Between old and new: "L'hotel de Bethmann", Bordeaux

Into the "L’hôtel de Bethmann" mansion, located in Bordeaux (France), the living space is revealed by the encounter between past and present. It is in the interpretation and the articulation of the existing architectural signs that has emerged the project, curated by Martins | Afonso atelier de design, where each new architecture fragment fits and dances in its context. 

Anchored on the edge of the Jardin Public in the center of the city, the four-floor mansion from 1850 opens up to this beautiful garden, unveiling its majestic scenery over the seasons. Thanks to a strong heritage context, the challenge of this rehabilitation was to create a new living environment adapted to current needs, without distorting what was already there, while at the same time bringing a new strength that wouldn’t fall into a simple mimicry.

The renovation involved a complete refurbishing of the interior while including a partial thermal rehabilitation respecting the existing conditions of the building.

The latter, quite promising thanks to the well-preserved state of its interior features, such as woodwork, floors and plaster moldings, established the first orientation of the project, namely, the conservation of this heritage. It raised the question of the implementation and value of this singular aspect. But the aim was to sublimate the existing conditions through generating a contrast using new architectural elements. 

Materials and rooms

The allocation of the internal spaces of the building resulted in the following room-fitting: on the ground floor, two living rooms and a kitchen; on the first floor, a more intimate living room, the office, and a fitness room with a bathroom; on the second floor, a master suite, with a large bedroom, a dressing room and a large bathroom; on the third floor, two children’s bedrooms with adjoining bathrooms; on the fourth floor, an en suite guest room. The interiors have been designed to keep the charm of these old spaces, bringing a contemporary twist along. The old and the new were to flatter each other through this game of contrasts.

The living room leads us to a private garden within the Jardin Public, by a porch dressed with Corten steel plates on its sides. It creates a warm atmosphere, an invitation to a restful and family moment.

On the first floor, specific thoughts have been conducted to develop an office. Walls are clad with oak upon which a library rests. Here again, the contrast between the hue of the oak and the black elements brings a warm atmosphere to this space. The oak wall cladding also found in the large dressing room on the second floor, highlights the white plaster cornice.

All the carpentry arrangements, bathroom furniture, dressings, libraries, are designed following the same aesthetic, mixing these two materials. This brings a homogeneity of facilities as a common thread in such eclectic spaces.

Each bathroom has been designed according to its particular context, the spacious parent’s bathroom, all in length, is materialized by two strips, one clear and one dark, blending the floor, wall and ceiling as a single element. The children’s bathroom has a more traditional tiling work, echoing ceilings with cornices, the floors reminiscent of a checkerboard, with diagonal tile floor compositions.

The colors’ choice also contributes to the overall staging. Both subtle in the living rooms or the bedrooms, it becomes more contrasted in the bathrooms or antechambers.
Numerous details punctuate these spaces, for instance the choice of materials as stretched carpets in wool, or the careful implementation of materials as the thinning edges of the porcelain stoneware generating “bird’s beaks”, or simply the care given to the custom-made product.

What makes this project amazing, especially in the areas where at first sight there doesn’t seem to have been any work done, is the fact that things stand out as obvious, as if it had always been this way. This feeling was very important in the overall composition of the project, as an invisible thread, which would be punctuated in some spaces by strong contemporary developments, highlighting once again the ancient space.

To obtain this duality between new and unchanged spaces, it was important for on-site teams to work with old materials, as fine plaster, plaster cast, carpentry and traditional cabinetry. The result was to be as neat for the visible parts as for the hidden parts.



Architects: Mickaël Martins Afonso

Localisation: Bordeaux, France

Completion date: October 2017

Area: 400 m²

Photo credits: Mickaël Martins Afonso