Owners Brian M. Griggs (L) and Philippe Leloup take time out to relax before the holiday rush. Photograph: Miranda Glasser
Siem Reap’s Wat Bo area is on the up and up, and a stylish new maison d’hote called Maison557, is raising the standard even higher.
Set in a 1950s colonial-style villa, the chic five-room guesthouse has just opened and aims to “welcome you to our home”.
The ‘home’ being that of Philippe Leloup and Brian M. Griggs, who recently moved to Cambodia after running two “maisons d’art” in France’s Cahors wine region for ten years.
Brian says, “The concept is a maison d’hote, a private home which we’re opening to guests. We’ll be offering a very personal service and we can customise that to our clients.”
Philippe, who worked in the tourism industry for several years, adds, “It’s obviously a concept that works very, very well in Europe. When you spend your life in hotels, you are used to always finding the same thing in the same location. When we travel we like going to places that are a little bit different – small number of rooms, more personal, really guest orientated.
In a maison d’hote in France, you’re not allowed to have more than five rooms. And here we’ve got five possibly six because we’ve got the space for that, but basically it’s keeping the room numbers very low.”
Both owners have arts backgrounds. Brian spent 20 years working as head of design at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. Both have impeccable taste, and the rooms reflect this. The style is minimalist yet cosy, all white walls and slate, with soft bursts of colour in the bedspreads and cushions.
The rooms are furnished for the most part with locally-sourced items and there are some delightful features including wall lamps made from bamboo fishing baskets and, in the bathroom, pretty Japanese sake jugs from Art Café in Phnom Penh as hand wash holders.
“We’re very cane oriented,” says Brian. “There’s a lot of basket work around which we’ve just found locally. The main source has been a small village near the temples going towards Banteay Srei.”
A delicate, turquoise bedspread that’s eye-catching comes from a manufacturer near the Roulos temples, which also produces the scarves hanging decoratively in the rooms.
The rooms are built around an attractive garden containing a long bar and a covered dining area where guests may have breakfast or dinner. There are two swimming pools, one of which will be the private pool for a sixth family room which is set to open next year.
“Food-wise, it will work on a table d’hote sort of basis, which means that people will give 24 hours notice that they want to have dinner,” says Brian.
“Then I will create a menu based on whether they want a Cambodian meal or more western, or a fusion of the two, and whatever I find in the market that I thought was good for the day. I’d build up a menu based on that.”
The duo hopes to attract families or groups of close friends “wishing to be together, but not in a hotel” so that they can really tailor the stay to the guest’s needs.
“We gear it to the client,” explains Brian. “We find out what the client wants and then offer them the best.”
Even before the opening on October 12, the bookings were already coming in. Philippe says, “We’ve had a number of requests from people willing to book one or two rooms only, but offering to pay for the whole house.”
Brian adds, “We have one group at Christmas – it’s only four people, but they want to buy the five rooms so they have the whole place to themselves, just to be quiet.”
He adds that the other interesting factor to emerge is the gay community interest.
“We’re actually on two gay websites, and we’ve never done this in our lives before, we’ve never targeted a gay crowd. But there is a big market here and we didn’t realise it when we first came here. We’re gay, but we don’t sort of market it that way. But we can offer that service. We can tell them about the best gay spa, or the best gay bar in town. We even have a gay guide who will take them around the temples.
“So again, it’s a customer based thing. That’s what we’re good at doing – the hospitality side of it all. And we’re great hosts,” Brian chuckles.
Maison557 will work with the Orphans and Disabled Arts Association, with $5 from every booking going towards helping underprivileged children through art and education.