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Fontevraud Abbey in France: The Ultimate Haunted Hotel

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Oct 23, 2014 01:13 AM
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by Margot Guralnick last modified Oct 22, 2014

Let others head for haunted houses. This Halloween we'd like to check in to the new Fontevraud hotel in the Loire Valley's Fontevraud Abbey, burial place of Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine. One of the Loire Valley's great landmarks, the 12th-century relic has played many roles over the years, from monastery to prison. It's now a cultural center and one of its priories is the setting for the ascetically luxurious lodging, restaurant included.  The years-long conversion is the work of Canadian-born architect Sanit Manku and French designer Patrick Jouin of Jouin Manku . Their greatest challenge? They weren't permitted to touch the ceilings and walls of the UNESCO World Heritage site—"everything is built from chalky, white limestone, and when I say everything I mean everything," says Manku. Take a look at how they employed what they call "microarchitecture" and their own minimalist furniture to create a setting that gracefully celebrates past and present, simplicity and grandeur. Wool monk robes available for those who want the full-immersion experience. Photographs by Nicolas Mathéus .   Above: Fontevraud L'Hôtel is located in the abbey's Saint-Lazare priory. The lobby, with its minimalist oak-paneled desk amid original stonework, sets the hushed and hallowed tone that permeates throughout. The glass-and-metal front door borrows its geometric pattern from stained glass. "We quietly slipped into the Saint-Lazare priory, immersing ourselves in its history," write the designers. "We tried to capture its essence, from its monastic simplicity to its prison austerity. Then we had to fine-tune our approach to give life to a contemporary vision that would respect and preserve the spirit of the building. We don't want the visitor to forget where they are."   Above: A place for contemplation—and perhaps a cognac. The designers used alter-like freestanding black screens to create intimate spaces within the vast chapel, a meeting place intended as a combination bar and "digital mediatheque." They warmed the chilly space with furniture built from old beams, some of which have touchscreen tabletops and built-in tablets. There's also radiant heat flooring—and for further warmth, those monk robes hang nearby on wall hooks. Above: The simple benches and stools reference traditional ecclesiastical design. The standing screens are made of oak covered with a stretch-knit fabric by Innofa. Above: The 54 rooms are simple yet sybaritic. Located in three parts of the priory, each has its own shape defined by the existing architecture: Some are tall-ceilinged duplexes, others sloping attic rooms, and this one has its own arched window wall and entrance to the garden. Above: All of the furniture and accessories, down to the wastebaskets, were custom made for the project. Padded walls with built-in angled headrests help soundproof the rooms.  Above: Discreet bedside lighting and detailing, including notebook holder—worth copying at home. Above: Art, lighting, and coat hooks hang from steel rails that pay homage to what Manku terms "monk tech": "The monks didn't have a big budget, but they were incredibly crafty," he told the New York Times . "They wouldn't have six light sources in the same room. They'd have one and a little mirror that reflected the light. And the mirror would also be something you could hang your coat on. We said we need to do the same thing." Above: Modern-day torches, the steel hanging lights are designed to be easily portable. Above: Guest rooms have shuttered windows and sinks with incorporated towel rails. Above: Like all great abbeys, Fontevraud comes complete with winding stairs, which the designers illuminate with a contemporary light tree. Above: Fontevraud Le Restaurant is furnished much like the hotel—"inviting one to consider life's essentials," Manku says. Above: Herb-enhanced water in a beaker. Above: Padded seating and monumental lighting lend the dining room comfort and drama (and good acoustics). Above: A modern monastic dining experience—with 130 LED candles running down its center. When it was an abbey, Manku explained to the New York Times, "you'd go in as an individual and become part of the community. We're trying to do subtle things to get people to understand a little bit of what it was like to live here." Extra folding chairs hang from church-style stalls (which also hide heating and lighting elements and Wi-Fi terminals) along the perimeter of the banquet hall. Above: Throughout, the designers adhered to a palette of pale, natural colors, which extends to the soft blue, glazed stoneware made by ceramicist Charles Hair , whose workshop is near the abbey. The bread plates double as covers for the bowls.  Above: Italian-made beechwood and leather seating designed by Patrick Jouin in the cloister.   Above: There are plenty of tranquil places to get down to work at Fontevraud. Above: Manicured gardens and an apple orchard surround Fontevraud, which was founded in 1101 by iconoclastic preacher Robert d'Abrissel, who welcomed men and women to his monastic community—36 abbesses went on to run the abbey. In the 19th century, Napoleon had Fontevraud converted to a prison, inadvertently saving it from destruction. Above: The hotel's courtyard surrounds an 18th-century physic garden devoted to the cultivation of medicinal plants. Fontevraud Abbey is located in the heart of the Loire Valley, between Touraine and Anjou. For more details and reservations, go to Fontevraud L'Hôtel  and Fontevraud Le Restaurant , and for visitor information, see Fontevraud . Looking for a getaway? See our Hotel & Lodging recommendations around the world, and for something closer to home, consider New York's Gothic High Line Hotel , designed by Roman & Williams and located in a former seminary. More Stories from Remodelista The Lovely Bones: A Stripped-Down Bistro in Paris The Remodelista Market Comes to London An Under-the-Radar Shop in Nolita






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