Hotel Cala di Volpe, Sardinia. A masterpiece by Jacques Couëlle, renovated by Moinard Bétaille

Posted in Projects on 23 June, 2022

The interior design agency Moinard Bétaille has produced a sensitive and poetic renovation of the iconic hotel Cala di Volpe (Sardinia), brilliantly reviving the monumental work of the French architect.

Bruno Moinard and Claire Bétaille, experienced in the art of the revival of prestigious hotels (Plaza Athénée in Paris, Four Seasons Trinity Square in London, Eden in Rome), have cast their singular gaze on this « habitable work of art » that needed to be rethought and relit, while respecting the original creative action of Couëlle.

Hotel Cala di Volpe, Sardinia. All images © Jacques Pépion

After 4 years of work, the mythical Cala di Volpe hotel, on the Costa Smeralda, in Sardinia, welcomes its visitors with more brilliance than ever. A hotspot of the 60s and 70s, adored by Prince Karim Aga Khan, it was a mythical meeting place for the jet-set. James Bond even stopped there in « The Spy Who Loved Me ». It is the symbol of the creative genius of Jacques Couëlle, the great architect who invented the « sculpture-houses », which appear raw and buried in their environment but are extremely refined in form. Intimately associating nature and simple luxury, it perfectly corresponds to our time and its aspirations.

They wanted to keep the soul of the place intact, and loved adapting to the empire of materials reigning supreme here: the powerfully sculpted plaster which reserves havens of freshness, the barely civilised wood which punctuates the structures and visual effect, the thick glass in color compositions that filters the unique light of the bay, the warm silky terracotta underfoot, the skilfully reinvented fabrics. The furniture, for the most part, was custom-designed and often mobilised local know-how.

From the lobby to the rooms and suites, from the terraces overlooking the sea to the two restaurants (« Le Grand » and the « Beefbar »), Bruno Moinard and Claire Bétaille have restored the luster to the most flamboyant hotel in Sardinia. Revived by the « traveling architects », the Cala di Volpe experience, simple and refined, is more than ever to be discovered and retold.

The Lobby

The Lobby
Spectacular and singular, the hotel lobby has kept its structural elements : vaults, arcades, beams and massive pillars stay faithful to the place. The mood, the visual rhythm, the general impression: nothing has changed in appearance. And yet everything has been refreshed, renovated and rearranged. The lighting has been revised for more softness during the day and warmth in the evening. A full range of furniture has been created.

• The wave-shaped conciergerie has been retained, featuring a fresco cut out of oxidized copper. Echoing it, a reception designed on the same principle has been added, also adorned with copper and covered with lead.
• Life around the pillars has been reorganized, creating places of conviviality desired from the outset, inviting conversation and relaxation.
• Sofas, benches and seats can be combined. They associate wood, weaving and fine leathers.
• Armchairs with « paddle » uprights, chairs with shaped backs, carved from solid walnut and upholstered in leather or cord, coexist with the small original seats present throughout the hotel, which have been given a new lease of life. The tables with bare wood legs associate with enameled lava trays.
• The work on the cushions was particularly advanced. In this setting of stone, glass, plaster and wood, they are symbols of comfort. Shapes, materials, colors have been multiplied, certain of which involved the Sardinian tapestry tradition known as « a pibiones ».
• The bar has more than doubled in size. It was designed on the same principle as the conciergerie, and oriented so that everyone can see the sea while refreshing themselves. The walnut stools with short rounded backs respond to the soft shapes of the arches.


The rooms
Places of life, intimacy and peace, the rooms each offer a unique universe. However, a few constants and biases bring them together. Rounded corners and half partitions create a soft environment. The idea is that the light slides unhindered from one end of the space to the other.
• The large beds topped with a canopy of reeds look out to sea.
• The dark, shiny juniper wood contrasts with the matt white masonry. It becomes a pillar, beam and bar, and structures the volume.
• Specific furniture has been designed: a chest of drawers rounded like a pebble in solid walnut with bronze feet; also in cast bronze, in the shape of seaweed, are these side tables with thick glass tops; fireside chairs and opulent sofas are arranged along the walls or extending from the beds; also console desks in stone, and tables in solid resinous wood. There is discreet wall or lamp lighting everywhere, like this creation superimposing Sardinian pottery.
• In the bathrooms, everything is as if polished by water: the (local) granite sinks hollowed or placed, the rounded mirrors reminiscent of the openings, surrounded by studied lighting. The shower and bath areas are covered with brightly colored zellij tiles. And as a reminder, in some bathrooms, the large stained glass imposes its inspiring presence.
• The terraces are an extension of the rooms and suites. Each of them faces the sea. The rattan furniture has been specially designed for the hotel. It is made by one of the last expert Italian workshops in the material, the same ones that made the furniture when the hotel was created. The table top combines stone, enamel and glass creating landscapes reminiscent of the bay of Cala di Volpe…


As key elements of circulation in the hotel, and therefore of the experience while moving around, the corridors serving the rooms needed to be reorganised to be in unison with the common areas.
• The openings and windows have been covered with wooden bars, softening the light and creating, depending on the time of day, graphic shadows on the floor and on the walls.
• Spots of shadow, evoking those of trees, are found on the pavement, in irregular areas, thanks to the striped carpet concealing a scattering of little foxes, a mischievous reminder of the hotel logo.

The Atrium Bar
In the extension of the lobby when looking towards the bay, it is a key place in the hotel, a place of rest, meeting and exchange, and one of the most representative elements of the architectural gesture of Jacques Couëlle. In the rotunda, the Atrium Bar is a covered terrace. The solid graphic arches and pillars that delimit it create multiple frames and points of view that are renewed every hour. A feast of images for Instagram.

The Atrium Bar

• Pillars and arches have been coated in dark ochre. In the evening light, the structure turns red. To emphasise the graphics, a net of light has been fitted and runs at the foot of the pillars.
• The original spirit has been preserved with the veils stretched from the ceiling, bringing naturalness and intimacy.
• A warm and welcoming masonry bench echoes those in the lobby. The small armchairs designed by Jacques Couëlle, with their cord and leather cushions, have been reissued. Deep rattan furniture designed in partnership with Bonacina 1889, the last great Italian specialist, populates the space in a winter garden spirit. The plaited backrests radiate like the sun, and their curve follows that of the arches. Tables with a solid glass top complete the furnishings.

Le Grand restaurant

The restaurants
Le Grand
It is the gastronomic and emblematic restaurant of Cala di Volpe. Everything has been redesigned to offer a warmer and more personal experience.
• The large room, in one piece, lacked intimacy. It was necessary to give it a visual rhythm and personality without detracting from the perspective and view from outside. Distinct spaces were thus created thanks to the subtle play of light and thin canes falling in light curtains.
• At the entrance, a beautiful masonry bench is at ease under the spectacular composition of colored glass imagined by Jacques Couëlle.
• The masonry structure and the cane and wood ceiling, creating such a specific atmosphere, have been preserved, highlighted by a lot of work done on the light. The rounded interior of the high half-moon openings is now delimited by warm lighting, just like, vertically, certain pillars. Optically an architecture of light is superimposed.
• The terracotta floor, with large uneven tiles, has been restored: shiny, leather-coloured, it gives a reassuring and welcoming base to the whole.
• The original bentwood furniture painted in both bright and soft colours has been restored. The blue, pink and yellow of the backs and legs play with the straw of the seats. They appear also as cushions for the benches arranged back to back under the arches.
• As a continuation of the restaurant, under its stretched canvas, the terrace allowing meals to be eaten outside is equipped with new black wood furniture that echoes the huge pontoon so emblematic of Cala di Volpe, reaching out towards the sea.

The famous name in premium-sourced meat has settled in Cala di Volpe, next to « Le Grand ». It was therefore necessary to combine the character of the restaurant with that of the place, both respecting and valuing each other.
• Before entering it, one now passes in front of the wine cellar, visible from the two restaurants, housing more than 2,000 bottles stored in ideal conditions. It is a spectacle in its own right, supported by a skillful play of light.
• The famous maturation cellar of the Beefbar, offering such a unique and appetizing spectacle, has been installed under one of the colored glass sculptures by Jacques Couëlle that existed before the redevelopment.
• Entirely new furniture has been designed, giving the place its full personality: black wooden armchairs with straw seats surround tables with anthracite enameled lava tops and brutalist central legs, also black. The granite floor with pronounced grain is in unison.
• Beneath the dark raw wood ceiling, the separations in vertical bars of warm essence provide distinct spaces without ever blocking the light. The comfortable benches use fabrics with fine stripes that fade from black to gray, reinforcing the impression of volume.

Pool bar and restaurant
The hotel offers two catering outlets which have been fitted out in harmony with the new spirit of the place.
• The Barbecue has been renovated, with its attractive display cases and large sharing buffet. New furniture and studied lighting modernize the atmosphere.
• The Juice Bar designed as a market gardener’s stand.

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