Even if one is not expecting to find a “country house” as it is traditionally portrayed, the surprise is great: Le Barn is not a picture of the past, a preconceived idea of the countryside, with wood logs and the fragrance of little faded bouquets.
Here everyone is active.
Some are running, some riding. Some are working the soil, planting, sowing, cultivating, or ensuring the upkeep of the outside just like the inside. Only the restful ponies are grazing, their ears nonetheless in perpetual movement, attracted by the passage of a larger animal: an ambling mare, coming from Haras de La Cense, a few strides from here.
It is the Nature of today that interests me.
While telling me the outline of the project, and his friendship at first sight with William Kriegel, Edouard takes up the challenge of finding the missing part of a wood-burning stove, he alone having spotted it was missing. He receives the eggs for Monday's breakfast, and goes into gear without forgetting to hold the door open for customers and suppliers alike. He rearranges the furniture, stopping for a few minutes to explain the provenance and history of some of it. And when he namedrops, it's about distant ancestors, or owners of Haras de la Cense. Of course, Clark and Fauvette, his dog and his son's pony are duly introduced to me. Here, Edouard is everywhere. Literally as well as figuratively.
I have been in the hotel business for a long time, but this is the first time I have been involved in such a personal way.
It is a list of desires that, little by little, come to life and create the identity of Le Barn. “Le Barn is an identifying mark, with thought, imagination, and motivation. I claim the paternity of all my choices, not because I want the whole thing to be about me, but because I think that's how things should be done. By putting oneself into it. One's own story, and one's own force, sometimes physically.” Edouard refers to the old tiles from his grandfather's house (previously owned by Aristide Briand), which he personally brought back from Normandy.
“I wanted those curtains. Curtains in Barbour canvas. I wanted stoves. The portrait of one of my ancestors is in one of the suites. If I chose be-poles to realize this project, it is for their personality of course, but also because they know how to put themselves into the skin of a project, to enter an atmosphere, to create a brand. Behind Le Barn, there is the intention to create codes, values, and a spirit to be duplicated. They helped us realize what William and I had in mind.” be-poles has therefore brought its personality to the place while respecting it, knowing how to listen to it.
Everyone here has a mission to accomplish.
“Guests also participate in the history of the place. When some of them return, they share their 'awareness' of the place with the newcomers.” And some return twice a month. It's also the economic principle of the hotel. Provide rooms at more affordable prices to allow people to come back more often if they want to.
The knight in the saddle passes and waves to the knight on the ground. The gardener greets a small family on bikes with a bag on his back. The little tractor is moving back and forth at full speed to aerate the soil that the gardener has just sown. Each trajectory has its objective.
“It's sort of the basis of Le Barn. We especially wanted to avoid distorting the place. To take away from its nature, its origins, its structure. We have preserved everything. The sheep house became the reception. The aesthetics of the buildings is common here, in Île-de-France. Only the greenhouse was created from scratch. The energy of the place is that of a ranch, of a farm.”
The mission of be-poles has been to make the constraints, dictated by the nature, part of the place’s aesthetics. By assuming them, we avoided suffering because of them. Endorse a vision and embody the good sense of a peasant. “Everything you do here has a functionality. No choice was dictated by the aesthetic. There is no decorum. Everything has a function”, Antoine emphasizes.
As any place of life should be, Le Barn has been desired and thought out. All the way to the location of the mirror that reflects nature when you open the bathroom door, but that perfectly fits its basic and functional role, once the door is closed.
It’s the whole story of Edouard that takes shape here.
“It's important that Le Barn has a financial relevance. Not to enrich ourselves, but for its story to have meaning, for the guarantee of its independence. Le Barn opened in June. We are now in November. It is constantly improving, but today it is already on firm ground. And keeping all promises.”
Le Barn is also the story of William Kriegel, the owner of 38,000 hectares in Montana on which he has built a Black Angus breeding farm that reconciles profitability, respect for the ecosystem and animal welfare. Horseman emeritus, very early marked by the work of the “horse whisperers”, he put ethological riding into educational form. La Cense is a stud farm, and it's also a famous method.
The name Barn comes from Montana. And all the values here are those transmitted and shared by William.
“Keep a relevance, an editorial line, to avoid installing things that don’t fit the project. We have given ourselves the means to do what we want. Here, it’s a pure project of egoists. We are enjoyers. You get up earlier, but you do more things. It's a playground. A pro-active place. A place of excitement. We are having fun. That's the point.”
Work in progress
Co-founder William Kriegel in Montana
Sunday evening usually signifies the end of the rush in a hotel. Abandoned by its guests who have left a little earlier in the afternoon, the place turns off. Here, however, we revive the flame in the huge stove of the glass-covered restaurant, because we're expecting people. The room will be full. Apparently, many guests seem very independent, and noticeably freer. For them, Monday has no reason to envy Sunday, since it begins with a bike ride in the forest.
“The vegetable garden is almost finished. You'll soon be able to leave Le Barn with your vegetables, your tomato sauce. A Le Barn Festival, why not!” Edouard created the Point Éphémère (an artistic center in Paris), and he feels quite capable of organizing this kind of event.
In the meantime, we leave Le Barn with lots of desires, including taking the dog, the ponies and all the furniture with us. And we're already planning the next stay, curious to come back at least four times a year, to discover the place in all seasons.
“For me, Le Barn is my 'river-boathouse'. When I was little, we were thirty kids gathering in a small wooden cabin, in which we shared all the games and toys. We met up there, and it was a blast. It was our “base”. Here, I wanted to build a base. The base, because that's where you want to start stuff, lots of activities. Just like a naval base.”
In the meantime, George's portrait is safe, in his suite, well in the shade, as Edouard's father had requested. And Clark, Edouard's dog, a young tawny basset, is lying in the sun.
That's what I too would call a base.