Sitting pretty in the heart of Grasse on the French Riviera in the South of France is a pink monolith. The two-storey building is all but hidden from the road, but as we proceed down the driveway of Lancôme’s Domaine de la Rose estate, we spot it — the newly renovated Rose House. Despite its spectacularly modern appearance, it almost looks as if it’s always been here amid the lush green fields devoted to producing perfume plants. On this Ecocert-certified 10-acre estate, jasmine, iris, tuberose and the region’s iconic Centifolia rose grows, the latter for use in Lancôme’s ultra-luxe Absolue skincare.
Today, it’s all on show, and guests handpicked from around the world are wandering around, many in awe of what they’re seeing and taking as many photos and videos as possible. They say you can’t bottle an experience, but with its fragrances and skincare ranges that harness the spoils of this splendor, in a way, Lancôme achieves the impossible, capturing the scent and plant powers of this place for its customers’ benefit. I’m here as part of the brand’s Longevity Retreat, three beauty !lled days in which media and content creators tour the highlights of Grasse, the perfume capital of the world.
Our New Zealand cohort immediately aligns with the Australians, but over the course of the retreat, we meet team Ireland, team China, team here, there are everywhere. We feel as if we’ve arrived at the Olympics of the beauty world, but instead of vying for medals, we’re vying for content. There is plenty of that to be created in this part of France, and especially at such a ’gram-worthy location as Domaine de la Rose.
Sheltered by the surrounding mountains, this farm was a thing centuries before Lancôme arrived, and has been cultivated organically for the past 60 years. Paris-based architects Lucie Niney and Thibault Marca of NeM knew they had a unique opportunity on their hands when they were commissioned for the Rose House project. They took a less-is-more approach, so instead of building new, they renovated the existing structure in a bid to preserve, share and celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of Grasse perfumery. Although the bones of the house essentially stayed the same, updated apertures give its spaces soul. Expansive windows usher the garden outside in while offering a view of the wider landscape beyond, and I’m particularly enarmoured with the enormous front door, a circular pane of glass that’s a nod to the ‘o’ in ‘Lancôme’.
Inside, everything is (you guessed it) pink — from the ceiling to the floor to the furniture. It’s a lighter shade than the exterior, though, which helps it feel like a house and not a showroom. It truly is a sight to behold. I feel as if I’m in an alternate universe, a Wes Anderson “lm or a much more chic version of Barbie’s dreamhouse. There’s something about the monochromatic pink expanse that contributes to the magic of Rose House, making it seem otherwordly. The reasons behind the use of this colour are twofold: it relates to Lancôme’s use of roses and is actually a signature colour for the facades of buildings in this region.
At the heart of the house (which as well as events is used for training and workshops) sits the centerpiece — the perfume organ created by Ateliers Gohard, the manufacturer responsible for the gilding of historic monuments such as France’s Musée du Louvre and Château de Versailles, and America’s Statue of Liberty. It holds hundreds of raw materials used to make perfume and allows guests to experience the process of fragrance creation; professional perfumers can compose new accords here too.
There’s also a bunker-esque distillery a few metres away from the house, which hits you with the most intense rose scent the instant you walk in. Although at first glance, the most striking thing about Rose House is that incredible colour, there’s even more creative thinking and history beneath its surface. Take the walls, for example — reflecting the desire to renovate the house based on bioclimatic principles (architecture that’s in harmony with the surrounding environment and climate) and showcase Lancôme’s dedication to sustainability, they’re insulated with lavender straw sourced from the property then coated in pink plaster. Meanwhile, the roof features insulation made from rice straw from the nearby Camargue region, and the house is powered by renewable energy.
Before we leave, we’re taken on a tour of the gardens and given our own eponymous rose plant, which the staff will later plant to use in future products. I smile at the thought of someone purchasing a gold-clad serum from Lancôme’s Absolue range made with a plant bearing my name. I can’t help but hope it’s me.
Heading to the South of France? Take these travel tips.
Located in Tourrettes, the luxurious Terre Blanche Hôtel Spa Golf Resort is nestled in nature, providing tranquility and relaxation yet close enough to experience all the highlights of this incredible region. Even if you don’t partake in the superior golfing this resort is known for, the staff will pick you up in a golf cart and drive you to breakfast.
Everyone we asked told us we should book to dine at La Petite Maison. This restaurant in the old town of Nice is known for its delicious interpretation of French Mediterranean cuisine, but a word to the wise: make a booking. Because we didn’t listen and didn’t book, we got turned away at the door and ended up having to eat escargot elsewhere.
Put at least one authentic chateau on your must-see list (do your research, as not all are open to the public). In Grasse, we went to Château Saint-Georges for a once-in-a-lifetime dinner in its Versailles-like dining room. If you want to roam around like a queen, this is the place.
Words: Sarah Murray
Photography: Bruno Vacherand-Denand & Laziz Hamani