Occupying a centuries-old townhouse nestled amid the winding alleys of Arles in the south of France, just a few minutes’ walk from the monumental Roman Amphitheatre, Le Cloître’s picturesque location and historic premises would be enough reason to stay there but what makes it a must-visit is its exuberant interiors. Extensively refurbished in 2012 by French architect and furniture designer India Mahdavi, the 19 bedroom boutique hotel is illuminated by Mahdavi’s bold colour palette which channels the vivid hues of Vincent van Gogh’s paintings. Splashes of azure blue, cadmium yellow and chrome orange are complemented by a playful collection of bespoke and vintage furniture, and exquisitely crafted decorative objects that invigorate the building’s austere architectural heritage with a painterly flair infusing the hotel with storied charm.
Mahdavi approached the historic building, which traces its origins to the 13th century, with both respect and playfulness. High ceilings, mosaic floors and exposed masonry sections denote the hotel’s historic setting, while the bold colours of the limewashed walls, upholstery, and curtain fabrics swathe the interiors with a sense of delight; and it is this combination of traditional craftsmanship and bold design gestures that encapsulates the passionate temperament of Arles and the rural beauty of Provence.
While the entrance is dominated by the blue colour of the walls, the adjacent dining and lounge area espouses a more subdued palette of whitewashed walls which is jazzed up by the flowing green curtains, rich yellow sofas and colourful geometry of Shoran Shahbazi’s large artworks - not to mention the freshly cut sunflowers that evoke Van Gogh’s pivotal sojourn in the city. The same dynamic is extended to the furniture selection which brings together Mahdavi’s custom-made designs of nostalgic sophistication with pieces of Scandinavian minimalism and vintage charm such as the 1970s Vintage Rattan Emmanuel Peacock Chairs. Embedded in one of the walls, Loris Cecchini’s ripple-like plaster sculpture subtly echoes the shape of the round tables and the decorative forms of the mosaic floor.
Le Cloître‘s rooms vary in size and styling but all share Mahdavi’s unique sense of taste combining high ceilings with exposed rafters with whimsical mosaic tiles, bespoke furniture such as Mahdavi’s Cap Martin chairs and sofa, Serge Mouille bedside clamp lights and well-crafted decorative objects.
During spring and summer, guests can enjoy their breakfast outside, sitting under the shade of a giant Paulownia tree that dominated the raised terrace at the front of the building, while in the afternoon they can take in the expansive views of the city while sipping an aperitif or a glass of wine on the hotel’s rooftop terrace. With lunch and dinner courtesy of Épicerie, the hotel’s gourmet restaurant, guests can be assured that Le Cloître’s tailored hospitality extends to food as much as ambience, comfort and design.