Twist on Tradition

Twist on Tradition

Starck is not a look one would normally associate with Le Meurice, Paris’ opulent palace hotel with a strong history and imposing character. And yet, every time the Parisian hotel looks to up its game, it is New Design guru Philippe Starck and his daughter Ara that it turns to. It did so in 2007 and again in 2016. With delightful results, both time.

Hedged by cafes and boutiques, the romantic Tuileries Garden and all the glittering names of the Place Vendôme, Le Meurice mirrors the elegant ambience of the 1st arrondissement. The guest list of the ‘hotel of kings’ has traditionally been studded with celebrated names, from Queen Victoria and other world royals to Orson Welles to Picasso. The Shah of Iran, in fact, was dethroned while staying at the hotel. More recently, Jay-Z and Kanye West recorded Niggas in Paris for their Watch the Throne album at the hotel.

Of all Meurice’s guests, none was possibly as colourful as Salvador Dali, who would install himself at the hotel for a month every year. The Dali anecdotes have long been part of Meurice legend: the surrealist painter is known to have once asked for a herd of sheep to be brought to his room. When they arrived, Dali took out a pistol and began firing at them. Fortunately, the bullets were blanks. Another time he asked the staff to catch flies for him from the Tuileries Garden, promising to pay them five francs per fly. Not that he was an unappreciative guest; his favourite staff members would be handed signed lithographs as Christmas tips.

The Starcks love to pay homage to this eccentric guest, with some of the artist’s favourite motifs (think swan, dolphin, drawers.) After the 2007 makeover, guests would step off the rue de Rivoli and through the swivel doors to be greeted by a clean space with a conversation seat, a dolphin chair and a gigantic vase bearing white blooms. Topped by a crystal chandelier, of course (but then, this is the Meurice).

The all-day lobby restaurant, Le Dali, sits under the cornerstone of the earlier Starck project: a giant mural in gold and ochre measuring 1560-sq-ft, painted by Ara. It has now been joined by a matching new carpet (also designed by Ara). On it, among the happy mismatch of tables and chairs—some in the shape of tree branches, others covered with animal skins—there is Dali’s infamous lobster telephone, a seat with ladies’ shoes for feet, a chair that has a swan for an armrest, and a lamp with drawers as well as a new tilted mirror.

In the reception stands a towering fireplace. With a twist. In place of the traditional mirror-above-the-mantlepiece hangs a huge sheet of gilt-encased glass, laden with hand-held mirrors. At its feet is a huge selection of white candles, all in different shapes and sizes, their flames dancing in reflected glory in the glass.

The restaurant Le Meurice retains its classic look, but with a new lightness of being. The heavy yellow and salmon drapes were whisked away by Starck in 2007 allowing diners to look through the majestic windows out on to the neighbouring Gardens, and giving more play to the magnificent chandeliers and paintings on the walls. Philippe Starck has added decorative elements to complement the existing features. Crystal and rose copper on the furnishings and a new custom-made carpet blends well with the 18th-century inspired fresco ceiling. The chairs have been replaced by the iconic Eero Saarinen Tulip chair.

The guest rooms haven’t been touched. But then they didn’t need to. Each of the 160 rooms of the hotel has a different look, created with fine furniture, and yards and yards of textile. Some 170 types of fabrics find place in the rooms, with each room using at least 100 yards of these fabrics, some even 200 yards. The Presidential Suites on the first floor follow the uber ornate Louis XVI style; with aged parquet flooring and bespoke rugs by Braquenie. For large groups looking for an interconnected space, six rooms overlooking the Tuileries and three other rooms on this floor can be connected to form a private apartment, measuring 5,380 sq ft in size.

The second and third floors have a more contemporary air, given over as they are largely to business travellers, while the fourth and fifth flaunt floral motifs. The sixth is a dormer floor, with all the rooms decorated to look like Parisian apartments. Not the Marco Polo suite though; this is a triangular shaped room decorated like a tent from the Napoleonic era. Indigo-hued textiles drape the walls, falling from the ceiling to the wooden floor.

The guest rooms haven’t been touched. But then they didn’t need to. Each of the 160 rooms of the hotel has a different look, created with fine furniture, and yards and yards of textile. Some 170 types of fabrics find place in the rooms, with each room using at least 100 yards of these fabrics, some even 200 yards. The Presidential Suites on the first floor follow the uber ornate Louis XVI style; with aged parquet flooring and bespoke rugs by Braquenie. For large groups looking for an interconnected space, six rooms overlooking the Tuileries and three other rooms on this floor can be connected to form a private apartment, measuring 5,380 sq ft in size. The second and third floors have a more contemporary air, given over as they are largely to business travellers, while the fourth and fifth flaunt floral motifs. The sixth is a dormer floor, with all the rooms decorated to look like Parisian apartments.

Not the Marco Polo suite though; this is a triangular shaped room decorated like a tent from the Napoleonic era. Indigo-hued textiles drape the walls, falling from the ceiling to the wooden floor.

On the seventh stands the hotel’s showpiece: the La Belle Etoile suite, with a 360-degree view of the city. A foyer, sitting room, bedrooms, gallery, veined marble bathroom, jacuzzi, butler’s quarters, it has it all, alongwith a gigantic private terrace. It can be booked as a two-bedroom suite of 2,260 sq ft or, in case that makes you claustrophobic, as a four-bedroom suite of 2,960 sq ft.

Being open to change and responsive to customer needs are the lodestones of Le Meurice. Ask the Starcks.

Courtesy: India Today Spice (February 22, 2008)

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