Designing history: Tristan Auer takes on the Carlton Cannes Beach Club
Updated: Jul 23
Meet the designer behind the classy, vintage Carlton Cannes Beach Club and the current renovation of the legendary 'Grande Dame' of the Croisette.
Last summer, 90 years after its opening, The Beach Club of the Carlton Cannes, reopened with a completely new look, bringing a cool, elegant and relaxed feel while maintaining the 1930s vibe of when it opened.
Artistic Director for the Paris firm, Wilson Associates, Tristan Auer was entrusted to lead the complete overhaul of the emblematic hotel, starting with The Beach Club and moving on to the massive remodel that is keeping the historic hotel closed until 2023.
I meet the renowned Interior Architect at the newly-opened Beach Club, surrounded by an ambience of natural ease and vintage glamour. He was open and talkative, despite this being his last interview of the day.
It doesn't take long to understand that Mr Auer is a true artist, finding his inspiration from a colour, a piece of clothing or the style of something simple. “For me," he tells RI, "designing is like breathing – there is no pain, it’s just natural.”
This ‘natural’ ability sees him create unique ambiences all over the world, each one with its own identity. Refusing to ‘leave a signature’ or have an identifiable style, Auer describes himself as a tailor, creating custom suits to his clients' taste: “I forget myself and disappear,” he reveals.
Before getting started, he takes me to the end of the pontoon to look back over the Beach Club with the imposing 'grande dame' of the Carlton as the backdrop. Amazingly, the new circular bar which is the centrepiece of The Beach Club disappears into the natural setting. Exclaiming that the bar disappeared was pleasing to him, as he was aiming for an unimposing appearance that on one hand recalls the glamour of the 1930s and 40s and on the other, respects the natural beach environment.
Returning to sand-coloured sofas near his innovative circular bar, we discuss the elements of his vision for The Beach Club. He starts by picking up the drink coaster, a canary yellow disk with the Beach club logo in blue letters. “This logo, for example, recalls the vintage style of the club with the same font as when it opened in 1930.” The yellow and blue are classics for the Côte d’Azur, fresh and breezy but is also a nod to the fun atmosphere of the 1950s when the Carlton was the playground for the biggest names in Hollywood.
Just then, the clicking of a woman's heels can be heard as she walks by between our sofa and the bar. Tristan doesn't see her, but he stops and points his finger up in the air: "Even the choices of flooring make difference," he begins, "just the sound of a woman's heels can make you imagine the stunning dress she has on for a drink at the Carlton. These are details you don't see but adds to the ambience." The woman did, in fact, have a stunning dress on.
It is a rare opportunity to sit in a legendary location with the very person who has hand-selected every piece of furniture, lighting, and décor--and Auer doesn’t disappoint. He could explain his choice for everything from the sunbeds to the lighting, to the jute rug that transitions the wood floors to the soft sand.
Honouring the past
History was a very important aspect when he was envisioning The Beach Club's design. “The Carlton is history,” he says, “and the French Riviera is glamour. We want to create a story, to have people live a unique moment.” Form and function are just the foundations of an environment, he explains, but it is the experience of a place that leaves a lasting impression.
Unlike other well-known architects and designers, Auer doesn’t like to leave his own mark on his spaces. He doesn’t want people to see him, he wants them to see the environment. “I forget myself and focus on the client.”
Jad Aboukhater, former Business Development Manager for the Carlton, said of Tristan Auer: “There are many beautiful hotels in the world and when you enter, you can see the hand of certain designers—which can remind you of other hotels. But with Tristan, you walk in and you see the Carlton.”
It is for this reason that Auer is the designer for the entire hotel, overseeing Carlton’s massive renovation project. His choice in design style is still kept top-secret but when pressed for when the much-anticipated renovation would be complete, he replied: “with luxury, there is no date. It’s ready when it’s ready.”
Initially, the renovation work was being done in sections, with no clear end in sight. Since then, due to the Covid crisis, the Carlton has decided to close the hotel completely in order to speed up the renovation from an expected 5 years to only 2 years, set to reopen in 2023. For now, fans of the Carlton can content themselves with the wonderful redo of the iconic Beach Club, enjoying not only a fabulous drink but also a piece of Cannes history.