque mischievous housekeeper.

The Mademoiselle story begins on 19th December !

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