Europe is scattered with glamorous five-star hotels where it’s all about seeing and being seen, but when the rich and famous want to escape in style and comfort, they do so in luxurious private holiday residences such as those owned by Ultima Collection. Ultima offers UHNWIs premium comfort, total privacy and curated design across a growing collection of chalets and villas in prime locations in Switzerland, France and Greece. It’s understandable why when the pandemic hit, some guests stayed for months at the famously design-forward properties.
The woman behind Ultima Collection’s striking design is Chloé Roussel. Managing partner for the past seven years, Roussel has been with the group since the beginning. She is head of development and design which entails overseeing all the construction and taking care of all the decorations in the properties in Gstaad, Geneva, Crans-Montana, Megève, Courchevel 1750 and Corfu.
Raised in France, Roussel has a strong background in luxury hospitality, real estate and hotel development in France. She’s trained with both some of the biggest family entrepreneurs in the business, including Jean-Francois Piège and the Costes family, and has led projects for hotel groups including Starwood The Intercontinental Group. A landmark accomplishment was collaborating with French architect India Mahdavi in the restoration and refurbishment of the Thoumieux Hotel in Paris. She’s now based in Geneva having previously also lived abroad in Denmark and Canada.
Each of Ultima’s high-end properties is design forward and designers have a way of balancing tradition with the contemporary while incorporating touches from the destination. The aim, Roussel reveals, is to know you’re walking into an Ultima property but without the cookie cutter feeling of a luxury hotel group.
The driving force behind the collection is the group’s progressive and innovative owners and founders Byron Baciocchi and Max-Hervé George. “The owners really care about the feeling you have when you enter a property,” Roussel says. “It’s important for them that you know you are in an Ultima by, for example, seeing the same materials depending on where you are – the city or the mountains or on the beachside. At the same time, the space should be simple, like a home, but by using such luxurious materials, it gives the property a very high standard, which goes along with our services.”
When designing or updating a space, Roussel first works with a graphic designer to select a colour scheme to reflect the location and desired ambience. “If you’re staying on the mountainside, it’s going to be mostly greys, which is the warmest of cold colours you can find. Grey also goes very well with oak wood, which is our main material when we are building a mountain resort. In our city places, it’s completely different.”
Detail is key and Roussel reveals that design can be a painstaking process. “It might seem like a small detail but for us, it has taken a long decision to select it,” she says. “I think the way we use each element is unique, from our Baccarat chandeliers to the luxurious leather on the walls and the way we play with scent and light. You can know from that that you’re staying at Ultima.”
When building a chalet or villa, the team works with locals to reflect the traditional construction style and skills of the destination, while giving it that Ultima touch. “In Switzerland, for instance, the woodwork is very typical, so I’m going to hire locals to make the construction, then I’ll go more European for the accessories,” she explains. “You have to feel like you’re in the mountains, but the owner doesn’t want something that stands out in your face. We combine the old chalet with the old wood and some old pieces like the fur on the beds, but then we bring this contemporary path with the design, the headboard, the furniture and the art pieces.”
Looking at the newest property in the collection, Ultima Courchevel Belvédère – a group of 13 ski-in-ski-out residences perched on the edge of the slope which spoils its guests with private chalet chefs and top-end facilities including a luxurious spa – there’s nothing quite like it in the village. “When you see it by day it’s incredible, but at night it’s even more amazing,” Roussel says. “We use a certain type of wood for the outside of the chalets which makes the place so warm. When you enter, you find this oak wood again in the lobby and the corridor but with some leather and fabric pieces. While we have a lobby, it’s not like something you’d find in a hotel. It’s unique.”
When it comes to decorating Ultima properties, Roussel scours the globe for the best pieces, pulling from countries most renowned for their use of certain materials. “For the furniture, I work with mostly Italian and French designers,” Roussel says. “I pick up a little bit from everywhere. Italy is excellent for leather and wood, but for fantastic fabric I will go to France. When it comes to oak wood, we go to Holland or Austria. I also work with the USA. It really depends what we’re looking for.”
Roussel adds that no effort is spared to ensure exceptional quality. In Courchevel, for instance, Ultima closes the properties every summer to restore everything and ensure the properties are perfect for the next season. This can even include replacing marble every year, if necessary.
Art is key to the design ethos and Roussel works with art galleries in London, Geneva, France and New York to pull pieces – key collaborators are Bel-Air Fine Art and Cobra Art. “We use all original artworks, which guests love,” Roussel says. “I like to use younger artists and more affordable art. We always have new pieces from new artists – I currently really like James Chiew, who is doing amazing work with liquid metal that gives a very nice touch against wood in our mountain chalets.”
To keep art fresh, Roussel will often showcase works for one season and then swap them out. She reveals that guests occasionally request to purchase art or furniture accessories that are on display, which most of the time she can facilitate. For the winter 2022/23 season, they’re planning to place a Richard Orlinski sculpture outside the Courchevel property, which she is particularly excited about. “Ultima is great because it’s very openminded. The boundaries are very wide, so you can express yourself,” she says. “The owners give you the opportunity to try something new, try a new artist and make some very different choices. You can go classical, you can go contemporary – I think this open mindset is what makes Ultima very different from other companies.”
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