Ben Lambers of Studio Aandacht hung out at (and took photos of) this place–part hotel, part nature park, part creative retreat–which he has visited a couple times since it opened last spring. In the midst of planning the foray of Honor & Folly into the country, I’m particularly inspired by this medieval settlement on the edge of a national park an hour and a half outside Paris. Situated on seven acres of forest with two springs and a creek, D’une île consists of a sprawling manor house and its medieval cottages repurposed as a getaway dedicated to the enjoyment of nature, art and food. The ambitious couple who opened it–after a grueling year of DIY rehabbing, roof-repairing, plastering, painting, landscaping, decorating, and creating furniture–bring no short supply of talent and guts (they had to bathe outside with cold water from the well). Michel Mulder, a composer, musician and professional chef handles the food at D’une île, and Sofie Sleumer is an interior designer. Together, and with lots of help from friends, they outfitted the rustic spaces with flea market finds, art, and furniture they restore themselves. They also cook for and dote on guests, as well as coordinate in-room art installations like the robot-like wood and wire mobiles by artist Just van der Loos.
Here, a short Q&A with Michel about starting and running such a thoughtful, creative hotel (that’s not at all a hotel) in the French countryside:
What made you decide to open D’une île?
Sofie and I wanted to leave Amsterdam after living there for 12 and 14 years, respectively. We marveled on the idea of creating a beautiful and well-functioning playground where all our occupations could flourish in one concept. We tried thinking of Barcelona, Quebec, Paris until we stumbled upon our little domaine. So we found the place, and then we had to think up what to do with it. A small hotel would be logical and the more we thought about it, the more appealing this idea became. But it had to be our hotel, and it had to stay our playground. So we thought, ‘ok, this is about the good life, so we need good, friendly people to share that with us.’
As an owner-innkeeper, how do you spend your time?
In contact with our guests and our local producers, building rooms and bathrooms, designing the rooms, restoring furniture, discovering new wines and even better products to cook with. We have up to 28 beds and more than 10,000 square feet of hotel space, a small restaurant and seven acres of land, there’s always work to do. But more importantly, there’s always room for new ideas!
What do you love most about D’une île?
I love the trees, all their different colors, how they change during the season, the view out of our bedroom window over the orchard, which is now packed with apples and pears. I love how the medieval buildings form a tiny little village with a small square in the middle and the big walnut tree towering over it. For us it’s a fulltime job. Apart from the hôtellerie we host weddings, exclusive dinner parties, styling assignments, and sell vintage design. D’une île is our place to live, to work, in every aspect. Sofie and I, we create things, and d’une île is our favorite.
[PHOTOS: All images by Ben Lambers via Trend Tablet]