Cornwall LivingIssue #76

A living space

We talk to Olivier Noverraz who, with his wife Angela, moved to Cornwall to create a unique and elegant guesthouse in the very heart of St Ives.

Born in Geneva and growing up in Switzerland, Olivier’s first taste of hospitality wasn’t until he started university at the renowned Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, where in his very first week he met his future wife Angela. Angela, however, grew up in hotels as her father was a hotelier. Her formative years were spent travelling the world as her father’s job took them from the Caribbean to Tunisia, Italy and beyond. After falling in love in Lausanne, Olivier and Angela also went on to work in Italy and spent seven blissful years working in high-end hotels from Rome to Sardinia.

“It’s such a fantastic lifestyle – it’s hard work but the rewards are just unique.” – Olivier

They eventually came to the UK to work in London, but as Olivier explains: “Having followed the corporate ladder for many years we both grew a little disillusioned with this path. We loved working for companies that had great objectives but we found that as we climbed the ladder we were losing touch with people and our aspiration was to get back to the ‘service’ that had always been our true passion.” During their time in London they were blessed with a daughter, but both having grown up near the sea or the countryside they wanted to have the same for their little family.

“We could have moved anywhere in the world,” said Olivier, “but realised that the UK had a lovely tradition of guest houses and we wanted to take that to the next level. We discovered the mysterious attraction of the M4 and started travelling west to look for suitable properties. It wasn’t long before we fell under the spell of St Ives and found our dream hotel for sale. However, in the final throws of exchanging contracts the sellers pulled out as they realised they weren’t ready to let go of their baby.”

It was certainly a blow for Olivier and Angela: “We were walking through our beloved St Ives in a state of despair, desperate to get our dream off the ground, when we noticed a rather run down guest house for sale along the narrow winding street of The Warren.” Even though the building was almost derelict and came with everything from rising damp and wet rot to woodworm the couple knew they had to make this work in order to realise their dream.

“We had to do a complete refurbishment,” said Olivier, “It was the winter of 2011/12 which was one of the wettest ever and at some points we had rivers of mud running through the property. We were lucky to find some excellent local builders and took the property back to a shell. We redesigned the whole building to maximise space, using our experience of hotel operations to ensure that the rooms and working areas made sense for everyone moving around them, both guests and employees.”

Angela took on all of the interior design herself carefully selecting every single item inside the house and found, in the process, that she had a talent she wasn’t aware she had. The result of all their hard work and attention to detail is Trevose Harbour House, which has bought a new kind of guesthouse experience to St Ives. It is timeless and elegant in its quality and design and looks as exquisite today as it did when it was finished six years ago.

Olivier adds: “We absolutely adore what we do, it’s in our DNA. We also feel we have a responsibility to our guests to give them the best stay possible, by offering a true five star hotel experience, bringing that luxury feel inside the walls of our guest house. Nothing is too much, and our guests are taken care of from the moment they book to the minute they leave. We can assist with journeys, restaurant bookings, activities, and have even orchestrated wedding proposals! We offer a total concierge service, any time of day or night.”

For Olivier and Angela it’s all about the encounters they have. They left the corporate world to find more meaning and purpose and so having just 12 guests in the house allows them to have those conversations with their guests that provide everybody with the very best experience. “Our aim was to create a haven, a refreshing place. One of calm, where your shoulders drop and everything is taken care of.” adds Olivier. “We welcome our guests with a scented towel. The sweet smell and comforting warmth tells them that their journey is over and they’re here now, here at Trevose.”

In 2016 the couple were awarded the prestigious Visit Britain gold award for being the best guesthouse in the country. “We were ecstatic, and have since endeavoured to maintain this gold crown. We have centred our efforts on maintaining the unique experience we give to our guests and are now trying to find ways to be more responsible in the way we do things.”

Well on the way to a Green Tourism Board gold award, the couple support local charity Surfers Against Sewage and are part of the steering committee trying to make St Ives plastic free. “We are fortunate to have a successful business but are also very aware of our impact on the environment and our community and are now looking at what we can do to give back. Even though we are foreigners we have been welcomed to St Ives with open arms and have had so much support from local hoteliers and the wider community. People have accepted us and, dare I say, are even proud of us.”

For Olivier and Angela, it’s all about transferring their passion for hospitality and Cornwall to the people who stay with them. Olivier sums up: “If we ever lose the ‘fun’ then that will be the time we move on, but for now we absolutely love what we do. As a family we live together, work together and surf together. It’s such a fantastic lifestyle – it’s hard work but the rewards are just unique.”

"It’s such a fantastic lifestyle – it’s hard work but the rewards are just unique."