In the French city of Arles – once the stomping ground of Vincent Van Gogh – lies a medieval church that’s as much a gallery as it is a guest house.

Called Le Collatéral, this hybrid space is owned by Anne-Laurence Schiepan and her husband, designer Philippe Schiepan, who bought the 1,000 sq m church off-market a few years ago. Together, they created a four-bedroom cultural hub, which also has a salon, library and terrace.

Le Collatéral frequently hosts exhibitions, creative workshops and artist residencies. Artworks and sculptural lighting pieces fill the building, including specially commissioned installations by American artist Reeve Schumacher and Erick Helaine – an assistant of James Turrell.

Le Collatéral
Photography: Joanna Maclennan

‘Clients often say they have the impression of living in a piece of art,’ says Anne-Laurence. ‘At the same time, rooms are quite zen and cosy.’

This ambitious conversion project was a result of the couple’s enduring love for Arles – a place they’ve kept returning to for 20 years.

‘My husband’s thoughts were, “This is for us!” says Anne-Laurence, a former communications specialist. ‘My thoughts were, “He is crazy”.’

Philippe Schiepan spent a year designing the space, drawing inspiration from the nearby Camargue river delta. It took a further two years to transform the building, which had previously been a ballroom, warehouse and furniture store, among other things. The original stone structure of the church remains but interiors have been filled with fervent hues and contemporary lighting.

Le Collatéral
Photography: Joanna Maclennan

‘All the inspiration for materials and colours is from nature,’ adds Anne-Laurence. ‘And [natural] light is so important in Arles, so special that you have to tell a story about it.’

The city’s abundance of sunlight informed the bright colour palette of Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings, including the yellow and marine blue of ‘Bedroom in Arles’. Those same vibrant hues can be found in Le Collatéral.

Says Anne-Laurence: ‘Arles is a post-modern city linking past and future – so inspiring for creators of all kind.’

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