Co-Owner & Experience Designer
How did hinter and hinterhouse come to fruition?
My husband, Mauricio, had owned a prefab home when we met, but the idea came about when he considered selling spaces like this. Together, we decided to rent out the place to test it. Will people like it? How will they react? We wanted to explore these questions, so we began on Airbnb. It took off like THAT. We were booking up to six months at a time, even during the week. And that’s when it occurred to us that we could turn hinterhouse into a hotel.
There were construction delays, as there always are, and then a pandemic, but we opened in July 2020. There was long-awaited anticipation from our end and our guests. And of course, there’s always going to be things you learn as you go, but overall, the response has been incredible, and it’s very humbling to see that people love what we put our hearts and souls into.
Another vital part of our story came about in 2019, before hinterhouse was physically in existence. Mauricio and I were vacationing in Spain, and we were thinking about what the company meant to us. We were happy with the business model; we’re providing people with a sanctuary where they can be in nature, which is awesome. But what about nature? What are we doing for it? It was a lightbulb moment, and we took action. To build these spaces, we have to take down trees. So we decided to not only replace them but to go one step further and plant even more. Now, with every booking we have, we plant more trees through One Tree Planted.
What was the inspiration behind the name ‘hinter’?
Mauricio proposed the idea. He found that the word ‘hinter’ derives from German, meaning ‘behind’ or ‘hidden’. I loved the sound of it, especially since we wanted to feel hidden among the trees. The word ‘hint’ embedded into hinter also gives me the feeling of how you’re getting just a hint of everything you need. That’s just my interpretation of it, but I love it.
What made you choose this specific part of Canada for hinterhouse?
It started with convenience because we live close by in Montreal. But another reason is Mont-Tremblant. On the east coast of Canada, it’s one of the largest mountains and the area is a touristy ski resort. During the summer, people hike or walk around, so there’s really something to do in every season.
We felt it was important to be close to places where people can partake in fun activities for the family, or as couples, but also, when you’re at hinterhouse, you’re away from the crowd, entirely immersed in nature. Some of the neighbouring homes are not so far from here, so you’re isolated without it feeling scary.
Different people have different ways of defining comfort or luxury when travelling. What is your definition of it?
I think luxury to me, and hinter in general, would be comfort meeting well-thought-out design. We emphasise working with nature and not against it. But a lot of luxury today is all about man. ‘Be comfortable because you deserve it’—that’s what society has made us feel, even if it’s at the cost of the planet. But that’s beginning to change. I for one feel bad if I know that what I’m doing is harming others or the environment. I’m not a strict vegan by any means, so I don’t want to be a hypocrite, but I try as much as I can to give back and to be as gentle to the planet as possible.
At hinter, luxury is about putting your feet up, looking out the window, reading a book, having a conversation, meditating, or doing some yoga. It’s about reconnecting with loved ones or yourself while being surrounded by beautiful design and the wilderness.
hinterhouse also has a sauna that’s detached from the house, which could be seen as luxury too. But you’re not in some fancy, schmancy spa. It’s gorgeous, but it’s very simple. You can be in there, take deep breaths and stare at the forest.
For cooking, hinterhouse has an herb garden that’s part of the island. Again, the space is giving something to you to experience and enjoy.
Being grateful for nature means we’ll have a greater appreciation for it. Thus, we’ll treat it better. It’s a beautiful, non-vicious cycle.
What does your role as an experience designer entail?
We created the term ‘experience designer’ because we thought it was unique and it embodied so much of what I do. I’m essentially designing our guests’ experience, whether that’s directly communicating with them or setting up an atmosphere that feels relaxing. A visually attractive space is not always one that people enjoy occupying—and that’s where I come in. I try to find that balance with the help of our architects and the entire team at hinter.
There’s this incredible company from Europe, MAGIC LINEN, where we get all our linen sheets. We’ve ended up buying some for our own home because they are heavenly! We also have things like pour-over coffee experiences, for example. We work with FELLOW for beautiful kettles, and we partnered with a local coffee producer that empowers third world countries. We co-branded with them to create our own coffee, which people can buy to take home. Similarly, we have subtly branded hoodies that are also available to purchase. We try to realise that experiences come from the five senses and not just the space.
Has your background always been in this field?
Not at all. I was a teacher for seven years!
How did you know it was time to say goodbye to teaching? What was that transition like?
About a little over two years ago, in January 2019, hinter was in its infancy, but I was still teaching. For the next five months, I was juggling both. I was helping Mauricio rent out this our original space, hintercabin, and that’s when our brand really started to form. I remember going into school and teaching the kids, and as much as I loved it, I had other things on my mind. I wanted to check my emails, get creative and do something for this business. That’s when I very much knew my teaching chapter was coming to a close. I gave my notice to the school, and I left after finishing the academic year. Then, as of June 2019, it was full force. Mauricio had also left his job at the time. He was working in a software on the business side of things, so his business mind lent itself to hinter.
It was a big risk for both of us. Not to mention stressful, since we only had one space being rented, and we had to figure out how we could sustain this thing and still live comfortably. But it worked! We’re continuing to navigate this journey and are hoping to grow even more now.
As you grow, would you say that your priorities have shifted at all, especially since the pandemic hit?
Honestly, it’s not been so different for us since before and during the pandemic. The only major difference has been the demographic we’re targeting. Since we started on Airbnb, we did get a lot of traction with international guests, primarily from America and Europe. And because of our branding and work on social media, we were able to reach a pretty broad audience. But with the pandemic, we got a lot of cancellations, which is understandable. Luckily, the local market was pouring in, and bookings were coming in like crazy, replacing all the lost bookings we had. We’ve had to create waitlists because we physically don’t have enough supply.
But we’re really grateful for that because we’re planning to launch some new spaces, and we’re thrilled to have such a loyal following and community. We feel like when we launch the new spaces, they’ll book quite fast, which is amazing.
How did you go about choosing the different architects that you work with?
Mauricio had already been in contact with the first architects we worked with on hinterhouse. He had found MENARD DWORKIND on Instagram many, many years ago and became friends. They dreamt up hinterhouse together and had so much fun building the project.
The architects for the new spaces are from the UK, and we’ve always loved their work. Again, we were following each other on Instagram, and one day Mauricio just said, “I’m going to reach out to them.” He jumped on a call and made it happen.
It’s ultimately about finding people that are aligned with us in terms of our energy and values. We appreciate their work, and they appreciate our work. When that’s in harmony, it’s all good.
You mentioned working with One Tree Planted. Are there other companies you’re hoping to collaborate with—either now or in the future—to keep the focus on sustainable living?
So many ways I can answer! I’ll start by telling you a little more about what we’re already doing sustainability wise. We work hard to be as least intrusive to the land as possible. For the products we supply in our spaces, we find biodegradable and refillable items where we can. For instance, we work with a Montreal-based company, THE UNESCENTED COMPANY, for all things laundry and body care. As mentioned earlier, we use MagicLinen for linens, which are all made sustainably. We also try to empower local artisans when we buy furniture. There’s a craftsman in the area who’s so passionate about what he does. On our website, we have a video talking more about him.
Going forward, we’re open-minded. We hope to expand outside of Quebec, even outside of Canada in the next two years. We have our eyes on Portugal and Mexico, but the spaces will be conducive to the location, maintaining the hinter ethos of design meets nature. Depending on where we build, we’ll work with different organisations. Since we’re surrounded by the forest here, One Tree Planted felt very relevant. But maybe there will be something else down the line relating the ocean, maybe.
How have bookings been since opening? Has it still been relatively local or more international again?
We had some American guests that had to cancel in April. But we were able to rebook with locals. We’re entirely booked till about November—most of which are local. But I think there will be a massive shift once everyone is vaccinated and travel is more accessible. 2022 will be an import year for us. I suspect locals will be trying to get out of Canada because they can finally travel abroad, and we’ll perhaps have many more international guests looking to experience what we offer.
Would you say that there’s a specific age group that seems to come and stay at hinterhouse more, or is it quite varied?
It’s interesting. I would say we do primarily get young professional couples, and then young families. So let’s say those in their late 20s to 40s—that’s our biggest demographic. We have a strong presence on social media, and that’s where most millennials are. We do have some baby boomers, gen x and gen z. But I think gen z is mostly here to take nice pictures. But hey, whatever works, I guess!
Could that be a possibility for a space? You know, somewhere exclusively to shoot content?
It is, and we get a lot of companies that want to do photoshoots and things like that. We don’t do it very often because we don’t want to be too seen everywhere. But we make an exception here and there. We’ve thought of such spaces, though, like city spaces. It’s popular in Montreal right now to have these beautiful studios that you can rent for content creation. They’re gorgeous, and that’s always been at the top of mind to have a hinter style space for people to do that.
That would be a really cool way to extend your concept and brand!
I really can’t complain. It’s an extremely fun lifestyle and career to have because I honestly feel inspired every day. It’s very visual and creative, and that’s important to hinter.