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Hotels We Covet – CastelbracFriday 18 December 2015
Not many of us have ever found a place with an irrefutable imprint of serenity. CovetED Magazine recently succeeded and became bewildered by the quiet atmosphere of paradise in the North of France. This area not only offers remarkable historical site-seeing in its towns and villages, but also an exceptional place to spend a lovely weekend nearby. This terrific destination is home to some of the finest prehistoric landmarks in the world and its proximity to the sea is conducive to tranquil reflection and meditation. The extraordinary beauty of this French coastline consists of many beaches, fishing villages, and islands.
In the heart of such a glorious history-rich location Hotel Castelbrac is set on a beautiful cliff top amongst the wild, dramatic coastline which characterizes Brittany, France’s northwesternmost region. Let us take you on a tour of this unique hotel inspired by the sea and the different eras which compose its extensive history.
The architectural backdrop is absolutely astonishing. It is said that when British Colonel Robert William Hamilton set eyes on it in 1872 he exclaimed, “What a bric-a-brac!” due to the architectural layout of the villa, a composition of several mismatched buildings. However, the charm of this private mansion seduced the Crimean war hero and he bought it to be his own residence. Soon the transformations began with the aim of giving it the appearance of a British castle with an elevation, battlements, and stables overlooking the street. The English were avid naturalists and the Colonel installed large glasshouses in the garden that he called his “Green houses”.
The colonel’s wife, Charlotte-Marie Hamilton, who is said to have been a very fashionable lady, immediately took charge of the interior. Her inspiration was the English movement “Arts and Crafts”, the equivalent of Art Nouveau in France, while giving a feminine twist to the somewhat masculine architecture of the mansion. When designer Sandra Benhamou, in collaboration with interior designer Léonie Alma Mason, took on the project of transforming this hotel’s interior in 2012, they had the same challenge.
“I wanted to create a warm atmosphere, a female lightness. Maybe this architecture has something masculine and I have brought femininity, gentleness”. The challenge was to keep the place authentic while “projecting it into modernity,” says Sandra Benhamou, who refused to “fall into the trap of nostalgia”. She decided to keep the old character of certain elements (wooden ceilings, a fireplace, beautiful stairs), to redo others identically (woodwork, parquet floors), while bringing to everything a touch of “quiet sophistication and assumed eclecticism”.
The inspiration was an art deco style mingled with the sea. Consequently, throughout the hotel we see art deco projected in elements such as ironwork, the central staircase, and smaller details such as door handles, switches, faucets, headboards and frames.
Léonie Alma Mason, talented former student of Camondo, was able to provide a very open vision as a result of her many voyages and interest in contemporary art, set design, and photography. With a passion for “atypical detail”, Castelbrac allowed Léonie to find historical decorative elements within, such as caisson ceilings above the reception desk and woodwork arches above the entrance stairs. The spirit of the hotel’s reception is bemarked by “kindness, expertise and serenity”.
There are plenty of reasons why Castelbrac doesn’t look like a hotel, but rather a villa of the era, revisited in history, that we may dive into with delight.
The reception is set on the original entrance of Castelbrac, which was discovered by chance during construction.
After descending a flight of stairs we arrive at reception and immediately find a large room with original wooden ceilings opening to the sea through wide bay windows, where Sandra Benhamou’s aim was a “warm and cozy” atmosphere in bottle-green woodwork, plaid fabrics, and hounds tooth armchairs.
Access to the reading lounge on the lower floor is by a stairway lined with a custom designed black metal railing. The vast room extends to a large terrace overlooking the sea and is the cozy heart of Castelbrac. This is an ideal place for reading, watching the sea, meditating, and where you can fully enjoy a place that will recharge the soul. A library in dark wood, armchairs in antique pink and saffron velvet, ottomans and benches covered with tortoiseshell motif fabric from Le Manach, and curtains with palm patterns help create “an atmosphere conducive to serenity, relaxation, and conversation”.
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Further a cozy restaurant with carefully chosen furniture is situated on the terrace, overhanging the sea and the Clare de Lune promenade. Close to that attractive spot, the “Aquarium bar” was built within the former aquarium museum. The bar, lit by gold leaf suspension lamps, is glittery granite, dressed with wave patterns in metallic silver tones. The first peculiar object of its interior design is the KOI cocktail table from the Portuguese furniture brand BRABBU. Highly appreciated for its decorative purposes, the table possesses a recurring symbol of Japanese culture. These Koi scales on the sides of the tables shine and reflect, in the brass surface, the sun glistening across the clear water – a perfectly subtle marine reference for the bar’s aquarium inspiration.
At Castelbrac everyone can appreciate the “beauty of nature”, as if opening a treasure chest. It‘s only natural that the signature of hotel Castelbrac has become “soul heaven”. CovetED Magazine strongly recommends everyone visit this wonderland one day whether to walk around its premises or be an honorable guest.