Inside Puglia’s Eccentric Design Den, Paragon 700 Boutique Hotel + Spa

11 unique, upscale rooms populate a restored palazzo that dates back to the 18th century

Within the picturesque confines of Ostuni—Puglia’s historic white city—the new 11-room boutique hotel Paragon 700 invites guests into an enchanting, eccentric restoration of an 18th century palazzo. Proprietors Ulrike Bauschke and Pascale Lauber transformed the abandoned bones of the palace into a contemporary design destination, complete with top-tier amenities, impeccable hospitality, delectable food and drink outlets and a peaceful pool that works in tandem with the southern Italian sunshine. Further, all of these splendors have been imagined and maintained by Bauschke and Lauber—the owners and an LGBTQ+ couple.

From spacious rooms that collide contemporary art and furnishings with revived frescos and antique fixtures, to shared spaces for disconnecting from devices or connecting with fellow guests, Paragon 700’s refined floor plan will appeal to various types of travelers. Thoughtful surprises exist around every corner, inside and out. Unexpectedly, stairwells wind up and away. Vegetables sprout behind an ancient stone wall. Asymmetrical geometries fragment Puglian vistas. This amalgamation of attributes and personalities defines the work of ID Living, Lauber’s architecture and design firm.

Both Lauber (who was born in Switzerland) and Bauschke (who comes from Germany) refer to their introduction to the storied property as love at first sight. They’d moved from Cape Town to Puglia to be closer to friends and family, and had spent time renovating a nearby masseria (or traditional farmhouse) for personal use. Though they’d been involved in design and hospitality in South Africa (and elsewhere), they had no intention of immersing themselves once more, until a friend toured them through Palazzo Rosso and its walled gardens—both of which had been uninhabited for many years.

“I have to bring this to life again,” Lauber says of the sensations she felt during the walk-through. Immediately, a vision began to form. “I knew how it would look right away.” As for her process over the years-long restoration, she says, “I like to tell contemporary stories and mix various styles. I like to be detailed. The concept is never only about a renovation; we consider the way people will move through the property, the way we will serve our guests.”

Lauber, who spent much time on site going so far as to set mosaics from recovered tiles, plotted the design down to its scent identity. “For Paragon 700, we worked with all seven senses—the first five of course, but the sixth is équilibre [aka “balance” in French] and the seventh is emotion. Every thing here has a reason—even the name. Our logo is drawn from an original fresco that we preserved,” she says.

“Puglia was meant to be our holiday destination,” Bauschke adds. “But when I saw this I knew it needed to be a boutique hotel, so we restored the soul of the property.” Outside, verdant gardens and public artworks accent the long, rectangular pool. There’s an undeniable continuity to the eclectic identity both inside and out. And if guests are interested in purchasing any of the furniture or decor they see, they can. It allows the owners to seek out more—an act they’ve long derived pleasure from.

“Our chef is from Puglia, though he’s worked all over the world,” Bauschke continues, as we share light bites and cocktails in lingering late afternoon warmth. For the seasonal gourmet restaurant’s menu, Bauschke explains, “We work mainly with local suppliers. The cheese and meat come from here. We have our own vegetable garden, too. Like the decor, though, it’s crafted with an international touch.”

Beyond the menu, Paragon 700 offers programming to satiate the curiosity of guests. There’s an associated beach club on the Adriatic, which can easily be reached by car. There’s also a private boat. Much of the on-site programming involves art events and partnerships. The hotel can also arrange for tours of the historic village so that visitors can truly experience how Paragon 700’s red brick facade contrasts the white-walled buildings that define its surroundings.

“People come as guests and leave as friends,” Bauschke concludes, and we understand. It pertains to the warmth of the hospitality one experiences amidst the flair of the spectacular hotel itself.

Images courtesy of Paragon 700