Push Valéry Grégo to explain how this philosophy of his relates to his three Hotels in the French Alps—Le Fitz Roy, Le Val Thorens, and Hôtel des 3 Vallées—or his Le Pigalle property in Paris or his Hôtel Les Roches Rouges in the South of France, and he mentions the Incas of Peru. The reference might seem odd at first, but to hear Grégo discuss the connection is to understand why his properties are so special.
“The Incas weren’t thinking about making something that looked nice, they were thinking, ‘Where is the sun, the wind? What is the structure’s purpose within its environment?’ That’s why their buildings have remained over time. Likewise, with my hotels we start with the original purpose of the structure, the history of the neighborhood, the personality of the place. The concept evolves from those things organically. We never have a concept before we start.”
Take Hôtel des 3 Vallées as an example. It was built in the 1950s as an auberge, an inn, for the engineers working on the development of the Courchevel resort area. Grégo and his team tried to retain this unique genetic structure as they transformed it into a luxury experience. The result is a stunning marriage of function, location, and history.
The goal with Le Pigalle, Grégo explains, is to help people understand the neighborhood. “We didn’t want to make a hotel that simply reflected what Pigalle is becoming, but what it was and still is. It still has the grit. The point is to bring the neighborhood inside the hotel. All the people who interact with Le Pigalle, who contribute to it creatively, are from the neighborhood. So as the customers experience the property they get to understand what Pigalle was 100 years ago and a few moments ago.
Purpose-built specificity is certainly the harder road, but the only one Grégo would ever take. “We spent a full year buying furniture from the period,” he says of his Alps hotels. “But at the same time, I was very clear with the designers that I didn’t want mere concepts and decoration. There is no nostalgia. It is not about going back. I want the past to tell me what to do in the present and the future. We use design to make a link between past and present. We build on the past but are not confined by it.”
If that sounds like a good rule of thumb not only for designing hotels but also for living, that’s because it is. As a university student in Paris, Grégo trained both in business and in the humanities, while also pursuing his passion for skateboarding. “I did both disciplines because I didn’t want to choose,” he says. “I wanted to go as far as I could with both.”
Grégo is certainly going as far as he can in the hospitality world. And what brings all of his places together—the Alps, Pigalle, the South of France—is, as he says, “the drive to help people understand where they are going. We want them to get the specific personality of a building or the sea or a quarter. We try to make sense with what we have. That is our recipe.”