Words by Elisa Cazzato, photographies by Francesca Romano
“Do you imagine the end result as soon as you enter an old building to be renovated, or is the process gradual?”
“I imagine it right away.”
Thus begins the conversation with Pascale Lauber, designer and owner, together with Ulrike Bauschke, of Paragon 700, Boutique Hotel & SPA recently opened in Ostuni.
Indeed, crossing the threshold of the Palazzo Rosso, which was once the home of the first mayor of Ostuni and the patriotic events linked to Giovine Italia, one has the impression of having entered a world, a precise dream vision.
To tell the truth, this is not the first time I set foot inside the historic Palazzo Tanzarella: in 2018, in fact, I had the pleasure of visiting the renovation site, which stopped for two days to host the contemporary art exhibition ‘Cantieri mentali, Opere di Caio Gracco’. Inevitable, after such an experience, not to dwell on the intellectual process, however inexplicable, that leads to such unusual results.
Ulrike speaks of falling in love with this palace with a sparkle shining in her eyes, ‘It was love at first sight’, during the first visit organised by craftsman Renato Palumbo.
Hardly in any other building in Puglia can one find such a harmonious balance between pieces from various antique shops and markets, from South Africa (a land to which the owners are closely linked) and pieces inspired by Apulian craftsmanship, designed by Pascale herself, founder of ID Living.
A South that meets another South, after all, with memories of other countries, which the two owners are fond of.
From the process of imagining the environment, we move on to talk about Pascale’s own relationship with objects. The process is different, she reveals that she feels a transport, an unconscious awareness that the objects she chooses and whose location she does not immediately imagine will then have their assigned place, in an idea that dwells in the recesses of her mind. The designer has a great love for what others discard or do not imagine at all in a change of use.
Needless to investigate further, the result is extraordinary. Despite the contemporary reading of the place, everything seems to have always been there.
Particularly striking are the chandeliers in the entrance and the Bar 700, inspired by traditional Apulian objects and reworked by Pascale in a grandiose key, together with the chandeliers from South Africa, under which one cannot help but pause without contemplating every step.
I am fascinated by this: very beautiful things invite us to linger in the moment.
The owners’ attention to culture and art is utmost; indeed, the Paragon hosts temporary exhibitions such as that of Michal Cole, eclectic artist and director of the Pavillion of Humanity, who works with materials representative of power in society, such as ties and money, deconstructing their known symbolism, trying to subtract their power and the idea of control. Her idea is to make culture with money (often perceived as completely disconnected from it). His works exhibited at the Paragon are also a tribute to Queen Elizabeth and her mourning.
On 27 May, the vernissage was held inside the palace, and then from the 28th the exhibition will be open to the public throughout the summer. The Paragon in fact, despite its exclusivity, is a place that wants to be open to local art. Ulrike and Pascal have in fact started a collaboration with the Conservatory of Monopoli and intend to fill the large garden (which flows into a delightful little orange grove) with music for the Music Festival on 21 June.
And speaking of art, the owners do not neglect the culinary one. We talk to the bar staff who introduce us to their mixology philosophy, entitled ‘The Cocktail Show’, a tribute to cinema as an art heavily affected by the pandemic. In the cocktails, the alcoholic base meets a fermentation graft to ensure a greater well-being for those who taste them.
The cuisine at Paragon is also sublime. The chef mixes childhood and Mediterranean memories with different techniques learnt during experiences in other regions. The dish he tells us about with eyes that are almost moved is the tortello in the shape of a cartellata (a classic Apulian Christmas cake) stuffed with ragout alla cacciatora of cockerel. We taste it and are amazed, as we are by other starters and first courses including the raw cod, fusillone with scampi, of a delicacy that is hard to compare. We are then particularly surprised by the crostone with oil and tomato in a sweet key, a further note of surprise in a palace where everything is thought out, where every detail is the result of a careful mental process.