Paris, place de la concorde
light on ONE metamorphosis
Transform suites into nightclubs and libraries into dressing rooms; have screens come out of the walls but bring contemporary fashion into the building with designers like Karl Lagerfeld and Chahan Minassian (formerly with Ralph Lauren): those were just a few of the magic tricks that will fascinate visitors to the new luxury hotel in the center of Paris.
But make no mistake: this is not a simple reopening of a hotel after renovation; it is a hotel emerging from a metamorphosis after four years of work, carried out by Bouygues Bâtiment Ile-de-France – Rénovation Privée and concealed behind a canvas screen that served as the chrysalis. Depicted on the canvas was the façade of the hotel, which sparkled every hour after nightfall at the same time as the Eiffel Tower.
This beautiful, newly born butterfly promises to attract not only well-to-do tourists and assorted art lovers from all over the world, but also Parisians who come to relax in the spa or drop in for a drink at the bar, now accessible from the lobby.
THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL HOTEL
Five decorators working under the direction of interior decorator Aline Amman transfigured the 16,740 sq. meters of the hotel. Each left their particular mark, from the restoration of certain rooms in the purest 18th-century style to the latest innovations in electronic systems. At its first Parisian property, the operator, Hong Kong-based Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, is indeed proposing a new concept by combining the most up-to-date amenities with the refinement of an antique jewel box.
Wiring is concealed behind the original but newly gilded mirrors. In some suites, sixty different lighting ambiences are available, and the guest’s preferences are automatically memorized. And that same guest is able to set the temperature and time of his bath the moment he steps off the airplane. “We didn’t look for technology, which by nature evolves, but rather for functionality: everything can be personalized,” says Alain Tayar, production director at Rénovation Privée, a subsidiary of Bouygues Bâtiment Ile-de-France.
The iPads in the rooms are thus not out of step with a long tradition of art and craftsmanship. To bring forth the soul of the hotel once again, 120 specialized subcontractors teamed up with about fifty site workers who have honed their skills on the most beautiful buildings in Paris. They made use of no fewer than 545 types of materials, some among the rarest and most valuable to be found: mother-of-pearl and gold leaf covering ceilings, 57 kinds of marble, and in the Grands Appartements decorated by the designer Karl Lagerfeld, a carpet patterned with the claw marks of his cat Choupette!
In this same extraordinary suite, a bathtub carved into a solid block of marble selected at the end of a six-month search across the globe required a crane and reinforcement of the floor for its installation.
THERE WILL BE A ‘BEFORE’ AND ‘AFTER’
By digging to the level of the Seine to create a second basement, workers were able to accomplish a remarkable technical feate. That is where guests will find a magnificent swimming pool made with 17,600 gold-emerald mosaic tiles and bordered by a ceramic fresco created by the artist Peter Land, with a view of the sky through a light-well.
“The new Hôtel Crillon is to the hotel industry what the Concorde was to aviation... or Tesla is to automobiles. The ultimate in luxury, a revolution in standards... There will be a ‘before’ and ‘after’”, says Tayar. “We are taking the Paris luxury hotel market to the next level.”
A SHORT HISTORY OF A HISTORIC PLACE
In 1758, the King of France, Louis XV, ordered his architect, Ange-Jacques Gabriel, to build on the “Place Louis XV” (today Place de la Concorde) two identical façades, one on each side of the Rue Royale. The building to the east was used as a royal warehouse, later becoming the Hôtel de la Marine. On the west side, four hôtels (mansions) were built behind the façade, including the Hôtel Aumont, designed by the architect Louis-François Trouard and decorated by Pierre-Adrien Pâris. Queen Marie-Antoinette took piano lessons there, giving her name to one of the three reception rooms now listed on the register of historic monuments. In 1788, the Hôtel Aumont was acquired by François Félix de Crillon, a descendant of a comrade in arms of Henri IV, who gave it his name, before it became a hotel in 1909. In 1919, the Treaty of the League of Nations (a forerunner of the United Nations) was signed there. In 1986, the comedian Thierry Le Luron died within its walls, but the fact remained hidden because “one does not die in a hotel.” On a happier note, John Travolta was married there in 1991. In 1998, the French soccer team presented its World Cup trophy to the public from the upstairs terrace. The Bal des Débutantes was held there until 2012, and the Prix Femina literary prize was given out there every year until it closed. Miss France, meanwhile, was photographed there the day after her selection.
“The renovation done by Bouygues Construction, whom we are continuing to work with during this ‘breaking-in’ phase, has brought the Hôtel de Crillon into the 21st century while preserving the spirit of the 18th. It has shown a spotlight on French savoir-faire, with 147 arts and crafts trades represented. But besides the magic of the place, the 380-strong staff and impeccable service make the Hôtel de Crillon what it is.
We have tried to reconnect the staff with the guests. We have introduced the first majordomo service in Paris. I greet each new client personally. We want our guests to have the impression of arriving in private residence and to feel at home.”
– Rénovation Privée
“We do more than just respond to our guests’ requests. We personalize their stay according to what they are looking for. One day, a person arrived with 200 pairs of shoes. We bought supports for all of them. She greatly appreciated our help.
Fifteen days before the opening, we all came dressed in jeans to try out all the rooms and see what the experience would be like for guests – for example, in the Duc de Crillon suite, where the frescos and the gilding have been restored by a company from the Historic Monuments office.”
We gave a lot of thought to the flows of people to decide how to position the doors. Everything has been done to make the personnel’s life easier: the porters have motorized trolleys and the chambermaids have an electric device to lift the beds. It was exciting to watch as this gigantic project progressed. It was the adventure of a lifetime!