How do you make a luxury resort out of an old French milk factory? A good way to start is contacting French designer Raphael Navot, who has earned a reputation for blending old and new. Located in Massignac, France, the Domaine des Etangs hotel encompasses a series of former farmhouses and mills that date back to the 18th century. Navot was tasked with turning two mezzanines in the former dairy (“laiterie” in French) into a library and study space.
The building is made of stone and wood, with thick antique oak beams running across the high ceilings. “The construction is ingeniously functional,” Navot says. For the flooring, he chose an oak end grain collection he designed for Paris-based manufacturer Oscar Ono in 2016. The flooring was inspired by the 16th- and 17th-century cobbled wooden streets of Old Paris, few of which still exist today. Unlike those old wooden streets of Paris, however, the Forêt Collection is engineered and tongue-and-grooved. Navot also designed the flooring to be installed in a variety of patterns, including a grid, arrow alignment and complex patchwork; it can also cover walls. “The end grain collection is an innovative approach to an old tradition,” Navot says. “It fit perfectly with the nature of this project.”
After the flooring was installed in the two mezzanines, Navot conceptually separated them to represent the past and the future. The library on the left contains books predating 1920; the library on the right contains books from 1930 onward. The 1930s bookcases, over 26 feet long, just managed to fit in the spaces by “a miracle of chance or fate,” Navot says.
One of the biggest challenges was maintaining the historical appeal of the former dairy while updating the aesthetics and comfort of the venue. “Like any interior, these spaces are designed to set a mood, a safe haven, a welcoming space to learn, to reflect and to enjoy,” Navot says. Navot used the end grain flooring and the carefully chosen colors and lighting fixtures in the rooms to set that mood. Far from losing the historic quality of the 18th-century dairy, one might even say Navot milked it.
“I hope visitors walk away with a knowledge that reflects what we knew about the world centuries ago in comparison to what we know now, with an open mind about the future and how to live in alignment to nature,” he says.
This project was also featured on the cover of WFB's 2022 Resource Book of the Wood Flooring Industry.