Hot Hotels in Paris

Hot Hotels in Paris

The Paris hotel scene is constantly changing, and a recent spate of ambitious renovations has created some noteworthy new addresses for visitors looking for personality, charm or dazzling design. Enterprising hoteliers have not only completely revamped older hotels, but have also transformed a private mansion, an office building and even a former bank into lodgings of luxe and charm. A few of the most interesting:

For an out-of-the-ordinary luxury boutique hotel in a central location, it’s hard to beat the new Hôtel Lumen, which opened just last September. A short walk from the Louvre, the Place Vendôme and the Opéra Garnier, the Lumen is on the busy rue des Pyramides but backs onto the quiet passage St-Roch with its lovely Baroque church. The building, once a bank, has been transformed by architect Alain Daronian and designer Claudio Colucci into a stylish mixture of the contemporary and the neo-Baroque.

Colucci, an Italian designer whose former Paris projects include the wildly colorful Delicabar restaurant in the Bon Marché department store, played with the theme of light (announced in the hotel’s name) in his interior design. An immense, wavy crystal chandelier sparkles in the lobby, reflected in a wall of mirrored mosaics and in the gleaming floor of light and dark gray marble stripes. Splashes of color come from a lipstick red canapé and an alcove in the same vivid shade that shelters the hotel’s small reception desk. It’s splendidly high-design, and anything but cozy.

The designer used light to good effect in the rooms as well. Headboards are multiple ovals of pearly satin, drapes are lustrous silver velvet and plush bed coverings capture the light from glowing globes suspended from the ceiling and placed on bedside tables. Rooms are compact, but high ceilings give a sense of space and marble-and-glass bathrooms are well thought-out. Four of the smallest single rooms have a gorgeous floor-to-ceiling cascade of a chandelier tucked into a corner. From the top floor suite there’s a view of the roofs and dome of the neighboring St Roch church, and the 5th-floor suite’s two bedrooms each have a balcony. All rooms have flat-screen TVs and high-speed DSL connections; the bistrot-style restaurant, the Passage St-Roch, is open all day and room service is available.

While the Hôtel Lumen is a temple of design, the Hôtel des Académies et des Arts in Montparnasse draws its inspiration from art, recalling the heritage of this neighborhood once frequented by Picasso, Fujita and Modigliani. The hotel’s name reflects its location across the street from a venerable art school, the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, where students still flock to study drawing and painting.

Charlotte and Laurent Inchauspé bought this 120-year old hotel in 2006 and spent a year on what must be the city’s most imaginative renovation. Enlisting the talents of two contemporary artists, Jérôme Mesnager and Sophie de Watrigant, the young couple created a remarkable establishment that’s as warm and welcoming as it is unique.

The unifying art motif is the “Corps Blanc”, Mesnager’s signature white-painted figure that first appeared as graffiti on the city’s walls in 1983 and has since traveled all over the world, including to the Great Wall of China. De Watrigant’s contribution is sculpture, and her tiny white figures appear in surprising places throughout the building: climbing ladders up the lobby walls and cavorting acrobatically in the dramatically lit stairwell.

The reception area is more living room than lobby, with its series of small rooms and welcoming fire. Above the fireplace, a crowd of Mesnager’s white figures painted on a wall of weathered boards recreates a bal populaire. Shelves of art books and objets d’art line the adjoining library, furnished with comfortable plush sofas, and beyond it are the “petit bistrot” breakfast room/bar and a video viewing room with red velvet banquettes. (One wonderful short video shows Mesnager at work during the renovation.)

The hotel’s twenty rooms are decorated in four different themes: the theatrically-inspired Comédienne, with high red velvet headboards; the handsome black-and-white Man Ray; the Art Deco-style Ruhlmann; and the sophisticated Parisienne, with crushed velvet fabrics and a cream-and-taupe color scheme. All rooms have Wi-Fi and Internet TV, and all bathrooms have windows. And, of course, each room also has its own White Figure, who might be climbing the wall, floating in space or swinging from a curtain rod.

In the Faubourg St-Germain, Left Bank vie de bohème gives way to a realm of quiet luxury and vintage elegance, and the Hôtel St-Vincent, located on a tranquil side street with a few sophisticated little shops, fits perfectly into the ambience. Owner Bertrand Plasmans bought this large building that once housed the offices of the St Vincent de Paul Society with the intention of creating a larger and more luxurious establishment than his other hotel, the charming Hôtel St Thomas d’Aquin right next door. “This was built as an hôtel particulier in the 18th century,” he explains, “and I wanted to keep the esprit discret, très parisien, of a private home in the Faubourg St-Germain-luxurious but not ostentatious”.

He succeeded admirably. The lobby, with its lofty ceiling and many windows, is an inviting salon beautifully decorated in shades of cream, gold, beige and taupe, with assorted area rugs, table lamps on vintage cabinets and a large working fireplace surrounded by comfortable sofas and armchairs that invite curling up with a book or relaxing with a glass of wine. Plasmans culled his delightful mix of furniture from brocantes and flea markets, t

hen refurbished them, often using upscale fabrics-like the unusual three-sided wooden chairs in the breakfast room, with salmon velvet seats.

The rooms are unusually spacious-a real luxury in Paris-and filled with light from large windows. Colors are tranquil pastels, headboards are covered with handsome fabric-in some cases, striped velvet-and gorgeous drapes are in lustrous taffeta. Each of the rooms is furnished differently, perhaps with a vintage desk with ball-and-claw feet, or a gilded, carved mirror in the large marble bathroom. Some rooms have original parquet floors and folding inside shutters. During the renovation, Plasmans had a cabinetmaker copy the original 18th-century woodwork, which needed replacing, recreating it exactly in all the rooms; he also had the casement windows copied, but with noise-blocking double glazing. It’s this attention to detail that makes the Hôtel St-Vincent the perfect choice for anyone looking for luxe, calme and volupté.

When it comes to prices, the dollar’s drop has prompted severe euro-shock, but some bargains remain. The Hôtel Arvor, just off the hip rue des Martyrs in the 9th arrondissement, is one of them, and it’s a real charmer. When she bought this old hotel in 2005, Nadine Flammarion (of the publishing house family) started at the bottom and worked up for a complete renovation; the last floor will be finished in April.

Bright and cheerful, the lobby area now sparkles with mostly white walls, touches of startlingly bright color in the striped Daniel Buren posters in the breakfast area, and fresh flowers on round white tables surrounded by cool molded Vitra chairs. In good weather guests can also breakfast on a flowery little terrace. In the spacious sitting room with its invitingly soft sofas, a stylish little bar lines one wall, while a floor-to-ceiling bookcase on another offers reading material, including Paris guidebooks to help guests plan their stay while they sip their espresso. Books also overflow the shelves found on every floor and even stairway landings.

The thirty rooms are luminous and quiet, with large windows and white walls set off by one in color-apple green, soft aqua or taupe. Furnishings are simple-an appealing mix of flea market finds like mirrored vanities or grandmotherly bureaus and modern pieces including molded plastic rocking chairs. Six large suites are perfect for families or anyone who likes lots of space-each has a separate entranceway, a small room with a single bed/couch, a very large bedroom and a bathroom big enough for a cabinet to hold toiletries (very rare in Paris). Amusing posters brighten the walls, and every room has Wi-Fi and a flat screen TV. Smiling service is a plus, and the neighborhood, a very Parisian district with little neighborhood shops and the relics of a literary co

mmunity called Nouvelle Athènes, is well worth exploring.

Follow the rue des Martyrs and you end up in Montmartre, where the former artist’s village still retains its individuality up on its hilltop. Right in the heart of this world apart, the Hôtel Particulier Montmartre hides behind a high black wall. Despite its address, number 23 is not exactly on the Avenue Junot-those in the know leave it to follow a narrow passageway to a giant boulder, then ring at an unmarked gate.

Inside the wall, the place is pure magic (perhaps it really is — that boulder is called le rocher de la sorcière, or witch’s rock). A stately Directoire townhouse presides over a lush private park of ivy-covered trees and bushy rhododendrons. Landscaped by Louis Bénech, who also worked on the Jardin des Tuileries, the garden hides several tiny terraces where guests can breakfast in leafy privacy.

The interior too is enchanting. Floor-to-ceiling windows bring the garden indoors to the large salon, furnished with exceptional modern pieces by Mies van der Rohe, Fabricius and Arne Jacobsen. In the cozy library, a leather armchair sits next to a fireplace and shelves of art books.

Dividing the upper floors into five enormous rooms and suites, owner Morgane Rousseau gave carte blanche to five contemporary artists. “I wanted the art to be the real focus of the rooms,” she says, “not just to be used as decoration.” As a result, the rooms are wildly different in style. Two rooms offer king-size beds: the Chambre Vitrine, displaying the sculpture of Philippe Mayaux, and the Chambre Végétale, a tree-house of a room where foliage-patterned wallpaper echoes the leaves outside. Two junior suites have an additional single bed: Poèmes et Chapeaux, where the lampshades are black fedoras; and Arbre à Oreilles, whose splashy wall design was inspired by a Japanese legend. A spiral staircase leads up to the two-bedroom suite de luxe, a sky-lighted loft named Rideau de Cheveux for its mural of huge photos. It all adds up to the most talked-about new hotel in town.


Prices are for a standard double room

Hôtel Lumen: 15 rue des Pyramides, 1st, 340€ website

Hôtel des Académies et des Arts: 15 rue de la Grande Chaumière, 6th, 189€ website

Hôtel Saint-Vincent, 5 rue du Pré-aux-Clercs, 7th, 240€ website

Hôtel Arvor: 8 rue Laferrière, 9th, €125 (€100 in low season) website

Hôtel Particulier Montmartre: 23 ave Junot, 18th, 390€ website

Originally published in the February 2008 issue of France Today

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