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Nine years ago, the owners of what would soon open as the NoMad in Manhattan brought in the French-American graphic design studio Be-poles to help shape its brand identity. But when the Be-poles team visited the nearly finished hotel, they were distinctly underwhelmed. The rooms lacked soul; the walls appeared to be an afterthought. The studio’s founder Antoine Ricardou said he wouldn’t accept the job unless Be-poles could accessorize the rooms. “I told them we could bring story,” says Ricardou. “We could bring a strong narrative. They said, ‘Yeah, go.’ ”
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Thus was born the Be-poles treatment, a final polish on the design and the creation of a hotel’s je ne sais quoi through carefully chosen works and objects. It has been applied to all subsequent NoMads, the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach, and several ultra-hip boutique properties in France, such as Le Pigalle in Paris and Hôtel Les Roches Rouges on the Riviera.
For each project, the studio speaks not of design concepts or color palettes, but of “scripts.” Guests are seen as protagonists. (For the upcoming NoMad London, for example, it imagined a globe-trotting contemporary art collector.) They see themselves as the directors of a film experienced by guests—and as fragmented stills on Instagram.
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For the walls, Be-poles selects works with local resonance. Just as key is the framing and placement of the images, arranged to make a room feel lived-in. Be-poles brings the same level of customization to every product someone might interact with: from stationery and Do Not Disturb signs to bar coasters and bookmarks, all of which are designed to be keepsakes. No matter where a guest is looking, every single shot has to fit the script.
What Be-poles calls its “art program,” on display above at the NoMad Los Angeles, is often its first step toward imbuing a room with soul or, in the team’s words, narrative. They choose pieces that have a connection to the location, some created by artists they admire, and some done in-house. Ricardou, at center in the image at right, is never without a sketch pad; art director Reynald Philippe, left, is the studio’s resident photographer; and co-founder Clémentine Larroummet, right, is
The Small Touches
The team collaborated with chef Daniel Humm, formerly of the NoMad New York, on the brand refinement of his Michelin three-star restaurant Eleven Madison Park in 2017, and on his new restaurant, Davies & Brook, at Claridge’s in London. Be-poles has since partnered with another celebrated chef, Mauro Colagreco, of Mirazur, in Menton, France. The coasters at right were made for Florie’s, Colagreco’s first U.S. establishment, at the Four Seasons Resort Palm Beach, and illustrate his commitment to local ingredients.
For Be-poles, each object is a chance to emphasize a story line. At Le Barn, the hotel they conceived in the French countryside, it’s all about simplicity, hence the bare-bones matchbox at top. For the 40-room Le Pigalle, which opened in 2015 in Paris’s gentrifying red-light district, it’s a decidedly kinkier tale, which explains the below key chain. It was important for Be-poles to acknowledge the district’s historic character without lapsing into tawdry cliché, to reflect its chic new incarnation without becoming a bobo caricature. As Ricardou explains: “The best compliment we got is when we opened and someone said, ‘Funny, how long has this place been here? It looks like it’s been around forever.’”
A Simple Plan
Opened in 2018 deep in the Rambouillet forest outside Paris, Le Barn is the property on which Be-poles has had its greatest influence. The bucolic complex—a hotel and restaurant that cater to cycling and horseback-riding enthusiasts, among other nature lovers—was designed by Ricardou, an architect by training. The studio also developed the interior, architecture, and branding. The rooms are spare, homey, and functional—the design equivalent of a lungful of fresh air. It’s a far cry from the urban hotels on which Be-poles made its name, such as the NoMad Las Vegas, a Do Not Disturb sign for which appears above left, complete with flashy tassel.