La Belle Epoque

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As we landed in Geneva, ready to make the one hour drive to the Du Parc Residences, we were grimly informed by the Captain to expect rain. This wasn’t actually delivered until the following day, but mattered little. For Lake Geneva; the deepest mint green, sunning itself in the light of the Alps, smiled upon by France from one side and Switzerland from the other; is magnificent in any weather.

Conjuring pathetic fallacy and muse to metaphors aplenty, it is no wonder then that this peaceful lake has drawn artists, poets and celebrities –  from Victor Hugo to Freddie Mercury and Charlie Chaplin – for hundreds of years.  It was also overlooking this tranquil Lake, viewed from the heights of the Hotel Du Parc in Mont-Pelerin, that in 1947 the Mont-Pelerin Society  – a group of philosophers, historians, intellectuals, business leaders, and others committed to personal and political freedom – met to discuss the world and its future.

This same Hotel, a symmetric Belle Epoque building dating from 1906, has been through a number of iterations since then and has even been victim to a fire which destroyed its roof. Today, it has been transformed  into a series of exclusive, luxurious and enviable serviced apartments – the Du Parc Residences.

This latest iteration is not, however, just a spit and polish job. Luxury lifestyle developers Swiss Development Group and architects Bronnimann & Gottreux and Group H, have taken great pains to bring this early 20th century beauty back to life, treating it with the love and respect that such a project deserves; and the appropriate funding.

Historic elements of the building, such as the exquisite sweeping staircases with intricate curved ironwork balustrades, have been painstakingly preserved and restored, or thoughtfully replicated. In the ground floor lobby, hundreds of handmade tiles have been lifted, cleaned and replaced, while the carved coving has been faithfully replicated requiring specialist artisans from Greece and Italy, with skills long since lost in Geneva, to be brought in to complete the job. The restoration also meets Switzerlandís onerous Minergie energy standards, an amazing feat for an historic building.

The lobby, complete with communal bar and lounge for residents, is nothing short of magnificent. Restored to its original pastel colour scheme and lit by enormous chandeliers, it looks remarkably contemporary – perhaps due to the recent revival of early twentieth century styling. One can very easily imagine Gatsby entertaining here, his guests – cocktail in hand – spilling out onto the lake view terrace.

Indeed, the entire building inspires images of a secluded and exclusive getaway for hip socialites, literary recluses or musical geniuses and, as I am shown around, my imagination runs wild with thoughts of future residents. Like an episode of Cribs or Through the Keyhole I start to wonder, “Who lives in a house like this?” The beauty of the place is that I will never know.  A secure and private retreat, the future owners of these properties could happily live alongside each other without ever bumping into one another. Entrances are carefully planned to avoid that ‘awkward moment on the stairs’ and each apartment enjoys its own private space: generous terraces, lavishly proportioned gardens or private balconies adorn each apartment.

The apartments themselves are designed for the no-expense-spared lifestyle. Fully serviced, they are available in a number of finishes, with gadgets-galore, walk-in wardrobes bigger than my entire London flat and kitchens so sexy that only Brad Pitt could conceivably cook in them, they tick every box on the des-res checklist. Gadgets aside, however, the view in these apartments is king. And rightly so. Every effort is made to capture and frame it and, lovely as the French grey panelling is, Lake Geneva wins every time.

Clever restoration and reuse is, again, employed in the apartments. The balconies, for example, were not wide enough for todayís exacting residential market, so these have been replaced with wider versions which reuse the original balustrades.

Residents have access to a spa and swimming pool which, reached via a glamorous spiral staircase, are highly futuristic in design, contrasting with the Belle Epoque architecture of the rest of the estate.

The enormous penthouse is the cherry on top of this perfect trifle. Spanning the entire top floor and the three turrets of the building, star-interior designers Candy & Candy have produced designs for just about the most extravagant dwelling that can be imagined.  Including all of the usual mod-cons – a home cinema, a home spa, the works – it has not yet been fitted out, since whoever shells out for this £60 million home, will probably want to choose their own tiles.

by Emilie Lemons

Developer: Swiss Development Group
Architects: Bronnimann & Gottreux
Penthouse Base-build: Candy & Candy
Interior Designers: BBG-BBGM
Prices: Apartments start at 6million CHF. The penthouse costs 85million CHF
Sales: Rockefeller Estates, +41 22 544 8000

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Glass Online architecture and design writer

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