In the first half of the last century, the Côte d’Azur, stretching from Monaco to Saint Tropez, was the stomping ground for the rich and famous, as well as the avant-garde artistic milieu. If you didn't have the funds, then you had to have talent. This was an era when painters bartered works of art to cover their accommodations at La Colombe d’Or, or for a seasonal stay at a millionaire’s villa.
At Coco Chanel’s La Pausa in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, the visitor book was filled with 20th century legends such as Igor Stravinsky, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí. A few hours drive along the coast at Villa Noailles in the hilltop town of Hyères, the surrealist set, including Luis Buñuel, Man Ray, and Jean Cocteau, could be found hanging poolside with the de Noailles, the aristocratic couple who owned the villa.
The combination of this artistic influx and the surrounding natural beauty influenced the architectural landscape of this coast. Villa Noailles is an immense Modernist villa designed by French architect Robert Mallet-Stevens. The Irish Modernist architect Eileen Gray also built her summerhouse, Villa E-1027, in the region, and next door to that, Le Corbusier erected his modest summer retreat, Le Cabanon.
Today, ritzy resorts and super yachts populate the coastline, ushering in a shift in the holidaymaker demographic. The artistic set has long since migrated to trendier shores. A new luxury address in the seaside town of Saint-Raphaël, however, has reinvigorated the area’s stylish appeal. Hôtel Les Roches Rouges, first built in the early 1960s, has been reborn, thanks to Charlotte de Tonnac and Hugo Sauzay of Festen Architecture, in the form of a chic seaside resort with a contemporary, yet Mid Century feel.
Drawing inspiration from the clean lines and Brutalist form of Villa E-1027, the duo has created such a welcoming atmosphere that guests feel relaxed enough to pad around barefoot. The foyer of the hotel feels more like the living room of a beach house, a sense of ease that extends to the restaurant and lounge areas on the ground floor. Furnished in fresh white with warming tones of sepia and butterscotch, this expansive downstairs space has generous couches to lie and loaf about on, and spills out onto an open deck. The rooms are well appointed, spacious, and whitewashed. They are accented by natural materials with subtle pops of primary colours – a wink to Le Corbusier, perhaps. Barely visible from the road, the building is immersed in the surrounding landscape. The blue stretch of the Mediterranean is visible from nearly every window.