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Independent Minds: Leslie Kouhana & Kimberley Pariente, Maisons Pariente

With an ultra-chic collection of boutique boltholes in three of the most exclusive French destinations – Saint Tropez, Provence, and Méribel – stylish siblings Leslie Kouhana and Kimberley Pariente are not only following in their trendsetting parents’ footsteps, but have instilled each sister hotel within new family venture, Maisons Pariente, with their own personalities – and the family resemblance is uncanny…

Intimately involved with every detail in each design-centric property, from the 1950s-1960s Riviera glamour of Hôtel Lou Pinet, the contemporary Alpine minimalism of Le Coucou, to the Provençal simplicity of Hôtel Crillon le Brave, Leslie and Kimberley have decorated their hotels as though they would their own homes. Carefully curating every inch of their artistically inspired aesthetic, including pieces from the family’s art collection alongside the works of up-and-coming artisans, there is a distinctly recognisable yet individualised look and feel throughout each of the hotels, which have been designed to feel more like private houses.

There is no “copy and paste” approach here, which is too often the case with larger hotel groups – instead, by collaborating with trusted residential designers, and by keeping a younger generation of travellers front of mind, the result is an incredibly personalised and refreshingly forward thinking lifestyle, which extends beyond simply staying the night.

What does being ‘Independently Minded’ as hotel owners mean to you?

Unlike chain hotels, we are into personalisation and not standardisation. Our decision-making process is faster as we are a small team that works hand in hand. We can implement changes almost right away.

From the customer’s perspective, staying in a family owned hotel is a more caring experience because every aspect and detail of our hotels have been carefully imagined. We build our hotels as if they were our own holiday houses. Every detail is dear to us, from bedding to tableware, to music or olfactive signature and art. We entrust renowned residential designers rather than those with backgrounds in hospitality to guarantee a homely feeling in our houses and to give them strong personality. We always try to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes in order to anticipate their needs and go the extra mile with personalised attentions.

We are both passionate about art, travel and design and we believe that this is reflected in our hotels. We have been surrounded by art for as long as we can remember, as our parents have been collectors for decades. Therefore, art has a special place in our hotels which is why we always work with an art curator, Amélie du Chalard, for our projects – mixing young artists with our parents’ collection. We believe in being authentic and family-oriented, which is one of our mantras in creating a hotel, making sure we always stay true to the destination.

What was the inspiration behind the hotels, and where do you continue to find sources of inspiration?

For each hotel we seek inspiration elsewhere. Every project starts with a story first, then choosing a designer to imagine the hotel. From this point we put together a team of talents that each inspires us in their own ways. We draw inspiration from almost everything, from a new restaurant we try out to an exhibition or a travel memory.

For Hôtel Lou Pinet, our hotel in Saint Tropez, Charles Zana the decorator was inspired by the French Riviera of the 1950s and 1960s, and wanted to give the hotel a more authentic and convivial atmosphere far away from the bling of modern day Saint Tropez. The idea was to be in harmony with the natural decor, featuring the linen, ceramic, rope, terracotta and whitewash that inspired 20th-century artists, from Chagall to Cocteau.

For Le Coucou Méribel, we decided to work with Pierre Yovanovitch after seeing visuals of his work for chalets in Switzerland. Here he created a reinterpretation of the classic repertoire of the Alpine style with a contemporary look that is minimal, but warm and subtly original. Items of antique furniture sit alongside the architect’s drawings, who playfully leaves a few mischievous surprises here and there: coat hooks in the form of stylised owls, suspensions of frosted glass evoking melting ice…

How do you think your hotels stand apart from other boutique hotels?

Guests come to our hotels because they seek authenticity, a hideout, a home away from home, privacy and yet a design hotel where they can create exceptional moments with a high end luxury experience – yet not too formal where excellence and simplicity live in perfect harmony. We pay great attention to details and that is what makes us stand out the most from other small hotels, from choosing the art, the bedroom amenities, what spa brand we work with, the minibar selection, the type of music playing, the lighting ambiance, and the restaurant menu.

How would you describe your own perfect luxury experience?

A perfect luxury experience is when you combine perfect service with unexpected caring attentions in order to create rare experiences and powerful emotions. It is also about guaranteeing privacy. Our team is responsible for our image and our level of service, and display exceptional attention to detail, pre-empting desires and anticipating needs. Luxury is also a matter of comfort, and we do everything necessary to ensure the highest level of comfort in our houses – especially with the mattresses, and the different materials and fabrics used throughout. For us luxury evolves around the idea of anticipating needs, kindness, attention to details and comfort.

Do you have a vision for the future of the hotels?

We have noticed that in our niche five star luxury industry the typical customer tends to be younger than before. This new discerning clientele are interested in art, fashion, new food concepts, convivial moments; they want to experience a lifestyle rather just stay at a hotel. Common areas will have an even more important role to play in creating a friendly setting. People want to reconnect with themselves and each other, and hotels play a primordial role in helping them do so.

We see the hospitality of the future being ultra-personalised, where the customer is known and recognised, and their habits are well known by the hotel.

The future will hopefully and should most certainly be greener. Environmental issues are of great concern and both hotels and guests have a role to play. Hotels are now being built in an energy efficient way, the single use of plastic is being forbidden, recycling programs specific to the hotel industry are emerging all over the place, which is all promising to see.