Le Dupleix has a delicate balance between the ancient and a modern - with traces of French design interwoven with regional flavour. What inspired this design idea for the hotel? How would you classify the style/theme of your hotel?
Le Dupleix has been made celebrating the best of 18th century French architecture in Pondicherry. Situated in the heart of old French Quarter of Pondicherry at 5 Rue de la Caserne, it stands on one of the most important corners of the French town. Le Dupleix is named after the last governor of Pondicherry. When his house was razed down, we were able to save a large part of the woodwork which has been reinstalled in Le Dupleix. With the help of INTACH, an architect, sculptor and textile expert we were able to restore the woodwork to its former glory. The building was then converted into a hotel. The hotel is a fantastic mix of the traditional and the modern and has a quaint forgotten in time feel to it. It has a certain je ne sais quoi that draws a lot of people back to it.
How challenging was it to give a classy, classical touch to a modern restaurant? In many ways, the USP of the hotel is the fact that it is a modern boutique hotel with a touch of the classical. How did you manage to pull this off?
The restoration of the ancient building, which took a full 4 years, has been done entirely following the traditional methods of construction and finishing of the 18th century. The architects and the contractors immersed themselves in a study of the old techniques of construction which has more to do with the way high-quality hand craftsmanship takes place than modern construction methods. The old building was completely refinished with a lime plaster in the old process known as “Chettinad Egg Plaster” which consists of covering the walls with layer after layer of a thin layer of egg white, powdered sea shells and yoghurt. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the team of experts we had on the project. It is the hotel’s sense of heritage that helps us add all the modern elements and keep its soul intact.
How did you go about purchasing the antique French furniture that adorns the hotel? Where did you get these pieces from?
The exquisite woodwork, perhaps the best example of French Indian carved woodwork, is all original from the house of Joseph Francois Dupleix which used to exist on the old Nehru Street, which was originally known as Rue Dupleix. Dupleix was the greatest of the generals & governors of French India, and during his tenure, the French were the dominant power in South India while the British were bottled up in Madras.
In many ways, the hotel itself retains the French flavour of Pondicherry in a huge manner. Does this infuse a sense of pride - the fact that your hotel manages to keep up the French heritage that makes up the city?
The building has been expanded and the whole hotel has been modernized with the use of avant-garde design and materials to create a delicate mix of modernity and tradition – and it is in the harmony of these two that Le Dupleix exists as not just a heritage hotel, but rather a designer hotel. Every room is different; every detail in each room has been specially thought out and designed for that room alone, with the end result being a hotel that surprises at every corner. The mix of the modern and the traditional gives warmth, but at the same time ensures that the hotel is ultra comfortable (internet, minibars, imported bathtubs and fittings, personal room service etc.)
Has the design of Le Dupleix set a trend of sorts - one where classy designs are not just restricted to modern elements but have managed to delve into antique and classical?
There are more heritage projects now that respect and promote the history while trying to infuse modern elements, but creating a designer boutique hotel which has a sense of its history takes more.