Some hotels are accommodation, others are experiences. The La Maison Champs Elysees hotel in Paris fits firmly in the latter category, with its unconventional interiors.
The only splash of colour in the hotel’s White Lounge comes from the taxidermied birds in the showcase.
Nothing in the La Maison Champs Elysees in Paris is what you would expect from a five-star hotel. The reception counter in the lobby is a monolithic dark tinted mirrored structure, the rooms are either all-white or all-black, and the legs of the furniture in the restaurant seem to levitate. But that’s not all that surprising, coming from the avant garde fashion house of Maison Martin Margiela, the architect of the hotel’s spaces. The firm, named after the Belgian designer who founded it, is known for its unconventional deconstructed fashion designs and partiality to white cotton; and the only hotel it has designed brings this visual identity strongly through to its spaces. La Maison Champs Elysees is owned by private investment group ODO, and was reopened in 2011 after a year of renovation.
Along the corridor outside the restaurant, the trompe l’oeil effect of the wallpaper and carpet design provide the illusion of a grand hall.
You will notice there are no flowers in the hotel, and no paintings on its walls. This is so guests can focus on the design of the space, says a hotel spokesman. Instead, the establishment works with artists once a year to create installations that anchor its public spaces. When we visited last year, the works of French artist Frederique Morrel took centre stage in the lobby and restaurant. The designer created fascinating, charmingly bizarre installations using her signature material of vintage tapestries, some wrapped over moulds of taxidermied animals. Housing 57 guest rooms in two buildings – a Hausmann-era townhouse once owned by French royalty in the mid 19th century, and a contemporary extension built in 1989 – the hotel reflects its mashup of old and new, traditional and modern, in more than its contrasting architecture. There is the great staircase with its gilded First Empire eagle watching over the tinted mirror parallelepiped in the lobby and, in the rooms, classical wall mouldings that are randomly truncated.
The hotel, originally a townhouse built for a French duchess, was constructed in 1866.
With its monochrome interiors, it might seem strange to say that the hotel is a visual delight, but it is. Panel doors along the corridor outside the restaurant sport wallcoverings which give a trompe l’oeil effect, and the trickery is further enhanced by a row of real chandeliers which also appear in printed form. The carpet underfoot gets in on the deception as it looks like timber strips. In the restaurant, “levitating” chairs and tables owe the successful illusion to white cotton covers and dim lighting.
The work of artist Frederique Morrel, such as this intriguing installation of vintage tapestries in the hotel lobby, was featured in the hotel last year.
Even if guests are not impressed by the reputation of the design firm or by the conceptual, artistic touches, they will be awed by the centrality of its location, and the size of its rooms. Located along the quiet but exclusive street of 8 rue Jean Goujon in the golden triangle of Paris (which borders the famous shopping streets of the city), the hotel is just a five-to-10-minute walk away from Champs Elysees, and walking distance to major city landmarks such as the Grand Palais, the Arc De Triomphe, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower along the river Seine.
One of the 17 Couture Collection rooms in the hotel is this all-white Lost Mouldings Suite.
The spokesman also tells us that the rooms are huge, for the same price you might pay in other five-star establishments situated in the golden triangle. Here, the smallest room is about 240sqf, junior suites (which fit two to three people) are 380sqf, with suites going up to about 590sqf. Devotees of design should choose one of the 17 suites in the hotel’s Couture Collection, which each sport a different design concept. But despite the achingly hip coolness of it all, we’re still glad to note something standard on our stay – luxurious contemporary comfort provided with goose down duvets, linen sheets and Macintosh computers in every room.
A gilded First Empire eagle guards the great staircase of the hotel.
A futuristiclooking mirrored parallelepiped (a structure whose surfaces are all parallelograms) houses the hotel’s reception counter.