One can be excused for thinking that Johan Bouman has mapped out his life years in advance. How else to explain the international business degree that led seamlessly to a career in the food industry, which saw him purchase the company he worked for and relocate it for a time to a centuries-old château in France’s Chablis wine region. There, he ramped up the business while renovating the property, transforming it into a showcase home—one that the art collector and outdoorsman understood was a place not to be privately consumed but publically shared by those who would adore it as he does.
The art world is one that I am closely connected to. Just as I renovated the château section by section, I discovered all the artwork over many years, and not in one grand swoop. I didn’t buy art to decorate a hotel. I bought pieces that spoke to me and that work together when combined. The art has to work with the architecture and the architecture has to work with the art. They feed off each other and make each other stronger. The point is not to collect by a theme or a single look, but by what brings the most out of the château, which heightens the guest’s experience. Pulling this off correctly is the challenge. And the fun. It all happened organically. I had no master plan. Believe me!
It helps if you can exist in two worlds within the confines of one space.
I live at the château too, after all, and I open my private home to guests who get a very personal, intimate experience but who also get the benefit of hotel facilities, even if we don’t have 24-hour reception or a day and night bar like many hotels.
The people who come back again and again prefer this kind of personal experience. Whether it’s the art, the building, the grounds, or the silence that brings them back, it doesn’t matter—it’s that they feel a special connection. The minute you try to please everyone, you are lost. So I target those who appreciate the château for exactly what it is, just as I do.
Again, not planned! A famous Dutch designer did the chef’s kitchen by the pool. It seemed such a waste not to fill it with bespoke pieces. I hired designers, so now I promote my own design line. One such piece—a candleholder—fits onto an empty wine bottle. But I realized that it shouldn’t showcase just any wine, but the château’s. Thus, I started producing wine and CDLR was born! That’s really how things happen here—one thing leads to another. And each thing brings out a creative impulse that one couldn’t plan for ahead of time. It keeps you alive!