Fanélie Gaffinel

Following the success of our first conference in January 2013 on the changes in luxury hotel renovations under the involvement of Studio Putman, Jean-Philippe Nuel, and Max Flageollet, I had the pleasure of working with Journal des Palaces to organize a second conference on hotel renovation at the Salon Maison et Objets.

I was able to discuss the concerns regarding budget, organization, and management that go into hotel renovation with our guests:

  • Nicolas Adnet, interior designer
  • Sybille de Marjorie, interior designer
  • Fanélie Gaffinel, Design Director at Accor Group

We pick up our conversation with Fanélie Gaffinel, Design Director at Accor Group. Last time, she described to us the guiding principles that define Sofitel, and today Fanélie shares more about the cultural heritage and personal philosophies that inform her own architectural vision.

What first brought you to the luxury hotel industry? Can you describe to us your first hotel renovation project?

I am an interior designer by training, and my introduction to the hotel industry took place at the hands of SM Design, an agency that specializes in hotels. There I discovered an entire world with its own codes. After all, a hotel is a space of living that functions 24h/24, with its own unique structure that functions in service to its clients.

The hotel must therefore be able, at any given time, to offer its patrons a very personalized service, adapted to a wide variety of clienteles, and always remain in pursuit of the aesthetics of quality and excellence.

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My first project with Sofitel involved the renovation of a prestigious address: the Sofitel Legend the Grand Amsterdam with Sybille de Margerie.

For this historic hotel, already rich in display of decorative arts, we decided to work in an artistic collaboration with the students of the renowned Design Academy of Eindhoven. Each room is therefore adorned with decorative objects and a painting, specially created and inspired by the history of the building and the city of Amsterdam.

How does your expertise in the French art of welcoming come into play in your hotel projects? In what ways do the French art of welcoming influence architecture? How does it translate into that medium? And can you give us an example?

The hotel must be thought through by the architect and interior designer in terms of spatial organization, and it must reflect the evolution of lifestyles, which may alter the use of the places.

The art of living involves more than occupying a room at a hotel; it involves providing the client with the choice of modifying the living space. The bathroom space in a Sofitel occupies a preeminent space in the unit. The space expands itself according to the client’s wishes to become a “bliss room” that then opens on the space devoted to sleep with the majestic presentation of the bed. The client then sets the terms for this space of rest as a means of replenishing himself. The art of living constructs itself around these choices of detail, which are based on the five senses. To this we then installed amenities from Hermès or Lanvin, as well as linens from Delorme, to add a French touch to the space.

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Our selection for the art of living can be found in the online SO Boutique where the Sofitel universe is represented.

We also work regularly on exceptional pieces, conceived uniquely for hotels with local craftsmen who showcase the range of their expertise in a reinvented modernity. In Morocco, for instance, Yahya, who is passionate about the art of metalwork, crafted oversize lanterns for Sofitel Mogadar Essaouira with Didier Gomez. In Lyon, a fresco was designed under the behest of Patrick Norguet on the theme of silk. In Marseille, a statue depicting the founding of the city was sculpted by the Farfelus Farfadets and installed thanks to Studio MHNA. All these works convey elegance and mystique, and they constitute part of the discoveries in the experiences of the clients of our hotels.

What have been your most breathtaking projects?

We are truly lucky to have had such varied and numerous experiences. The Sofitel in Vienna under Jean Nouvel, for instance, offers a remarkably extraordinary experience for the city. We have recently finished renovating the Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe in partnership with Studio Putman, and we find that it perfectly captures the Parisian spirit. We are also looking forward to several other exciting projects in development for the future.

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Laurent Delporte, expert de l'hôtellerie de luxe
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Laurent Delporte, an editor and conference speaker, is a strategic expert in the sector of hotels. A visionary, he brings his unique look on hotels in service to the decision-makers in the industry, whether to enhance the development of new projects or strategic visions.

Laurent has visited and audited over 350 hotels across the world and also participates in mystery visits to provide quality control for the world’s finest hotels.

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