Making High-end Accessible
Domaine & Demeure offers the retail market and hoteliers an innovative range of five-star quality furnishings
When we visit a hotel, we often find ourselves commenting on the comfort of the bed, the softness of the linens, or even the vibe and décor. When holidaying in a Château in the South of France, Matt Salisbury, CEO and co-founder of Domaine & Demeure Retail Ireland, saw an opportunity to make the beautiful furnishings he experienced on the property available for purchase to guests and the retail market. Hotel & Restaurant Times met with Matt to chat about how the business came about, the products it offers, and the company’s ambitious move into the hospitality market.
The Château Matt visited is owned by his now business partner Karl O’ Hanlon, who originally hails from Foxrock, Dublin but lives in the Languedoc region in Southern France. Karl takes on ailing wine Châteaux in the region and restores them to their former glory, and to date, has turned three Châteaux into hotel resorts which each feature about ten bedrooms, restaurant, spa, and function rooms. Onsite, Karl also builds turnkey properties as holiday homes for Francophiles fromall over the world. When these properties are not in use by their owners, Karl rents them to holidaymakers.
“These are high-end properties,” Matt tells us. “The beauty of it is Karl and his design team produce a template which owners can buy into – they choose their furnishings and colour palettes so what you end up with is 30 properties that are all (slightly) different but with a standard across the board. Through that design process Karl searched high and low across the globe for suppliers of furniture, spa products, towels, linens and beds, and tech equipment.”
Matt was immediately struck by the quality and design of the furnishings at the Château, and when he got chatting to Karl, it turned out they knew a lot of the same people. As they chatted, an idea germinated, blossomed and took form.
“What appealed to me initially was the ready-made customer base of guests coming through the Châteaux each year, using the products and touching the products,” Matt tells us. The garden furniture was beautiful and durable, the beds were so comfortable, and the linen was high-end. Everything had clearly been sourced from high quality suppliers, but these were items I knew most people wouldn’t have come across. I had a retail background and saw an opportunity to retail them as high-end products, but without the eye-watering price tags. We are dealing directly with the supplier in most cases and can genuinely pass on those savings to customers.”
Karl and Matt work with business partner Marius Verwijs to create the garden furniture. Dubliner Marius is a furniture expert who runs a furniture business in Wicklow. He had regularly worked with Indonesian suppliers and according to Matt, was their “key” to Indonesia, where the outdoor furniture is produced.
“The supplier that makes our outdoor furniture started out as a bicycle manufacturer,” Matt tells us. “Their core business was aluminum bike frames, so the frame of the furniture is very tough, and they also use high quality handwoven synthetic rattan. It’s designed to look good but more importantly be strong. In the Châteaux, most of the pieces that were bought ten years ago are still in place, the only things that have changed are the cushions – that gives you an idea of the quality. And that’s with the Mistral wind blowing up through the south of France and the furniture constantly being blown into swimming pools and fished out!”
The pieces are also suitable for another kind of challenging weather – Ireland’s; they’ve got a UV protective material on the outside to ensure they don’t fade, and the cushions are quick drying. “I say leave them out late April to September,” Matt advises. “And by leaving them out, people use them, and that’s critical. I’ve been to hotels and there’s garden furniture with no cushions on them, so people think they may not be in use, or they shouldn’t sit on them.”
With the products being high-quality and durable, and the brand’s roots in hospitality, perhaps it was inevitable Domaine & Demeure would quickly eye the hotel market. The range is ever-expanding, Matt tells us, and the company is hoping kitting out hotels and restaurants will become a central focus going forward.
“At its most simple, we are bringing all the component parts of a hotel under one roof for retail customers but also small hotel groups that may not have the contacts we do,” he says. “We’re moving into bedroom furniture, and have beautiful headboards, ottomans, bedroom chairs and beds, which we get from a supplier whose focus is hotels. We have a linen supplier in the Vosges Mountains who supplies some of the greatest five-star properties in France. Our outdoor furniture range includes beautiful tempered-glass top tables, lounging sets, couches, coffee tables, and then the oversized armchairs, which are my favourite pieces. The products are robust, but comfortable, and Marius has specifically designed pieces that will guarantee customers and guests an enjoyable lounging or dining experience.”
Domaine and Demeure’s products straddle a mix of traditional and innovative. Much of the range’s design has a chic and luxe French feel, and Matt and the team also source unique pieces like chandeliers from antique markets across the South of France. “Then the innovative tech side comes into play,” says Matt. “In the third Château we launched we’ve got rechargeable lights that are water-resistant and suited for the hospitality trade. They are beautifully designed for use inside and outside, and you can adjust brightness, colour and tone all with one remote control. They recharge on a trolley so after service you can pop them on the trolley and the next day for service, you’ll have 20 hours of light!”
Depending on the size of the orders, Domaine & Demeure can also work on bespoke projects. Matt tells us the company has an in-house ability to design for the customers’ requirements, and items can be branded for individual businesses. The company can also work in tandem with interior designers to come up with the right look and feel for a space.
This is a business that clearly knows and loves its products and is excited to show what it can do. Despite only “properly” launching in March of last year, Matt tells us that after a strong start, the only way is up.
“We are a new business and are fully aware Ireland is a busy market, but we believe in the quality of our products, and our strong after sales and customer service is something we live and die by. A lot of orders we got last summer came off the back of reviews and what people have been saying about us. We’re new, but we know we’re doing something right, and can only grow and grow from here.”
Matt and his team will be exhibiting at Catex 2021 and look forward to meeting potential customers on stand F21.
We wish them the very best of luck.