A red and orange building behind a swimming pool with deckchairs around it

The iconic colourful terraces overlooking the pool at the Byblos Hotel

Antoine Chevanne is the owner of the legendary Byblos Hotel in St Tropez. Opening in 1967, the hotel is known for its exceptional service, hosting many of the greatest celebrities in the world and for having the most exclusive location in the area. Here Chevanne speaks to Candice Tucker about how the hotel has kept its status and its future plans to keep it’s  iconic reputation as the ‘it place’ to stay in St Tropez
A man wearing a blue suit with his arms folded

Antoine Chevanne

LUX: Has there been a consistent theme running throughout the ownership of the Byblos?
Antoine Chevanne: We continue to honour the same values and high standards that were originally instilled by my great grandfather, Sylvain Floirat. The impeccable service is our main consistent theme that has been running through our hotel for the past four generations alongside an incredible sense of loyalty and sincerity. Those values are shared by the staff, some of whom have been at the hotel for over thirty years now. From the beginning, we have wanted to preserve a comforting “family” element so that our guests feel at home, whilst still in tune with what is expected from a “Palace” hotel. With an unrivalled sense of hospitality and an unequalled attention to detail, Hotel Byblos highlights the very best in terms of French “art de vivre”.

LUX: How have the type of guests, staying at the Byblos, changed over the decades?
AC: We pride ourselves in offering a sense of warmth in our service which guests appreciate, and ultimately this is a big reason why we have such a high number of returning guests every year. Over the years, we have seen generations of guests coming back for our ultra-personalised service, with guests who came when they were younger, bringing their children and now their grandchildren. Same goes with our employees. Our guests love seeing them again every year. This is part of the “homely” and “family” feel I mentioned before. That’s partly what makes this hotel so special. And just like our guests, the hotel continuously evolves whilst still finding ways to cater to all generations.

An entrance to a hotel with a mosaic above the door and leaves on the walls

The entrance to the Byblos Hotel

LUX: How have guest demands changed since the hotel was founded by your great grandfather/
AC: My family has owned the Byblos since the beginning (1967), so we are uniquely placed to see how guests demands have changed over the years. Our guests’ lifestyle has changed exponentially in the last 50 years, with people wanting more flexibility when they come on holiday. This has been reflected in our services – such as longer opening times for breakfast so that guests still retain some freedom and don’t have strict timings imposed on them. We also have a large variety of food offerings (such as French gastronomy, Italian cuisine, tapas or even by the beach with Byblos Beach) so that guests have a wider selection to choose from. Having choices is a true luxury. When guests come to a Palace like the Byblos, they do not want to be constraint – in fact our hotel adapts to their lifestyle.

LUX: What makes the Byblos, the standout hotel in St Tropez?
AC: One of the key aspects that makes Hotel Byblos stand out is its unique heritage. Over the years, the hotel has remained far-removed from the flashy, ostentatious luxury of the grand hotels of the Riviera and continues to offer an oasis in St-Tropez for guests to escape to and relax under the ever-watchful eye of our attentive staff. It is a village within a village which offers high levels of gastronomy in an intimate and relaxed atmosphere while still keeping that sense of luxury intact. Our employees demonstrate daily their exceptional professional know-how, dedication and high-quality service to each and every guest while creating an atmosphere of pure contentment.

Another of our key standout aspects is the location of the hotel, right in the centre of St Tropez and just a stone’s throw away from La Place des Lices and the port.

A blue and white bedroom with views of the hills in St Tropez

The Two bedroom Suite at the Byblos overlooking the hills of St Tropez

LUX: What has been your fondest memory of the hotel?
AC: There have been so many good memories that it is difficult to choose just one. The one that comes to the top of my mind is probably the extreme satisfaction of having been one of the first hotel’s on the Côte d’Azur to have received five stars in 2010 followed by the “Palace” recognition in 2012. It’s a huge reward to the whole team who have worked so hard over the years to make the hotel what it is today. This achievement is even more rewarding when you remember that we are independent hoteliers and we do not belong to any big international group. To put it simply, we are a French family who – with a great team – managed to build the Byblos’ status over the years.

On a more personal note, I cherish a lot of memories based on some of the unique encounters I have had over the years: from Lionel Richie to Bruce Willis, as well as Naomi Campbell and Quincy Jones. We’ve also had incredible concerts by the pool such as Joe Cocker, Roger Hodson from Supertramp and Niles Rogers.

red chairs and white table clothed tables on a terrace next to colourful buildings

Restaurant Arcadia

LUX: What has been the most surprising aspect of running the hotel?
AC: The most surprising aspect of running a hotel is discovering the true nature of mankind: this encompasses both good and bad surprises though. You learn a lot about yourself at the same time. You have to learn to stay in your lane, to not be judgemental no matter what happens and find a solution. When you’re in charge of a hotel as unique as the Byblos, nothing can prepare you to live such an experience. Why? Because our clientele is different. They have seen everything, experienced everything, and they want more novelty. This means that we are constantly reinventing ourselves whilst still remaining true to our DNA. This is why I often tell people that if they have worked at least two years at the Byblos, they can easily work anywhere in the world.

A view of boats in the sea and a sunset

St Tropez

LUX: Why has St Tropez retained its special reputation as one of the leading summer destinations?
AC: There’s so much to discover in Provence, especially in St Tropez. We are surrounded by beautiful landscapes, views, forests, lakes and coasts. St Tropez also has a great connection with art, culture and traditions qualities that are equally reflected in the hotel. It has retained over the years an authentic character thanks to its origins as a fishing village while keeping a charming aesthetic thanks to the old, winding streets and daily Provencal markets. Many artists during the 19th and 20th century came to St-Tropez to find inspiration and contributed to the growth and popularity of the destination. The well-known summer parties are also one of the many reasons St-Tropez has a reputation as a leading summer destination. However St Tropez managed to combine this with exceptional service and a large variety of diverse dining concepts which sets it apart from other summer destinations like Mykonos or Ibiza.

St-Tropez merges the old with the new, authenticity with glamour, and offers something for every generation.

colourful Missoni print bedroom

The Missoni Suite

LUX: Where is your favourite secret place to visit in the Côte d’Azur?
AC: I don’t wish to reveal too much about my favourite place as it wouldn’t be a secret anymore!  There is however a little cove along the Côte d’Azur, close to St Tropez which is beautiful when the sun rises…

LUX: What do you think will be the next big trend in the hospitality industry?
AC: The next trend is something I’ve been working on for years which can now be revealed. We live in a world that is constantly connected, where we are travelling and performing at a high level. Having time for oneself has become a luxury. Being able to reconnect with oneself and with others is what will guide our industry in the future. We have just started on this journey with the new version of the Sisley Spa.

A wooden Arab style spa room

The Lebanese room in the new Sisley spa

LUX: How does the Byblos meet the increasing demand for environmental responsibility?
AC: Hotel Byblos, alongside all Groupe Floirat properties, is part of an eco-friendly movement that respects the surrounding environment of each hotel. We are wholly committed to a programme of sustainable development and over the last year have implemented a sustainable development charter. The charter is founded upon five key commitments with the goal to reduce all three hotel’s environmental impact in various means. These commitments comprise of: waste and used product management, integrated water resources management, optimum energy consumption, socially oriented initiatives and the enhancement of local economy.

With our Executive Chef Nicola Canuti, we also worked on increasing our sustainable offering in our kitchen and through our food. Chef Canuti is passionate about Mediterranean food and aims to offer our guests local and highly qualitative products that he cares about. To hold to his promise, the hotel features a 300sqm vegetable garden that offers the best of Mediterranean fruits, vegetables and aromatic herbs. We also produce our own honey, served at breakfast from our very own beehives.

A beach with sun beds and umbrellas

Byblos Beach

Our environmental responsibility is also to protect the natural beauty of St Tropez and its region. With our beach, Byblos Beach Ramatuelle, we worked on ensuring as little impact as possible was made on the coastline in an effort to preserve our environment. The Byblos Beach Ramatuelle has a strict “no plastic” policy and the entire structure can be dismantled at will, being made of 100% wood, meaning the beach can regenerate during the winter months.. Water and electricity consumption is eco-oriented.

LUX: If you could give one piece of advice to a prospective hotelier what would it be?
AC: To know your guests, what they want and anticipate their needs. This is ‘key’ in producing and offering the best product!

LUX: Why do you think your regular clients return again and again?
AC: We believe that luxury means being able to provide our guests with a level of convenience and attention to detail that enables them to find the time they need for themselves. Through our service and staff, we offer exclusive guest experiences that reflect the spirit of Groupe Floirat and its legacy.

Find out more: byblos.com

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Reading time: 9 min
A man painting a blue mural on a ceiling

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar painting the mural, The Journey

Iranian-French artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar has launched his latest body of work, The Journey, created in collaboration with philanthropist, entrepreneur and art patron, Ali Jassim. Here, Behnam-Bakhtiar talks us through the inspiration behind the project

The Journey (2022) is a series of ongoing works which are going to be exhibited in renowned galleries in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, London, Monaco, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Paris and Hong Kong, backed by the charitable Jassim Bakhtiar Foundation. The foundation is a platform for funding in which proceeds go to orphans in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and towards building homes and schools for children in need.

A crown painted in yellow and pink

Light Crown, oil and crushed stone from Persepolis

A painted purple crown on a blue background

Detail from The Journey

A painted multicoloured crown

Appearing Crown, oil and crushed stone from Persepolis

The Journey was born of the trauma and emotional experiences endured through my life, and more importantly from watching what the Iranian people go through everyday. I will never forget the countless lives of children, our youth and the Iranian people wasted.

It is our moral obligation to do our part regardless of what everyone else is doing.

two men in white outfits

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar and Ali Jassim

Bringing in an art patron and philanthropist into the atelier to create works together isn’t a common practice, but everything I have been doing through my artistic career hasn’t been common as well. I am an artist who always goes against the norms.

I felt that I met my brother [Ali Jassim] in a past life. We spoke for hours daily discussing art, life and how we could bring about a meaningful impact in the world via art and culture. Next, all it took was for both of us to get our hands dirty with paint, pick up tools in my atelier for a week and The Journey was born.

multicoloured skulls on a blue background

Detail from The Journey

painted coloured skulls on a blue background

Never Forgotten, oil and crushed stone from Persepolis

“Sassan is a highly passionate person when it comes to his roots and people. Coming from the Bakhtiar family, Sassan holds a vast and solid understanding of the challenges the Iranian people have gone through…For him to have lived in Iran seeing how people suffered in various ways fuelled his passion and drive even more. It is only natural for this kind of powerful energy to finally come out and be seen through various means including art.” – Ali Jassim

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Reading time: 6 min
luxurious outdoor swimming pool
luxurious outdoor swimming pool

The Club Dauphin pool at the Grand-Hotel

In the first of our four part luxury travel views column from our Autumn 2021 issue, LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai experiences a taste of old world glamour at Four Seasons Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat

Cicadas trilling down a long avenue lined with high walls, behind which some of the world’s most expensive real estate lurks. Glimpses of the Mediterranean through the hedges. A security-guarded gateway, a short driveway and doormen opening doors on either side at the entrance to a Belle Époque mansion.

Arrival at the Four Seasons Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat could barely be more grand. You are in an unchanged south of France of 1920s flapper legend. Not here the camper vans, beach-going day-trippers and crowds of normal people that besmirch even the swankiest Monaco boulevard. Cap Ferrat is a place where the rich can be rich, and the Grand is the sea-facing jewel at its tip. High ceilings, light marble, big windows: first impressions are of a Parisian palace hotel transplanted and reworked to suit the setting, rather than anything like a resort. But wait, that comes later.

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Our room was light, a bedroom connecting through sliding doors to a living area with a taupe sofa, white and light grey colourways everywhere. Open the window (there was no balcony) and lavender and thyme and the sound of the cicadas pour in in one sensual flow.

luxurious hotel facade

The gardens and Le Cap. Image by Darius Sanai

Down through the palatial lobby, out of the door at the top of the staircase at the back of the building (or is at the front?), and down towards the gardens, it’s as if you are descending through layers of formality into total chillout.

Read more: Art Basel Miami Beach is Back and it’s Buzzing

The terrace of Le Cap restaurant is on the first layer of terrace, shaded by mature trees. Next layer down is a casual dining terrace and the bar where a rather good jazz band played under the canopy of the trees every evening. Carry on walking across the big lawn of the hotel and you can take various paths into a labyrinth of flower beds and trees – quite an indulgence in the place with the highest residential real estate price in the world. The gardens are on a gentle slope down towards the sea, and at night the combination of starlight, the bouquet from the plants and the sound of the jazz is intoxicating, even without a champagne cocktail.

luxurious entrance hall

The entrance hall

Directly across a little road from outside the back gate at the bottom of the garden is the entrance to Club Dauphin, the hotel’s beach club (local people can also join as members). You can take a funicular down the steep hillside that descends towards the sea, or walk down along the flower-lined path. You’re then presented with the club restaurant and swimming pool, at the very tip of the Cap. It seems that there is sea for 270 degrees around you, and what isn’t sea is either swimming pool, or a terrace where very expensive people are nibbling tiny amounts of vibrant food and being served out of magnums of Provençal rosé wine.

Here, the palace hotel you are staying in feels a long way away, and you have reached the pinnacle of informal chic as epitomised by somewhere like St Bart’s – or indeed, the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat.

Lunch at Club Dauphin and dinner at Le Cap seems to be standard practice at the Grand – preceded in our case by an aperitif next to the jazz band, our bench seat offering a gorgeous view across the lawns and trees to the sea. The food is a kind of ultra-superior Provençal: razor clams and cockles with seaweed and fennel bavaroise; grilled asparagus in thyme jelly; and a particular favourite, grilled red mullet with olive tapenade, tomato hearts and basil, fish and tomato reduction. The only thing that was missing was David Niven chatting to Audrey Hepburn at the next table.

Book your stay: fourseasons.com/capferrat

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue. 

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Reading time: 3 min
photoshoot

grand castle hall

Maria-Theresia Mathisen, Jill Mulleady and Cornelia Mensdorff-Pouilly (clockwise from top left) in the grand hall

Each summer at her family’s fairy-tale castle above the Côte d’Azur, curator Maria-Theresia Mathisen hosts young artists’ residencies. Local celebrity Simon de Pury travelled up to photograph ‘MT’ and her latest charge, Jill Mulleady. MT gives us a tour

Castel Caramel is our private residence-turned-cultural platform in the south of France. My mother Cornelia Mensdorff-Pouilly used to be the manager of the late Austrian artist Ernst Fuchs and they bought the house in 1988 for his countryside atelier. It was secluded but near enough to buzzing Monte-Carlo where he had his residence and a smaller atelier by the port.

I was only five years old back then and grew up in what was not only an artist’s studio but also a meeting place for many other artists and collectors. I loved witnessing the creation of art and the exchange of minds, so when Fuchs passed away in 2015, I decided to continue this tradition.

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After renovation and expansion, we formally established the Castel Caramel Artist Residency in 2018. Canadian painter Chloe Wise was the first official artist-in-residence and while there she invited her muses and collaborators to visit, making for a colourful and inspiring atmosphere. The house had fully come back to its creative life.

Since then, artists Korakrit Arunanondchai, Ben Wolf Noam and Jill Mulleady have been in residence. Others came to visit, including Martha Kirszenbaum, Jon Rafman, Precious Okoyomon, Bonaventure (Soraya Lutangu) and Alex Gvojic.

It is important for us to give back to, involve and connect with the arts community on the Côte d’Azur. Therefore, during each residency, we host artist and curator talks and screenings as well as intimate dinners. We welcome both local and international collectors, curators and all other art aficionados.

The 2021 Castel Caramel artists in residence are Gerard & Kelly and Sedrick Chisom. For more information visit: castelcaramel.org

artist with their painting

Jill Mulleady and her painting Gardens of the Blind

“This painting was dubbed, jokingly, ‘the Masterpiece’ by the artist and her gallerist. Seen in person, this impressive work really is a masterpiece. The mysterious figure in the midst of an apocalyptic landscape reappears in another painting Mulleady made at Castel Caramel. In this second work, the figure has aged. Jill often plays with shifting temporalities and connecting stories in her work.”

villa in the mountains

Castel Caramel, 2020

“The grand hall (see top image) is the main space of Castel Caramel. Sometimes it is in complete chaos, at others it becomes very elegant as it turns from artist’s studio into a ballroom. With 7m-high ceilings and a 140sqm space – built in the 1950s, it used to be a restaurant – there are barely any limits as to how big an artwork can be produced here. It was also the main reason why Ernst Fuchs bought the house. He was able to work here on a monumental scale, with light through the many windows all around and large doors onto the terrace. It is the perfect studio space!”

photoshoot

Maria-Theresia Mathisen, Jill Mulleady and Simon de Pury (from left) on the terrace

“Simon had driven all the way from the Swiss Alps by himself in order to meet us for the shoot in the afternoon. I always admire how much energy he has! Although it was almost 6pm, it was still very hot. The bronze sculpture of a guardian angel is by Ernst Fuchs.”

little girl in a hallway

Maria-Theresia Mathisen at Castel Caramel in 1988

“This is me with my Barbie dolls in the grand hall surrounded by paintings by Ernst Fuchs soon after he and my mother had bought Castel Caramel in the late 1980s.”

women by a swimming pool

Jill Mulleady, her daughter Olympia and Maria-Theresia Mathisen (from left) by the pool

“Our artists-in-residence usually invite collaborators or muses to visit them during their residency at Castel Caramel. Jill brought along her daughter, which was a first. The little girl ended up doing some painting as well.”

dinner party

Patrons’ dinner for Jill Mulleady

“Towards the end of each residency, we host artist/curator talks and dinners in honour of our artists. This was the second dinner we held for Jill Mulleady last year, which followed a conversation between the artist and curator Martha Kirszenbaum. To be on the safe side, we made sure to keep enough space between guests and we also had two extra tables set up on the terrace for those more concerned about Covid-19.”

art installation

Installation by Korakrit Arunanondchai

“It was a wonderful coincidence that our Thai artist resident Korakrit Arunanondchai developed his exhibition for the Vienna Secession at Castel Caramel, which used to be the atelier of a Viennese artist. Ernst, my mother and I are all from Vienna.”

artist painting

Ernst Fuchs at work

“Fuchs chose to buy Castel Caramel mainly for its ceiling height and good lighting conditions. He was able to work on his monumental paintings, some as high as five metres. He always worked on several paintings at the same time, with some taking many years to be finished.”

This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue, on sale now.

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Reading time: 6 min
dining table
dining table

Woolsery Cottage, a private residence with interiors by Hannah Lohan

Since launching in 2015, Hannah Lohan Interiors has developed a reputation for designing uniquely decorative spaces. The studio’s portfolio includes numerous residential properties, boutique hotels, restaurants and spas with two ambitious hotel-village projects currently in development. Here, we speak to the studio’s founder Hannah Lohan about creating immersive environments, the return of maximalism and collecting vintage furniture

1.Where does your design process typically begin?

Hannah Lohan

It starts with the client – we spend as much time as we can getting to know them and developing a deep understanding of how they want their space to feel to their guests. We get them to list their key adjectives – do they want to create somewhere calming, nurturing and tranquil, perhaps? Or would a buzzy, vibrant and eccentric environment be more appropriate? It sounds basic, but the act of narrowing down to just five words can really focus the design process, as well as being a useful reference to prevent the project veering into another direction.

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The next step is to consider the architecture and locality of the building. We try to draw on the surroundings as much as possible, including local artisans and makers in the design wherever we can. Personal touches and stories from the owners are also so important. The Dunstane Houses in Edinburgh, for example, was a lovely project for us as the owners were keen for us to include references from Orkney, where they grew up. We looked into Orcadian culture and history and came up with a design story for their whisky bar, the Ba’ Bar, based on the Kirkwall Ba’ – the traditional street football game that has been played in Orkney for centuries. We celebrated this with a picture wall full of historical photographs of the games, and even an old Ba’ ball that sits proudly on the shelves. The heritage and history of the building and its owners can play a huge part in shaping the character of the space.

interiors hotel bar

bedroom interior

A bedroom at The Dunstane Houses hotel in Edinburgh, and above,Ba’ Bar, the hotel’s whisky bar

2. How do you utilise theatrical and storytelling techniques?

I think my passion for theatre in design comes from years of running a creative events company, designing immersive environments that transport people to other places. We love designing boutique, independent hotels, because they allow us to incorporate that sort of theatrical detail and employ unique elements that create truly memorable spaces. Good interior design isn’t just beautiful, it tells stories and sends you on imaginative journey as you experience it. That can be achieved by including elements of the unexpected and the playful – from treehouses and luxury safari tents hidden in the grounds, to pop-up bars in old horse boxes or disarmingly offbeat boot rooms.

restaurant interiors

Hook restaurant at The Fish hotel in the Cotswolds

3. Is it more important to have a recognisable aesthetic or to be adaptable?

As designers, it’s our job to be adaptable and to tell our clients’ stories by guiding them through the creative process but I recognise that, as our studio has grown, we’ve become known for a more layered, decorative aesthetic. We wouldn’t be a good fit now for someone wanting a truly minimalist look. I don’t want us to be pigeonholed, and we never, ever take a cookie-cutter approach to our projects, but I am proud of all the work my team and I have put in over the years to research and build a fabulous library of materials, finishes and interesting furniture suppliers and makers, so it would be foolish not to see this as one of our biggest strengths.

pub interiors

The Farmer’s Arms, a Grade II listed pub in Devon, with newly renovated interiors by Hannah Lohan

What makes a design rich and interesting is layer and detail. We have to love what we do and be fully invested in order to create something truly magical. The hardest thing is to get clients to trust you – this is why we work best with creative owners who are willing to push themselves out of their comfort zones and understand that designing a hotel is very different to designing a home.

4. What do you think have been some of the most interesting evolutions in design in recent years?

Hotel design has evolved very quickly in a short space of time. My brother and his wife, James and Tamara, are the founders of boutique travel company Mr & Mrs Smith. When they started 17 years ago, they struggled to find enough hotels with strong enough interior design to fill their first book. Today, it’s completely different; you can really pick a hotel that appeals to your personal taste or go for somewhere that offers something completely different. This has pushed designers and hoteliers to be braver and bolder and makes for a really exciting era in design.

One trend that has been really interesting to be part of is the demand for quirky, outdoorsy places to stay, from cabins and shepherds’ huts to treehouses, like the ones we designed in the grounds of the Fish Hotel in the Cotswold. From the gorgeous Bert’s boxes at The Pig hotels to the luxurious treehouses at Chewton Glen, they’ve proved that you can connect guests to nature without compromising on style or comfort. And as we discover more and more about how important the countryside is for our mental wellbeing, this trend is going to continue to thrive.

luxury treehouse

treehouse bedroom

The treeperches at The Fish hotel in the Cotswolds designed by Hannah Lohan interiors

Provenance is another key trend – guests are engaging with food much more deeply and taking an interest in ingredients and where they come from. This has led to a boom in hotels opening cookery schools (there’s a lovely one at Thyme), and in hotel restaurants opening up their kitchens – first by adding windows, then kitchen theatres, then chef’s tables, and now it’s gone even further, with glass cabinets of butchered meat and wine cellar tours. This has a direct impact on interior design – what was once storage is now display.

The return of maximalism is another trend I find fascinating. Minimalism is such a niche style and shabby chic has evolved in to a more finished and polished look. Amazing designers such as Martin Brudzinski, Kit Kemp, Abigail Ahern and the Soho House design team have shown that maximalism and chintz is all about layering to give a more modern, curated and very glamorous interior. We’re even seeing the trend towards coloured bath suites again – at our project in Devon, we’re bringing back the avocado tub, thanks to the stunning Water Monopoly supplier who we love!

5. Your concepts often combine vintage and modern pieces – is there a design era that you’re particularly drawn to?

I’ve always been attracted to vintage furniture and I love nothing more than finding an old tired chair and giving it a new look with modern fabric and a good French polish. It’s so satisfying to see something old look current again; it just takes a little imagination – maybe contrast piping or a different pattern on the back. We sell a lot of revamped 1950s and 1930s chairs like this through our shop at the Old Cinema in Chiswick. I’m certainly not an antiques expert like lots of my fellow dealers there and I don’t have a preferred era. I buy on instinct, so you’ll find anything from old industrial factory tables to Victorian dressers to French vintage tableware. It’s a constantly evolving collection of lovely finds from our travels and contacts we’ve built up over the years of designing hotels. We love using these pieces in our projects; they add character and it’s a much more sustainable approach.

Hannah Lohan Interiors shop at The Old Cinema in Chiswick, London

6. Does good design last forever?

What is considered ‘good design’ is constantly evolving – but that doesn’t mean you have to do a total refurb every five years. It’s amazing what can be achieved with some simple styling and up-cycling certain pieces of furniture. My favourite design studio, Roman and Williams, headed by Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, are such an inspiration to me. They started off their career as set designers for movies and then went on to design amazing hotel interiors, such as the Ace Hotel and the Standard in New York. Their designs are all story-led, as though they were following a film script, which makes them brave in their approach. They don’t follow trends or rules – they love to surprise and disrupt traditional ideas by doing things like painting a Georgian cabinet red, or mixing eras to create a really eclectic, unexpected design. This, to me is good design – having the vision and confidence to adapt what’s there, rather than replace it as trends change.

Find out more: hannahlohaninteriors.com

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Reading time: 7 min
Two men standing on promenade
Two men standing on promenade

Jean-François Dieterich (left) with Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar at the Villa Cuccia-Noya.

The south of France, home to Matisse, Cézanne and Van Gogh, has one of the greatest artistic legacies in the world. Now the mayor of one of its most exclusive communities wants to create a cultural heritage for the next generation, as Lanie Goodman discovers

“I am made of all that I have seen,” French artist Henri Matisse once famously stated. The grand master of colour certainly got an eyeful during his lifetime of world travels. But when Matisse first arrived on the Côte d’Azur in 1917, he was so taken with the sunlit vistas of luxuriant gardens, graceful palms and the shimmering blue sea that he decided to settle in the south of France for the rest of his life. The artist’s love of plants extended to a philosophical perspective on all living things. “We ought to view ourselves with the same curiosity and openness with which we study a tree, the sky or a thought, because we too are linked to the entire universe,” Matisse muses in his writings.

For over a century, European crowned heads, artists and writers have flocked to the south of France to create their own private Eden, and predictably, the 2.48 sq km commune of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat – a lush secluded peninsula of seaside splendour midway between Nice and Monaco – has a rich history of outstanding artistic effervescence.

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These days, the town’s mayor, Jean-François Dieterich, is aiming to revive the cultural excitement with a contemporary art exhibition – with about 15 works in total – of French-Iranian artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar to inaugurate the beautifully restored Villa Namouna, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat’s brand new cultural space. This initiative is part of an ongoing programme to revive the once celebrated artistic enclave in the commune by showcasing living artists of international renown. “I find that the approach of Behnam-Bakhtiar – who has found serenity, joie de vivre and sources of inspiration through the outstanding natural landscapes of this peninsula – has a certain continuity with the artists of the 50s,” Dieterich says. “But he also has his own contemporary abstract technique and a rich palette of colours.”

abstract painting

My Tree of Life (2019–20) by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar.

For the 36-year-old artist, Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar, who now lives and works in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, the timeless Mediterranean landscape has had a profound effect on his point of view and his palette, much like Matisse. “My art has definitely changed since I moved here in 2010,” he says. “Although the technique I used, peinture raclée, was similar to now, a lot of the works were dark.”

Above all, explains Behnam-Bakhtiar, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat has been a grounding force. “This place gave me a new life and something that helped me to become a more complete, balanced human being. It has helped me cope with everything that has happened to me. I shifted my whole focus on things that are truly valuable, such as the dormant energy that exists inside us and our connection to nature.”

Read more: Discovering Deutsche Bank’s legendary art collection

We are at Behnam-Bakhtiar’s studio, situated on an upper floor of a white villa on the Cap. The room is ablaze with colour, a mesmerising assembly of large abstract canvases, stacked one behind the other and propped against the wall; in the centre of the room is the artist’s working space, a table littered with tubes of paint and a scraper. From the window, you gaze out at a palm tree, a verdant garden and patches of sea.

The show, entitled ‘Rebirth’, will debut with a one-day private viewing of 35 new paintings held at Villa Cuccia-Noya, a sumptuous waterfront estate owned by distinguished businessman, philanthropist and art collector Basil Sellers. “What an enormous energy rises from his works,” Sellers enthuses, referring to Behnam-Bakhtiar’s latest canvases. “I was astounded.”

Abstract painting in blue and yellow

Blue Soul Groove (2019) by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

Energy is indeed the very term Behnam-Bakhtiar uses to describe the palpable vibrancy of landscapes that he tries to capture in his paintings. Under the umbrella of the rebirth theme, the artist will also unveil two public installations – one on the Cap and the other in the village. It will be a first for the community in terms of public artwork – one of the works will be a lightweight but huge wrought-iron sculpture in which three suspended figures of a man, woman and child look as if they have sprung from the earth. As Behnam-Bakhtiar explains, the idea of the work is to convey “harmonious living with nature”, something which he feels should be transmitted to future generations.

The Paris-born artist, whose previous exhibitions include ‘Oneness Wholeness’ at London’s Saatchi Gallery in 2018 and at a Christie’s Middle Eastern, Modern and Contemporary Art exhibition in London in 2019, spent his formative years in Tehran during the Iran-Iraq war. Articulate, calm and soft-spoken, Behnam-Bakhtiar briefly alludes to his imprisonment and torture but would rather speak about transformation. “My last exhibition, at the Setareh Gallery in Düsseldorf, Germany, was called ‘Extremis’ and it focused on all the hardcore experiences that happened in my past. For Saint-Jean, I wanted to do something that is the other side of the coin, to represent positivity and light.”

As you stand in front of his recent series of paintings, ‘Trees of Paradise’, the blended bright colours slowly conjure discernible shapes that “are part of the Cap Ferrat scenery”, Behnam-Bakhtiar says, urging me to touch the canvas. Despite the complex texture that meets the eye, the surface is surprisingly smooth. For inspiration, he adds, he often walks through a wooded section of the Cap, not far from the curvaceous Villa Brasilia, designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer.

Two men standing in front of villa

Dieterich and Behnam-Bakhtiar at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat’s town hall

“One painting may take me anywhere from five months to a year to finish,” he says, flashing a smile. “It takes a lot of time and patience.” Essentially, he explains, his process consists of painting, scraping, drying – hundreds of times – until he’s happy with the work. “When you know it’s right, you leave it. It just suddenly clicks for me.”

Whether mere coincidence or simply the glamorous allure of this privileged finger of land, a remarkable convergence of writers, artists, filmmakers and actors lived, worked and entertained on Cap Ferrat during the late 1940s and 1950s and the ‘dolce vita’ of the 1960s. Winston Churchill painted on the jetty undisturbed; Picasso sunbathed at the pool of Le Club Dauphin at the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat. British writer W Somerset Maugham, in search of the simple life purchased a Moorish-style villa, La Mauresque, planted superb gardens and hosted everyone from artist Marc Chagall (who had a neighbouring home on the Cap Ferrat) to Noel Coward, George Cukor and Harpo Marx. Another illustrious resident was British actor David Niven, who lived in the villa La Fleur du Cap on the coastal Promenade Maurice Rouvier and often lent his home to his friend, Charlie Chaplin.

Read more: In the studio with radical artist Mickalene Thomas

“There were numerous films shot in Saint-Jean,” says mayor Dieterich. “There were also legendary actors and directors who spent time here, such as Gene Kelly, Gregory Peck, Rex Harrison, and Otto Preminger.” However, Cap Ferrat’s glorious artistic heyday revolved around the presence of two major figures: the Greek-born editor and publisher Efstratios Eleftheriades – known as Tériade – and poet, playwright, filmmaker and artist, Jean Cocteau.

In the postwar years, when the Côte d’Azur was a sun-drenched haven for artists, Matisse was a regular visitor to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat where his friend and collaborator Tériade lived in the turquoise-shuttered Villa Natacha, overlooking the harbour. The influential editor of Verve, who had commissioned every major artist of his time to design covers for his magazine, brought together the likes of Bonnard, Balthus, Miró and Derain. As a mark of friendship, the frail 83-year-old Matisse designed a stained-glass window – a Chinese fish surrounded by begonias – for Tériade’s dining room and also painted the villa’s walls with black enamel plane trees.

During that same period, Cocteau lived in a white-washed seaside house, the Villa Santo Sospir, owned by patroness of the arts, Francine Weisweiller, who had fallen in love with the rugged beauty of the then deserted Cap Ferrat in 1948 and turned it into her dream home. Weisweiller met Cocteau in 1950 when she financed Les Enfants Terribles, the film he had written, and invited him to the villa for a few days. He ended up staying 11 years and decided to ‘tattoo’ the white walls with whimsical mythological frescos. The privately owned villa is currently under restoration to preserve Cocteau’s Greek gods and local fisherman, plus the bohemian jumble of Madeleine Castaing-designed exotic wood furniture and curtains as well as vintage bric-a-brac.

Ocean promenade and villa

The Villa Cuccia-Noya

Behnam-Bakhtiar, who was contacted by the owners of Santo Sospir just prior to the villa’s temporary closure in 2017, was enchanted. “They wanted me to do a show. The energy there was unreal and I went there every day, for about four weeks, trying to take it all in.” His exhibition, ‘Oneness, Wholeness with Jean Cocteau’, consisted of 36 sculptures scattered about the villa and garden, as well as an audio installation with a dialogue between Cocteau and himself.

Does Behnam-Bakhtiar feel in sync with the spirit of his artistic predecessors? The artist pauses, gazing at one of his ongoing ‘Trees of Paradise’ canvases. “You know, I was looking online and stumbled across a video of Cocteau sitting at the same table of Santo Sospir. He’s addressing the people of the year 2000 and saying the same things I’ve been talking about now – about how we are losing our humanity and behaving like robots. It’s a real honour to continue in his footsteps and work with the mayor to help revive what used to be here.”

Nostalgia aside, call it a reawakening of a state of mind when it comes to beauty. Or, as Matisse aptly summed it up: “There are always flowers for those who want to see them.” And Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar would be inclined to agree.

Benham-Bakhtiar’s exhibition ‘Rebirth’ will open with a private view at Villa Cuccia-Noya on 10 September 2020; the show will run at Villa Namouna from 11 September – 11 October 2020.

For more information visit: sassanbehnambakhtiar.com

This story was originally published in the Summer 2020 Issue, out now.

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Artist at work in his studio
Artist in the process of painting onto a large canvas

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar at work in his studio

Franco-Iranian artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar, despite a childhood spent escaping war, then living in post- revolutionary Iran and enduring the subsequent prejudice, produces the most brilliantly coloured and life-affirming paintings. James Parry speaks with him ahead of his new exhibition in Düsseldorf

It’s an idyllic scene. Azure skies and an enticing ultramarine sea reaching out to the horizon and dotted with yachts, the perfect backdrop for a picture-postcard harbour town with cobbled streets lined with stylish shops and restaurants. Bougainvillea froths over historic façades and cicadas chirp in the beautifully manicured gardens of opulent villas. Welcome to the south of France, and to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. The artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar has made his home here, following in the footsteps of artists such as Cézanne, Matisse, Chagall, Renoir and Picasso, all drawn to the French Riviera by the dramatic light, colours and stunning scenery.

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As bucolic as this may sound, in Behnam- Bakhtiar’s case, the Côte d’Azur provides welcome and creative sanctuary from a life that has not been without its challenges. Born in France in 1984 to Iranian parents who left their homeland after the Islamic Revolution, he would only visit Iran for a few weeks each summer to see family. But even such relatively brief trips could be fraught. For much of the 1980s Iran was engaged in a bitter war with Iraq, and Tehran was periodically targeted by Iraqi missiles. “It was terrifying,” remembers Behnam-Bakhtiar. “We could hear the rockets roaring overhead, and then the explosions.” On one occasion, he and his mother had to make a desperate dash to the city of Bandar Abbas to catch the last flight out of the country to safety in Europe.

Large scale abstract painting hanging on a studio wall

‘Lovers’ (2018) by Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar

Further turmoil and trauma were to follow when, at the age of nine, Behnam-Bakhtiar moved to Iran permanently with his mother,to a world far removed from the childhood comforts of suburban Paris. He was a foreigner in a land deeply suspicious of the West. “At school they used to call me ‘the outsider’ and it wasn’t long before the verbal insults turned into actual physical violence,” he recalls.

The bullying came not only from his fellow pupils but also from the teachers, and continued outside of school, with intimidation and harassment from the police an almost daily occurrence. Behnam-Bakhtiar was singled out for being different, and because of his family’s history and role in the government prior to the Islamic revolution. Only by standing his ground and fighting his corner (literally, helped by taekwondo classes), did the unwelcome newcomer manage to get through each day. “At times it was pure darkness and not easy to focus on the potential light at the end of the tunnel,” he admits.

Read more: Karl-Friedrich Scheufele on Chopard’s partnership with Mille Miglia

But light there was, and Behnam-Bakhtiar will be focusing on the empowering aspects of such life experiences in his forthcoming exhibition ‘Extremis’, which opens at Setareh Gallery in Düsseldorf on 24 October. An evolution of his ‘Oneness Wholeness’ body of work, which wowed crowds last year at the Saatchi Gallery in London and at Jean Cocteau’s dramatically decorated Villa Santo Sospir on Cap Ferrat, the show will consist mostly of new works. “My new paintings reflect on what I learned from my difficult times in Iran and from life in general,” explains the artist. “By putting it out on the canvas, I’m saying that even in the toughest of situations, it’s always possible to learn and move forward towards becoming a more complete human being.”

Close up detail image of abstract colourful painting

Detail of Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar’s painting ‘Eternal Wholeness’

Behnam-Bakhtiar’s work, which is both beautiful and technically proficient, has been achieved against an unusual and sometimes difficult background. His parents were both artists, but post-revolution Iran presented its challenges for opportunities to express or develop any artistic potential. What saved him was his camera. “Photography was my creative safety valve,” he explains. “I was always out and about, taking pictures of whatever caught my eye. That in itself was problematic during those years in Iran, but I learnt how to be discreet.”

Soon he had amassed a vast bank of images, part of an archive of source material that he now uses in his work. “I’ve been collecting ideas for years,” he admits, “especially patterns and designs that appeal to me.” These inspire him in the choosing of his own motifs, mostly Persian-oriented, which he uses in his collage- style paintings. To refer to them as ‘mixed media on canvas’ comes nowhere close to doing them justice, as they are complex and painstakingly crafted works of immense skill, using the artist’s trademark layered technique (see end of article). Behnam-Bakhtiar specialises in large works, expansive and yet also highly detailed, studded with jewel-like effects that resonate with the richness of a Persian heritage that he regards as central to what he does and who he is.

Close up image of an abstract painting

Detail of ‘Lovers’ (2018)

This approach – and the battle between light and dark in human life – will be brought into sharp relief in the new show. The exhibition centrepiece will be an epic work, Tornado of Life (2017), a vivid and exuberant painting around which many other works will be gathered. More guarded and sombre in hue, with just flickers of brighter colours emerging, these paintings serve to emphasise the triumph of light – and indeed of personal enlightenment – that Behnam- Bakhtiar seeks to achieve. Even in the darkest days in Iran, he explains, he drew positives from the friendships that he eventually made there.

Read more: Masseto unveils a new underground wine cellar

“Sassan stands out as a globally educated artist of Iranian background who is bringing works of great relevance to the canon of world art history,” says Samandar Setareh, owner of Setareh Gallery. “By using historic references, as well as a deeply personal and sensitive vision of the human condition, he is formulating a language that is understood beyond any frontier of cultural limitation.” ‘Extremis’ reflects the global appeal of this ethos and art, as well as Behnam-Bakhtiar’s commitment to identifying and developing positive outcomes from seemingly bleak situations. The myriad layers of his textured paintings reflect the very complexity and passage of life itself, a synthesis of practical skill and ingenuity that results in a very special type of art.

Artist at work in his studio

The artist in his studio

Layers of technique

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar’s stunning artworks are created by a particular technique that has become his trademark. In much the same way as his life experience is layered and complex, his artworks are similarly intricate. Working in mixed media and oil on canvas, he builds up his paintings through the application of different layers of paint. These can include fragments of handcrafted designs that he attaches to the canvas, collage-style. He overpaints each layer, in some cases working to a grid-like pattern to create a mosaic effect. Finally, he uses a plasterer’s edging trowel to remove sections of the top layers of paint and reveal the colours underneath, resulting in the kaleidoscopic effect for which his works are renowned.

Find out more: sassanbehnambakhtiar.com or setareh-gallery.com

This article was originally published in the Summer 19 Issue.

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Two colourful sculptures of men standing in a lush green garden
artistically decorated living room with large mural over fire place and two colourful sculptures standing either side

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar’s sculptures stand alongside Jean Cocteau’s murals in Villa Santo Sospir

Last week saw the private view and opening of French-Iranian artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar’s latest exhibition. LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai was entranced.

The mesmerising Villa Santo Sospir on Cap Ferrat in the south of France, once home to Jean Cocteau, played host to Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar’s private view of his Oneness Wholeness with Jean Cocteau exhibition; LUX was privileged to be invited.

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Two colourful sculptures of men standing in a lush green garden

The villa itself is something of an anomaly on Cap Ferrat, perhaps the swankiest real estate spot in Europe. Walk down the steep drive from the little road (just around the corner from the Four Seasons Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat) and you are transported into the 1950s. No bulletproof glass or architect-designed pavilions here: just a low-rise villa, its gardens festooned with bougainvillea and bamboo, and, inside, walls decorated with intricate murals by Cocteau himself.

Party on the edge of the sea as the sun is setting people gather around colourful sculptures

Those attending included Lily ColeRichard BiedulNathalie EmmanuelKiera Chaplin and Jo Wood.

A line up of guests at art opening along with Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar and and Maria Behnam-Bakhtiar

From right to left: Natalie Rushdie, Maria Behnam-Bakhtiar, Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar, Melissa Tarling, Richard Biedul and Nathalie Emmanuel

Kate Slesinger with artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar and LUX editor Darius Sanai

Kate Slesinger, Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar and Darius Sanai

Model and TV personality Jo Wood poses with her son at art opening

Tyrone Wood and Jo Wood

Guests were scattered through the cosy living room, onto the terrace, down the stairs on another garden terrace, and on a final, lowest level near the sea, but the stars of the show were Behnam-Bakhtiar’s sculptures (which also adorn one of the special covers of this issue of LUX magazine) and a soundtrack which featured Cocteau himself, present among us.

Artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar in conversation with British actress Nathalie Emmanuel in an artistically decorated living room

Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar with Nathalie Emmanuel

A crowd of people and sculptures on the cliff edge as the sun sets over the ocean in the distance

Silhouettes of guests merge with Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar’s sculptures as the sun sets

As a storm cleared and the sun set over Cap d’Antibes and the Massif de l’Esterel in the distance, the melancholy and joy of Behnam-Bakhtiar’s creations added an extra note to the end of summer in an area that has inspired artists for generations. Who knows, perhaps its the start of a new life for the Cote d’Azur as an artistic hub, generations after the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Van GoghCézanne and Dufy were mesmerised by the light, shapes and people here.

Oneness Wholeness with Jean Cocteau runs until 30 September at Villa Santo Sospir

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Aerial shot of luxury swimming pool surrounded by wooden decking and cabanas
Exterior shot of Monte-Carlo bay hotel with pink mansion house, luxury swimming pool and azure ocean

The grand exterior of Monte-Carlo Bay hotel

Why should I go now?

Speak to Monaco residents and they may tell you that August isn’t the ideal time to visit their fairytale territory: there are too many tourists, apparently. And yet we at LUX have quite a few Monaco-based friends who are staying put in the principality this month, and the overwhelming reason is the Monte Carlo Bay hotel.

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To understand its unique appeal, you need to be a little familiar with the rest of the hotel offerings on the Cote d’Azur. Monte Carlo itself has the Hermitage and the Metropole, beautiful, formal palaces with limited outdoor areas that somehow make them better suited to a romantic autumn break than a summer holiday. Down the coast, there are other palace hotels, some of them with big outdoor pools; but there is nothing like the Monte Carlo Bay.

luxury swimming pool with arched bridge at one end, surrounded by lush greenery

The hotel offers a plethora of activities and boasts a large swimming pool complex (pictured here and below)

Aerial shot of luxury swimming pool surrounded by wooden decking and cabanas

Arrive at the grand main entrance (you will likely be in a short queue of special edition Ferraris, convertible Rolls Royces, and souped-up Lamborghinis) walk through the high-ceilinged foyer and onto the terrace and you could be in a resort hotel in Asia; below you other terraces gleam invitingly, but the main attractions are, cleverly, screened out of sight.

What’s the lowdown?

luxury dining room interiors with green chairs, round tables, arched ceilings and potted plants

L’Orange Verte

The Monte Carlo Bay is a rare hotel that, if anything, is too modest about itself. This is a full-on resort, built on a semicircle of land on Monaco’s seafront, extending out into the Mediterranean, with a complex of swimming pools, some of them sand-bottomed, extending under a maze of bridges and terraces towards the sea. Cafes and bars and speciality ice cream stalls pop up everywhere you turn, and the activity doesn’t stop at the seafront: you can swim in a specially cordoned-off area of the sea, 50 metres long, overseen by lifeguards and protected from jellyfish by a net. We tried parasailing and waterskiing, the former an absolutely spectacular way to experience the mountainous coastline surrounding the principality. And this being Monaco, the expertise of the instruction was unparalleled: our parasailing captain had been the French national champion.

Read more: Geoffrey Kent on finding new places in a well-travelled world

In the unlikely instance of the weather taking a turn for the worse, there is also a huge indoor pool and hydrotherapy area, itself connected to yet another outdoor pool. The design of the hotel means that all these extensive pool and terrace areas are invisible either from the street, or even from the hotel’s own restaurant terrace.

Line of luxury sunbeds along the ocean front

Guests can sunbathe right on the ocean’s edge

The Bay has its own Michelin-starred restaurant, Blue Bay, but we enjoyed our dinners from the expertly curated and created international menu (broken down by region) out on the terrace at L’Orange Verte, with its view over to the sea. The chicken satay and crudités plate was a perfectly summery compliment to a glass of Provencal rosé.

Getting horizontal

The Monte Carlo Bay is a four star hotel, rather than a five star, although you wouldn’t believe it from the facilities or the breakfast buffet, which offers everything from miso soup to a proper salad selection, a plethora of hot food, and two rows of every kind of fresh bread for toasting. The rooms reflect the fact that it’s a comfortable, but not a luxury, offering: stone floors without carpets, functional bathrooms of a decent size with excellent products, all without the extra fripperies of a luxury hotel, which felt unnecessary in the circumstances. Our room had a big balcony with a view over legendary nightclub Jimmy’z, just across the way, and to the sea and the palace of Monaco, on the famous rock across the bay.

Flipside

It’s worth paying the difference to get a sea view room; the view on the other side (of buildings) is less up-lifting.

Rates: From €182.70 ( approx. $200/ £150)

To book your stay visit: montecarlobay.com

Darius Sanai
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Close up image of swimming pool with white sun umbrellas reflected in the water and the ocean in the distance
large grand mansion building nestled into lush green trees

Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat by Four Seasons sits perched high on the cliff edge with stunning views of the Mediterranean

Club Dauphin at Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat by Four Seasons feels more like a private island than one of the most famous poolsides in the Cote d’Azur, says LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai

It’s high summer, and you are almost certain to be suffering from one of two types of holiday envy right now. Either you’re sitting in your office swiping through Instagram posts from people in exotic locations, wondering why you’re not there; or, worse, you’re on holiday in an exotic location, swiping through the same Instagram posts – and you’re still envious. Because, just as there’s always going to be someone richer or more successful than you (unless you’re Bill Gates or Nelson Mandela), there’s always a better place to be than where you’re at.

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Luxury swimming pool area with large swimming pool surrounded by white umbrellas and sunbeds

Club Dauphin’s infinity pool surrounded by sun loungers facing out towards the ocean

Unless you’re sitting poolside at Club Dauphin at the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, sipping a glass of rosé (poured by the cute bartender from a magnum, as is the current fashion), with a little tartlet by your side – a tartlet of the pâtissier kind (before you get any ideas – we’re not that type of magazine) created by the pastry chef as a special summer délice.

Close up image of swimming pool with white sun umbrellas reflected in the water and the ocean in the distance

The Club Dauphin is the swimming pool area at the Grand-Hôtel, itself a dramatic creation at the very tip of the most exclusive spot on the Cote d’Azur, surrounded by the Mediterranean on three sides and avenues of stone pines shrouding hundred million euro Belle Epoque villas on the other. To get to the Club from the hotel, you wander along the lawn and down through a tropical garden sloping down a cliffside, which reveals a deep blue pool lined by sun loungers on two sides, rocks crashing into the sea on another, and a poolside restaurant/terrace. It is entirely private, more like being on a private island than in the heart of the Cote d’Azur, one of the world’s busiest and most beautiful holiday destinations, in high summer.

Read more: Co-founder & CEO of Spring Francesco Costa on creative co-working

dining table in front of infinity pool with white sun umbrellas and the ocean in the distance

Open-air dining by the poolside

And that’s the beauty of the Grand-Hôtel. It’s rather like being on a yacht, except without the seasickness and the feeling of being hemmed in with other guests and their kids. You are surrounded by sea, but when you stand on the sea-side edge of the pool and look back, you see the dramatic backdrop of the Alpes Maritimes and the Corniche leading to Monaco, just 10 minutes drive away. You can visit Michelin-starred restaurants, drop by the Casino, wander the ancient streets of Eze or Saint-Paul de Vence, and then disappear back into the Club Dauphin for silence and another glass of rosé, please.

It’s so good, you’ll forget all about Instagram.

For more information on Club Dauphin and Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat by Four Seasons visit: fourseasons.com/capferrat

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large abstract painting in pink and blue colours with artist Sassan Behnam Bakhtiar on right handside
large abstract painting in pink and blue colours with Persian artist Sassan Behnam Bakhtiar on right handside

French-Iranian artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar with his work ‘Guardians of Life’ 2017, at his solo exhibition ‘Oneness Wholeness’

This week saw the London opening of Oneness Wholeness, a much-awaited solo show by the young French-Iranian artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar, at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea.

Amid the glitzy crowd at the private view, which seemed equally split between young and old, Persians, Brits, and citizens of the world, LUX took the time to view the works themselves – not always easy in a packed gallery.

large abstract painting with floating horses on the left hand side

‘In The Company of Purity and Freedom’, Sassan Benham-Bakhtiar at the Saatchi Gallery

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glamorous guests attend gallery opening

‘Oneness Wholeness’ VIP Preview at the Saatchi Gallery

Prior to the opening the international art media made much of the show challenging Western views of Iran. For LUX, it did much more than that, blending ancient Persian mystic influences, the romanticism of some of the country’s literary giants of the 10th to 14th centuries, and a view of eternity and our place as microcosms in a multi-universed existence. The fleeting images – silhouettes of heads or horses – in his mixed media creations and an overwhelming sense of stillness and light (influenced no doubt by Behnam-Bakhtiar’s current home in the south of France) only hint at the complexity of Persian history and the empire’s reach – and much more besides.

Persian artist Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar poses in front of his painting with his wife and Nina Moaddel at gallery opening

Maria & Sassan Behnam-Bakhtiar & Nina Moaddel at the ‘Oneness Wholeness’ VIP Preview

Guests attend opening of new exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery, London

A night of celebration: Katy Wickremesinghe, Juliette Loughran, Founder of the Loughran Gallery and LUX Editor-in-Chief Darius Sanai

Read more: URWERK Founder Felix Baumgartner on modern watchmaking

The artist may be Iranian – in fact, he was born in Paris before moving to Tehran for most of his early life – but his art, like his fan base apparent at the Saatchi, is much more than that, and we imagine we will be hearing a lot more about him.

Oneness Wholeness’ by Sassan Behnam Bakhtiar and curated by Nina Moaddel runs until 5 June 2018 at the Saatchi Gallery, Chelsea.  For more information visit saatchigallery.com/art/sassanbehnam-bakhtiar

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