Founders of 4BI & Associates, designers Bruno Moinard and Claire Betaille have a timeless approach to their projects, creating interiors that will stand the test of time but also always giving the world something new to discover.
And when the Dorchester Collection acquired the 130-year-old Hotel Eden in 2013, the designers were chosen out of so many to give the hotel a fresh perspective. Join us as we discover the story of a legend reborn, in conversation with Bruno Moinard and Claire Betaille.
Meet Bruno Moinard and Claire Betaille
GLH: Hello Bruno and pleasure to meet you Claire. We are absolutely honoured to have you answer a few of our questions. Our first one is fairly obvious, how did Hotel Eden happen?
Bruno Moinard: Well, all our projects start with a story. And this one starts with when we were chosen to work on the Hôtel Plaza Athénée. It didn’t just come to us; we had to work for it and win it. And this allowed us to make a debut on the hotel scene, and then one day we were approached to work on this hotel in Rome.
And we always said that Rome, as a city, has such a fascinating story, and we went there with this in mind. We didn’t have a lot of time to work on the proposal but we went to Rome and visited places. We realized that this hotel had a fantastic location but no soul, and nothing that anchors it in Rome.
And we decided we wanted to give it a true Roman spirit. So this became our proposal…how Rome can be brought into the hotel.
GLH: You mention Hôtel Plaza Athénée. How do you approach renovations of these scales? Do you have a method?
Bruno Moinard: Actually, no two jobs are ever the same and that’s what makes our work so captivating. With the Plaza, the job was difficult because we had to change everything without changing anything… And when you work on a project like that, things get very surgical.
With Hotel Eden, it was completely different. We made two trips to Rome and started putting our ideas on paper, like the lobby of the hotel was just white and the floors looked poor. And everything was so dilapidated when we got there.
But this is also what motivated us. What we told ourselves is that this isn’t the Plaza where we operated in a surgical manner. We knew we had to come here and get the codes. And the codes…you get them by wandering around for half an hour or a day in Rome, and you have so many pictures and images that form in your mind.
And so, the idea of a graphic floor in the entrance lobby was something that became very obvious to us. To do something that was black and white, that would catch the eye; to have marble details on the pilasters and walls…we didn’t want something too ostentatious or too shiny and sparkly, we simply needed to judge and dare to use the right proportions.
And then we knew that these marble tiles would be used to support other fixtures, or to reflect light. Then, of course, we needed a ceiling…we are in a palace. We are not in Venice, we are in Rome. We needed some gold-plated wooden coffers that we would light in a contemporary fashion with LEDs and other fixtures that were minimalist and modern, that would iridesce the light across the ceiling.
GLH: And having worked on the hotel, what do you think makes Hotel Eden so different from the other hotels in Rome?
Bruno Moinard: As luck would have it, I’d been to all the hotels in Rome, the ones around Villa Medici and Piazza di Spagna, and so it was easy for us to make this one a place with an authentic Roman spirit, with rooms that have a personality of their own, and a restaurant raised above Rome to have panoramic views. The hotel really frames views of the city, and to us, that’s a unique offering. Wherever you are, you see Rome outside the window, and the most beautiful angles of it.
GLH: What we noticed about Hotel Eden is that every space seems to tell a story, and every detail has been crafted, would you say that’s accurate?
Claire Betaille: Absolutely. Every detail has been carefully thought out. There is a story behind every detail, like the intricately carved marble reception is inspired by the altar of peace at the Ara Pacis museum, and the dramatic black & white floor is a modern take on the ancient Roman floor of the Pantheon.
To be honest, because we are such travelers and we are always going around the world that sometimes, we have very limited time in one place. So our angle here was… what if we only had 24 hours here? What if the guests only had 24 hours in Rome…? We wanted to give them a memory, both abstract and specific, of a strong Roman spirit, and a very concentrated memory that stays with them long after they are gone.
And you can only do this through little messages and details that come together and cumulate.
GLH: Art is another major theme at Hotel Eden. How did you choose the artists to collaborate with?
Bruno Moinard: We work with a lot of artists, in general, and for Hotel Eden, we looked for one who, local or not, was Italian and who had a peculiar style with his brush. And when we met Giovanni Bressana, we thought “That’s the man for the job!”, and it immediately worked out.
Then the rooms are also adorned with abstract watercolour paintings that we made ourselves. Because we spent so much time in Rome, we would sometimes get out and paint as a way to relax, and ultimately that became a part of the decor too, in a unique and personal way.