By Deanna M. Ashley
In the heart of Paris, a heart in which harsh torments of history have played out violently, and yet where the loveliest of sights and sounds can still be savored, sits the opulent Hôtel de Crillon. Towering prominently over the Place de la Concorde at the foot of the Champs-Élysées, it is no wonder that in 1755, French architect, Ange‑Jacques Gabriel was commissioned by King Louis XV to design the exterior of what would become this brilliant structure. The palatial hotel is walking distance from the formal style Jardin des Tuileries with its veritable outdoor sculpture museum. A slightly longer stroll delivers one to the entrance of the Louvre Museum with an astounding collection of the world’s most important works of art under one roof.
Even the most monumental of palaces could benefit from an occasional innovative, yet careful makeover. What preceded this current re-envisioning was the 2010 acquisition of this coveted property by a member of the Saudi royal family. It appears nothing was spared in this impressive undertaking. An estimated $200 million was poured into The Hôtel de Crillon during its four year renovation. This included reinforcing the structure and digging two floors beneath ground level to create space for a swimming pool and spa. Forty different types of marble were installed in various forms throughout, and 147 Métiers d’Art craftsmen worked painstakingly to complete the meticulous restoration.
The sumptuously imagined new interiors can be attributed to four esteemed designers whom lent their expertise: Tristan Auer, Chahan Minassian, Cyril Vergniol, and the legendary, Karl Lagerfeld. This all unfolded carefully under the direction of architects Richard Matinet and Aline d’Amman. Karl Lagerfeld’s immense talent was sought out via an elegant hand-written letter. He soon agreed to decorate, “Les Grands Appartements.“ These two opulent suites are joined by a room affectionately named after Lagerfeld’s cat, “ Choupette.” The carpet for this, the smaller of the three suites, was custom woven in cat-scratch pattern.
In another of the Grand Apartments designed by Lagerfeld, a glorious 2-ton bathtub was carved out of one solid piece of rare Arabescato Fantastico marble. It’s shape is inspired by the fountains at the Vatican to create a divine centerpiece for soaking. He maintained a elegant palette of dusty-mauve and gray throughout the design.
The resplendent Bernstein Suite is remarked to offer sweeping views of Paris including, of course, the Eiffel Tower. Famed composer, Leonard Bernstein, frequented the hotel enough to earn a room in his namesake. In 1989, he penned in the hotel’s guestbook, “What a pleasure being once again on my terrace over Place de la Concorde.” We, at Jean-Marc Fray, are delighted that our pair of hand-blown Murano glass sconces in the manner of Seguso were selected to adorn the walls of the Bernstein master suite’s bathroom. This sophisticated design was customized in a rich, smokey-toned “Pulegoso” glass for the exquisitely detailed room.
Bernstein’s presence in Paris society is no secret. In May of 1913 he attended Igor Stravinsky’s Paris premier of his Modernist ballet, “Rite of Spring” performed with Sergey Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Bernstein described it as the, “most important piece of music in the 20th century.” He was not alone at this performance. Other attendees present were Marcel Proust, Jean Cocteau, Pablo Picasso, Claude Debussy, among other notables. May it suffice to say Bernstein had impeccable taste in music and venue. He later conducted several performances at the famous theater.
This grand hotel has been not only restored, but completely renewed in style with a brighter more open layout and contemporary edge for those wanting the splendor of history without sacrificing a modern aesthetic. The roof has been raised by 3 feet to open up and brighten the welcoming presence of the lobby. Modern conveniences were also upgraded to include central air condition throughout. A formerly un-utilized courtyard garden now houses 35 varieties of plants and trees. A new glass floor creates a skylight over the spa allowing natural light to cascade into the “wellness pool” tiled in 17,600 shimmering gold scales. The rigorous effort and attentiveness placed into each conceptualized detail of this renovation shows an immense commitment to an unprecedented indulgence in hospitality. As eloquently put by Mr. Marc Raffrey, General manager, “ We want to be humble, approachable, and non-intimidating…Instead of having an air of formality, our staff will greet everyone with warmth like friends.” We couldn’t agree more!
It must certainly mystify one to be at once in a destination where history has been carved out in a myriad of methods and could be punctuated anew at any moment. The French-American Treaty was signed there by Benjamin Franklin in 1778. Marie Antionette frequented the Palace for piano lessons. Even F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of of his characters strolling romantically through the Place de la Concorde in his novel “Tender is the Night.” An array of historical events juxtaposed against the delicate, inspiring delights of this same locale are striking and pronounce the site with a fervent energy. At the epicenter of this stands the magnificent Hôtel de Crillon freshly dressed in her finest attire, perhaps to date, ready to beckon her elite back.