HOTEL DE CRILLON
When the Hotel de Crillon closed for renovations in 2013 the project was expected to take two years. It took more than four years and cost a reported €200 million ($310m), making it one of the most anticipated hotel openings in Paris since, well, the previous year when the Ritz Paris emerged from a major overhaul.
Paris is one of the most competitive hotel markets in the world and its grand establishments have one by one shut their doors for renovations over the past decade to bring their amenities up to date (airconditioning wasn’t a given in many of its five-star establishments) and to better compete with the new Asian chains (Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, Shangri-La and Raffles) that, quelle horreur, were doing a better job of running Parisian hotels than the French were.
One of the last to go through such a transformation was the Hotel de Crillon and, given its position on the Place de la Concorde and its storied history, expectations were high. The building that houses the hotel dates from 1770 when it was built by King Louis XV for the Duke d’Aumont. It became the home of the Duke de Crillon in 1788 and was confiscated during the Revolution. It was eventually returned to the Crillon family, then opened as a hotel in 1909. Marie-Antoinette once took piano lessons in the salon that still bears her name and is now a signature suite of the hotel. The covenant of the League of Nations was signed here in 1919 and an endless list of celebrities, politicians and royalty have stayed here over the years.
When I first stayed at the Hotel de Crillon about a year before it closed its doors, the great and the good had moved on to other, newer, luxury hotels in Paris. My impression of it then was that regardless of the competition from new entrants to the market, the hotel looked dog-tired and was in desperate need of modernisation. The heritagelisted façade is unchanged – it’s just a lot cleaner – but inside, every element has been transformed.
The transformation required no fewer than five design firms. The restoration of the façade was overseen by architect Richard Martinet, while the interiors were created by four Paris-based designers: Tristan Auer, Chahan Minassian, Cyril Vergniol and Aline Asmar d’Amman. While so many creatives on one project might usually spell design disaster, the result is an extravagant refurbishment (40 types of marble have been used) that enhances the 18th-century origins of the building while simultaneously making it feel contemporary.
The number of guestrooms has been reduced from 147 to 124, which includes 36 suites and 10 exceptionally large signature suites, two of them designed by Karl Lagerfeld. The standard rooms, which are generously sized, are decorated in muted tones with spacious marble bathrooms and very large and very comfortable beds. A new central courtyard has been created to allow more natural light into the internal rooms and there is a new outdoor dining area.