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Hôtel de Crillon

Alia Akkam • September 20, 2017

Photos: Hôtel de Crillon

In urban contrast is Paris’ Hôtel de Crillon, a Rosewood Hotel, dating back to the 18th century. Overseen by artistic director Aline Asmar d’Amman of local firm Culture in Architecture, the thoughtful four-year restoration of this property on Place de la Concorde was a massive collaborative undertaking, including architecture by Richard Martinet of local firm Affine Design and a duo of Les Grands Appartements by fashion legend Karl Lagerfeld. “It is about feeling connected to this heritage building and the values of Paris, and at the same time giving in to the spirit of modernity,” says d’Amman, who handled the renovations of the hotel’s historic salons and three suites (“I imagined them as if Marie Antoinette were here today,” she says) in addition to her leadership duties. “I like to take risks and create tension between the old and new, otherwise it becomes pastiche,” she explains, so the result was assembling a motley team of Parisian designers, all working in tandem with decidedly different design sensibilities.

Before it was a hotel, the Crillon was a private mansion, which propels the design narrative. For the guestrooms, reduced from 147 to 124, Cyril Vergniol conjured a “timeless Parisian bedroom” by mixing materials like cracked lacquer, texturized metal, and handblown glass with pieces that nod to France’s illustrious decorative eras. In fact, 600 different materials (40 being marble) were employed throughout. Vanities are inspired by a Louis XVI console; nightstands fashioned from cast bronze and shagreen marquetry have an Art Deco touch; and because all rooms have different layouts, “we created French woodwork to adapt in each one that we twisted with different patinas,” he adds.

Parisian designer Chahan Minassian was tasked with most of the F&B spaces, as well as the new spa and its pool lined with more than 17,000 gold scales. The original Les Ambassadeurs restaurant is now a bar and lounge with screens, seating alcoves, and “moon-gold Brutalist textures and fabrics,” says Minassian. In Jardin d’Hiver, Minassian “kept the architectural stone shell, dressing it with mica,” and original 19th-century chandeliers now glow purple via amethyst mineral droplets. The new fine dining shrine L’Ecrin prompted Minassian “to bring classical Parisian building exterior architecture in, focusing on the stone and gray palette applied to the vintage mercury glass mirror.”

But the Crillon’s new personality is really first defined in the lobby and reception area, the domain of Tristan Auer of Atelier Tristan Auer and Wilson Associates Paris. It became clear after interviewing many old customers that the priority was maintaining “the soul of the Crillon, which is Parisian before everything. People expect the famous chandeliers, some tapestry, some tradition.” It only took Auer a month to sketch out his plans for the lobby, which now has higher ceilings and a smattering of distinct, fluid seating areas. He designed most of the furnishings and carpets himself—even the interior of the house Citroën DS car—turning to myriad craftsmen to help achieve his vision and embracing more than 200 finishes. Bronze, wood, marble, leather, plaster, colored glass, engraved mirror, and gold leaf are in sync with patinated surfaces in abundance. The floor, says Auer, “was inspired by the 17th-century Italian palazzo, the walls and moldings are from the 1940s, the patina more from the ’50s, and the ceiling could be the ’60s, so there is this variation, a graduation through different periods all with the guideline of elegance.”

Auer, in addition to other spaces, also crafted Brasserie D’Aumont, found between the two courtyards he lent his expertise to, a cigar lounge, and the men’s grooming salon for shoeshines and barber cuts. In the latter, he melds black and white flooring with a flurry of dark green and wood, but the modern Hair Salon by David Lucas, a niche decked out with blue and green feathers and a velvet sofa, truly embodies the new Crillon’s classic yet surprising turns.