The Loaded Trunk was founded by Jonna Robison, an interior designer with a deep curiosity and passion for traveling the world, connecting with artisans in different cultures and sourcing unique and beautiful objets d’art. Published seasonally, the magazine features a curated collection of travel, lifestyle, nature, art and design inspiration for a life well lived.
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I drove out of Paris in the early morning, the congested streets and tops of buildings disappearing in the rearview mirror. As I drove south through France, I passed towns and villages, cutting across green hills and vineyards. I stopped in the beautiful village of Beaune, in Burgundy, for a spell, where I stretched my legs by going for a wander. Back on the highway, I still had a long drive ahead, and I wanted to reach the Luberon valley before it was dark. What would I do about dinner? I hadn’t made a reservation because I was unsure when I would arrive, and I was feeling ravenous.
When I finally pulled onto the gravel drive, it was nearly dusk. The scent of lavender in the evening air greeted me, followed by my host, Régis Péan, who offered to carry my luggage. As he led me to my suite, he mentioned he had made a reservation for me at Le Mas, a family-run Michelin restaurant up the road. “I knew you would have a long day’s drive and would arrive tired and hungry,” he said. I was touched by such a thoughtful and generous gesture. And what a splendid meal it was, so much so that I made another reservation for later in the week. When I saw him at breakfast the next morning, I raved about the restaurant and how much I enjoyed it. He replied that it’s one of their favorites, but he hadn’t wanted to send me there with expectations – he wanted me to discover it on my own. The exquisite hospitality that imbues Domaine les Martins captured me from the first moment I arrived and shaped my entire experience in the Luberon. These hoteliers have indeed perfected the art of experience.
Set amongst olive trees, jasmine, lavender and tranquil gardens, Domaine les Martins is a beloved guesthouse, located in the “golden triangle” between the historic villages of Gordes, Ménerbes and Lacoste. I have had the pleasure of staying here twice and, on both occasions, I have enjoyed extraordinary service, above and beyond what I normally experience during my frequent travels around the world.
What sets Domaine les Martins apart from other fantastic B & B’s and boutique hotels is the level of personalized service. The proprietors, Regis Péan and David Varon, have certainly mastered the art of hospitality. I was curious to learn more about their approach, and they were happy to take the time to chat with me. As we sat down in the garden alongside the roses, birdsong filled the warm afternoon air throughout the entirety of our conversation. Domaine les Martins is indeed a slice of heaven.
Péan, from Vienna, and Varon, from Turkey, met and lived in New York City for 20 years. Varon had a career in fashion, running a company that licensed celebrity brands, where he was involved in creating, producing and distributing approximately 25 brands at any given time. His company was one of the pioneers in that field.
A trained architect, Péan launched his career in New York at Peter Marino Architecture, which became THE institution for retail architecture. Before long he was head-hunted for director of store design for MAC Cosmetics, which had just acquired by Estée Lauder in 1999. The brand was hot and wanted to expand internationally, so he was placed in the role of taking the brand to 65 countries, including opening 1300 stores in only 6 years.
“It was crazy and creatively demanding,” recalls Péan. “I created concepts which I rolled out and adapted in many different countries and cultures. Trying to understand the different customers and the psychology behind customer behavior in each country and market was very interesting. We always needed to find ways to surprise our customers.” He eventually went out on his own, doing retail branding with a plethora of other clients and companies. “I had Interesting clients who had heard of my past and wanted to dig into that retail experience, as there were few people who were really specialized in that. I was developing the stores, the concept, the entire consumer experience, really diving into understanding how someone shops, how someone sees the product and how it is presented. I translated the complete brand idea into a three-dimensional experience. I ended up teaching this at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.”
Both men travelled extensively for work. When they had free time, they took great pleasure in entertaining. Their apartment in the city was a hub for their friends, a place they hosted dinner parties and holiday gatherings. They also owned a beach house on Fire Island, where everyone in their social circle always came to stay on weekends.
“Most of our friends liked to come to our house because we loved inviting people over and creating big gatherings around the dinner table. We loved hosting.”
Out of those experiences came the idea of doing it professionally. Varon and Péan came to a point in life where they questioned if what they were doing was still on track with their expectations and life goals.
June 16, 2023
The Loaded Trunk is a travel and lifestyle magazine founded by Jonna Robison, an interior designer with a deep curiosity and passion for traveling the world, connecting with artisans in different cultures and sourcing unique and beautiful objets d’art. Published seasonally, the magazine features a curated collection of travel, lifestyle, nature, art and design inspiration for a life well lived.