Today I’m turning my design eye towards a Centre de bien-être or ‘well-being centre’ close to my heart and my home!
When we first viewed our dream French house there was that inevitable question in our minds… what would the neighbours be like?
We didn’t have to wait long to find out when, on a steaming hot June day, in the final visit before signing the Compromis de Vente, I spent a few hours at the empty property with builders trying to convince myself it wasn’t as bad as it looked. It’s amazing what you can talk yourself in to, foolishly choosing to ignore the builders teeth sucking as part of the routine to prime me for an over zealous devis!!
Our intended property had been uninhabited, save for the bats, for over three years, and even then only as a very ‘basic’ holiday home. Dank and very dirty and with no running water, the 40 degree day had begun to get the better of us when our prospective neighbours popped their heads over the gate to introduce themselves and invite us round for a cool drink.
That was the beginning of a great friendship and sealed the decision to buy the house.
What we learned, on that sunny afternoon drinking homemade lemonade with ginger, and honey from their own beehives, was of their plans to build a well being centre in their derelict barn.
How perfect, an indoor pool, with hammam and massage, right on our doorstep!
Well, 18 months on and we’ve lived every step of the renovation project but, as hard as I tried, I could not visualize the style of the finished centre. In December I was finally put out of my misery when I was invited to experience the finished product at Le Miel et L’Eau prior to opening.
The result of Sylvie and Patrice’s hard work is absolutely stunning. The central pool and relaxation area make the most of the huge window over-looking the beautiful Valley de La masse and, whilst maintaining a clean and minimalistic aesthetic, the design is perfectly balanced with a living wall of rich green foliage and an asian carved doorframe leading you through to the hammam and sauna.
I reflected on what, from a design perspective, made Le Miel at L’Eau so perfect.
- Whilst they had never designed or run a well being centre before, Sylvie had a very clear picture in her mind of exactly what she was trying to achieve having been born and raised in Switzerland where hammams featured heavily as an essential to ones well-being. With this in mind, not just the aesthetic was considered but the complete user experience, ultimate pleasure and relaxation, and the practicalities of how the centre would run.
- They worked smart with an amazingly detailed budget whilst ensuring their expert architect and all their contractors knew exactly what they were aiming to achieve in terms of materials, style and excellence.
- They considered what was most important to them, in their case the environmental impact of their project and how to minimize and incorporate as many natural materials end eco-friendly practices as possible.
- They designed around one of their biggest natural assets, the amazing view, and respected the bare bones of the old barn they were re-building. This means you still see natural stone walls and oak beams but with the beautiful contrast of modern fixtures and fittings.
I conclude that this is not so very different from a house renovation and can offer it as advice to anyone contemplating taking on such a project.
So, ultimately, Le Miel et L’eau manages to blend in to its’ environment and provides an idyllic retreat from the stresses of everyday life. It also manages to reflect the serenity, hospitality and charm of it’s owners and, with gite accommodation opening in the Spring this year, I’m sure they are on to a winner. After all, fresh air, beautiful scenery, the best organic produce from Sylvie and Patrice’s own gardens, charming hosts and a wonderful spa experience…what’s not to like?
For more on Le Miel et L’Eau, including contact details and prices, visit their website, www.lemieletleau.fr