When Anouk and Louis Solanet opened their first Paris property, Hôtel Rochechouart, in early 2020, it was just five days before the French capital went into lockdown. Two years later, the married couple have now launched seven boutique properties across the city and established their elegant Orso brand as a rare find in the crowded world of hospitality.
You’ve said that, with Orso, you aim to return to “the lost art of hospitality.” What do you think is missing from contemporary hospitality? We like to think that we are setting a different pace for an industry that’s become too reliant on standardized experiences, too attached to technology, trying to transform the guest experience into a digital one. We value “old school” hospitality, where we strike the right balance between laid back and sophisticated. We think of ourselves as guests before hoteliers, so we consistently draw from our personal experiences to bring Orso to life in a playful, approachable manner.
I read that you are very careful about the products used in your hotels. How do you select them? What is important to you in choosing product partners? One of the first ideas we had when we created the Orso brand was to come up with our own line of amenities to put in all our hotels, and to make them available for purchase. We were inspired by Louis’s Corsican roots and our travels to create a fragrance that reminded us of coastal summers.
In Corsica, wild fennel is often cut fresh along the side of the road. That’s why we decided to put big fennel branches at the entrance of each Orso hotel.
We also like to explore the neighborhood we settle down in to find the right artisans to work with. We try to stay away from offering the same, commonplace products.
In lieu of concierges, Orso hotels have hosts. What does that role look like? Why did you want to do this differently? Recruitment is a real, daily challenge. We like to think that our staff does their best to remain thoughtful, friendly and approachable, no matter their role. We like seeing them as hosts because we pride ourselves on welcoming guests into what should feel like their home away from home.
To elevate the experience, we have a few simple things we offer our guests:
-Fresh baked cake upon arrival -Curated Orso city guide with a selection of addresses (all within walking distance of their hotels) -Orso signature cocktails
How would you describe the design of your hotels? Is it similar throughout the different locations, or unique to each spot? Very unique to each spot. Each hotel has been a collaboration with a different designer (or duo). For Hotel Rochechouart, we worked with Festen Architecture because of their understanding of the Art Deco style. For Le Wallace, we wanted the discerning eye of design duo Hauvette & Madani, whose background is mainly in residential work. For Hotel Ami, we chose the Nordic and minimalist approach of Gesa Hansen. We take cues from the building’s original architecture and the surrounding area to select the best designer to tell a new story each time.
But each hotel is a member of the Orso family. They’re all distinct, but still bear a resemblance that connects them. Each hotel also has a surprise: Le Wallace’s rooftop Nordic bath, Hotel Orphée’s underground steam room, Hotel Rochechouart’s dancing club, etc.
What excites you about Parisian hospitality in particular? Why did you want to be a part of this market? We’re excited about Paris coming back to life after the pandemic. We decided to launch our business and open our first hotels in 2019 and 2020, so we’ve come a long way. And to see how eager both locals and visitors are to be a part of this rebirth of hospitality is very humbling. Paris is our home and we want to see it thrive and offer guests a genuine and welcoming experience, especially after this very isolating period.
Do you have any plans for other cities in the future? While we’re currently very much rooted in Paris; the goal is to begin expanding the Orso brand, both in France and in Europe. While we can’t talk about specific locations just yet, we can say that we want to continue to choose projects that drive us, where the place, people and design all come together to tell a really compelling story.