The year is 2022, we are in Bali and yet this story should be written with a quill pen on parchment paper. The story behind La Reserve 1785 began in another time and place. It is a tale that is filled with art and history, antiques and courtesans. It is the story of two women, one just beginning her life while the other’s is reaching the end.
Decades ago in a small town in Provence, France, Laura Juhen, an architect, was still in school when she met Henriette, an elegant older woman she had only greeted in passing. An invitation to tea changed the course of everything for Laura. From Henriette, she learned of great artists, statesmen and lovers, and her history as the most beautiful courtesan in all of Aix en Provence.
The result of their time together is a charming 13-suite boutique hotel with a secret spa that combines a love of art, travel and history. Every design decision was based on Laura’s passions artfully entwined with stories from the famous courtesan, Henriette. “Henriette had been to this area of Bali, the guest of a Dutch governor in the 1930s. The romance of that magical time in Bali became part of the story of La Reserve 1785 as well,” Laura explains.
The hotel particulier (a very French idea) was built during the pandemic when Laura came to survey the land she had bought with friends. When the island locked down. “There was nothing to do, I was stuck, so I started to build,” she explains.
“At first I was unsure what to design, there are so many beautiful properties in Bali, ‘how to make this one different?’ I asked myself. Yet whenever I was unsure, it felt like Henriette was whispering in my ear, and together we created a little piece of Provence in the seaside village of Pereranan.” Laura’s friend and fellow architect Louis Mariotti was called on to assist and together the story of this homage to Henriette became a hotel.
The first hint that you are no longer in the cookie-cutter world of modern Bali resorts is when you arrive. Instead of a lobby, there is a salon. Dominated by a huge renaissance-style painting mounted on an indigo-blue wall surrounded by silk sofas. A modern coffee table is strewn with books that bring both Bali and Provence together.
The transition from the entrance to the hotel grounds is through a Monk’s garden, a nod to her home in Provence complete with gravel paths and a bubbling fountain. Central to it all is a two-story structure, upstairs is the Chambre de Henriette, and below is the Secret Spa, a romantic subterranean dedicated to the power of touch, herbal infusions and traditional remedies.
Each room has a name, not a number and each has its own personality. On the lower level are beautiful pool suites, and on the upper level are the garden-view suites. Personal details like french magazine covers, drawings and art as well as a writing desk and crystal chandeliers create a sense of the boudoir. Charming yet never fussy, classic yet not formal.
At the bottom of the property, a beautiful riverside pool stretches the length of the property. With caponied sunbeds at either end and the Cafe Rouge in the centre. A place to eat, to congregate and simply enjoy the beauty of Bali imprinted with the scents, sounds and flavours of Provence.