Meet the owners
We want to give our future guests the myriad of insight and innovation behind Paragon700 so what better way to highlight this, with an interview of the owners of the hotel; Ulrike and Pascale.
Their passion for design and intricate detail is displayed throughout the hotel. Each time you visit a particular room, you will spot something new that you didn’t see before. An eclectic and unconventional flair throughout, it is a sight to be seen in person.
What was it that attracted you both to the “Red Palazzo” which has now become Paragon700?
Ulrike – We were introduced to the Palazzo by a friend of ours who works with the steelworks on the building. He told us about this palazzo to view as he knew the person that was selling it. At the beginning we said we were not interested in buying anything in Ostuni, as normally when we view something it is with an idea for investment into something new. I said to Pascale: “shall we go or not?” And we decided why not? It’s always nice to view something and as they opened this huge door, and then the tiny one where you enter the building and we entered into the palazzo and immediately it was like love at first sight. And that’s how the whole story started! It is the perfect spot for a boutique hotel. Too big for a private home and just perfect for something where the public can enjoy.
The first mayor of the Ostuni built the property; it is a very important building to the local people. People stop us in the street to thank us for what we are doing to the building; to give some new life to the building, which has been closed up for 60 years. So many people wanted to see what it looked like on the inside. It has the biggest private garden in the town and it is also something that is super special, so close to the main piazza but not so close that you don’t feel that you are in the haven of the countryside.
So what was it about Ostuni that really that drew you in? As there are so many beautiful places in Puglia. Was it really the Red Palazzo or the fact that it was in Ostuni as well?
Ulrike: Well we were in this particular area in 2011 and why did we choose the area? For its strategic location between Bari and Brindisi as it is a 30 minute drive to the aiport. Ostuni, which sits on a hill with beautiful views, in a small town with a lot to see and do. It gives us a feeling of Greece, which we like very much, with the whitewashed buildings it makes it feel very special. We said for us, its not only the food that is fantastic in this area, but the sea is beautiful and you are in close proximity to the Florence of the South – Lecce so you have some cultural influence and things to do. Many tourist hotspots are within a 45 minute radius and it’s a great hub in Puglia which can guide you to many other places which are definitely worthwhile to visit.
We know that you are both passionate about luxury and interior design, can you please describe your thought processes when choosing particular pieces from around the world? Are there any countries that you are more attracted to for their unique objects? Can you describe for us one of your scouting trips where you have chosen some of the particular pieces that are displayed at Paragon700 and why you chose those particular objects?
Ulrike : I think this is best for Pascale to answer as she is the interior designer, it is in her blood and sometimes she has these crazy ideas and fortunately we also have the right people to realize these ideas but initially you need to have the vision and specific articles and then pieces.
Pascale : It is not only when we travel around, I don’t choose a piece for somewhere specific. I am a very good buyer and I love to buy things, but if I see something its not for anywhere specific. If I see a piece I can display it and then after when we do another project I can choose the existing pieces we have and where they will be displayed in the new project and in general I never put in a piece I buy how I originally bought it. I always change something. It is hard to explain as it’s always the ideas in my head. Working like that, I see something and I know I can do something with it, like we did for the past 3 years at the Red Palazzo. It is not something I can explain as its something I see.
Ulrike : We were ion South Africa for 13 years which we loved a lot.
Pascale : But its not like if we buy something from Africa its because of the African style or if we buy something in Asia, for the Asian style they are always specific pieces that you can work more with the materials, the wood, a different way to work. It s a mix of old pieces, and everything is mixed together, very eclectic. When we mix, we make something different and more personal.
Ulrike : For example in the Paragon suite in the bathroom which is a desk, it comes from Thailand, it’s a unique piece. It’s not something you can say, ok I will order ten of those, its a unique piece. We used it to make the washing tables where the basin sits on. Or in the loft suite where there is a fire ball or in South Africa its called a “Baumaur” where people sit around the camp fire having a good chat a glass of wine and we made a bathtub out of it and all the inside of it has been made with concrete resin. The light fittings, we have 5-7 metre high ceilings, so you cannot put a small light fitting in as it would look ridiculous so when we were on holiday in Chang Mai, and always when we are on holiday we ask where are the antique market shops. They took us out of town approximately 45 minutes and by chance we popped into a huge warehouse and we saw these huge light fittings, which we thought would be perfect which is where all the big light fittings in the rooms come from.
In South Africa, it is still a country that we have in our heart, as we spent so much time there and we have some great contacts who create made to measure furniture, so we created some bespoke headboards and every room has a theme of a precious stone and this had to be a particularity to remind you of the name of the room or suite and all the headboards and fabrics are coming from South Africa.
What is your vision for Paragon 700 for the future?
Ulrike: Well it really is the place to be in Puglia. Of course the future like every entrepreneurs dream is that it will be worthwhile all the hard work and investment and it will be a place that people will see and feel the difference about what we offer in comparison to other hotels in the area. It’s not about the stars. I always say we are like the 5 stars but without the star. At the end a guest has to feel comfortable, relaxed but without all the fuss around and someone must feel and see when a client needs something to make them feel looked after, like at home, having a service where you don’t have to do anything.
Pascale : For me actually what we did is the way we like to be in a hotel or to travel. We can go to a fancy hotel but it is without personality. But when we renovate or create something, its not just a building it’s a concept. It means you start from the building, how you want to meet a client, which means they can come into a room and every time see something different. I love detail. It means that the food has to be a concept and it is a relaxed environment and not too formal. We don’t like that people have to feel they have to get too dressed up, you can wear jeans but still look classic. For me it’s a way to travel, a general concept, you are not just staying in a hotel but you embody the culture of where you are, the art and everything around you. I would like to show a new way to travel that is much more personal. Really detailed from A-Z. It’s not just a building.
Ulrike – even down to the detail of the toilet paper holder. It’s not just a toilet paper holder. Every item is chosen specifically. It has to fit into the design of the room or the building. The light switches come from South Africa, as we wanted specific ones. Our hotel in Cape Town the people saw the difference because of the details, every piece doesn’t just sit or hang there, it has been specifically chosen to be in its particular place. And I think this is where we are different to other hotels as its much more personal. You can have many hotels designed by interior designers but you can’t see the soul and that is really important.
Pascale : Also I think for the future in general the people should change the criteria of the star hotel, in the sense that you need to have a tea or coffee machine. Who cares? I prefer to call and to be served a coffee. All this criteria, for me has to be changed. So if you start to show a new way, how people want to be in a hotel. When you are holiday you want everything you can get at home but to be well looked after. Or you can have a 5 star where all the rooms are the same, they call it a boutique hotel but not a lot really qualify as a boutique hotel. A boutique hotel has to be small and all the rooms need to be different. Not like a hotel with 50 rooms all made the same way.
So you want the guests to feel your passion and soul when they come to Paragon700?
Pascale : Yes of course but I think they can see it.
Ulrike – also you can’t please everybody in the end it is our way how we do things, and then like for everything in life, you either like it or you don’t. Luckily for us the satisfaction of our clients is very high and also in our private homes, our friends always appreciate and see the difference of a classic home. It’s also nice that people enjoy the space, and this is the satisfaction for us. It is like looking at a painting, you either like it or you don’t like it and it speaks to you. It would be nice that people have this experience when they come to Paragon700.