L’HÔTEL MONTALEMBERT, Paris
SPACE takes a look at L’Hôtel Montalembert in Paris, with its daring and stunning design…
It is one of the most charming hotels in Paris and in perfect agreement with the small-palace trend, which in the past several years has conquered the hearts of the great travellers. A Meeting spot for the world of fashion and of the arts, the Hotel Montalembert has been a pioneer of the boutique hotels movement. Ideally located in the heart of the Left Bank, a short 5 minute walk from the Saint Germain-des-Prés church, this establishment of 50 rooms, including 10 suites, turns its facade of golden stones toward the “rue du Bac,” the antique shops and the art galleries.
The Montalembert, built in 1926, lived through the great moments of the interwar period, through the celebrations of the 50s Saint-Germain quarter and through so many prosperous and resplendent times that a guest book would never suffice to mention all these bygone moments, that together form the heart of an establishment. If the foundations could tell their tale, they would without a doubt speak of the joyful dinners, amorous meetings, the intimate confessions, the lively discussions… everything that is the soul of a palace and explains its success with the public during all these years.
For its ninetieth birthday, the Montalembert has treated itself to a gentle renovation. It was not the first, but this one draws from the wishes of the owner, Anne Jousse, to ‘reawaken’ her house. And because the Hotel Montalembert made the headlines by being the first Boutique Hotel in Paris, twenty-five years ago, it felt natural to recreate an event of similar proportions, without limiting themselves to a simple concept.
“This hotel is ingrained in its neighborhood,” explains Anne Jousse. “It is the hotel of writers and artists. So we wanted to preserve this spirit, particularly for the restaurant whose costumers are primarily local regulars.” It is to the architect-decorator Pascal Allaman that the owner has entrusted the care to carry out an operation which, from the original project (to renovate the restaurant) has now extended to the whole of the establishment.
The decoration of the lobby and the design of the carpets have been entrusted to interior architect Géraldine Prieur.
“The Hotel Montalembert is a spiritual place,” confides Pascal Allaman. Due to its location and its style, it has always been patroned by a mix of politicians, writers, publishers and artists. The loyal clientele of the restaurant, but also the hotel guests to which, through globalisation, have comprised of foreign customers, gallery owners, businesspeople and people from the fashion industry.
“The challenge that I faced was therefore to keep this atmosphere, to register within this continuity,” explains Allaman adds. “I was required to write a new chapter in an already rich history, and to put the Montalembert Hotel at the same level as the other establishments of B Signature Hôtels & Resorts.”
“For the rooms, the idea was to give a little more warmth to ensure that the customer has the impression that they are staying in the guest bedroom of a Parisian apartment. So cornices, moldings and new molded doors were added in order to respect the Parisian aesthetic vocabulary,” explains Pascal Allaman.
The rooms, which are divided into two tones, yellow and orange, allude to a revisited Haussmann style. The decorator wanted to insist on homely aspects by positioning the furniture in an original way, with the elements set up in a manner reflecting an elegant and chic interior. From one room to another the furniture, designed by Pascal Allaman, is evolving. The chairs, the desk, the armchairs and the lovely folding screens are used as the head of the beds.
And because the television is an unavoidable element in a hotel room, it was treated as a work of art. It is therefore presented as a painting, in a boxed frame, surrounded with patina finish gold and display lighting.
The materials make reference to the classical luxury spirit: precious woods (ebony), antique patina finish decorated brass bronze, orange and yellow leather for the seats and wild silk for the curtains. In this universe of a Parisian house, the decorator has crafted the hardwood floors in ebony tinted wenge. Geraldine Prieur has specially designed the carpets.
The bathrooms, designed as bath lounges, have been embellished by materials inspired by classicism: mosaic in graduated shades (gray, taupe and gold) signed Bizzaza, white veined Carrara marble, ceilings in natural teak, and bevelled mirrors. Everything has been done to create the atmosphere of a precious cocoon.
On the seventh and eight floors, the suites offer a spectacular view of the capital. Before your eyes, the Eiffel Tower, the bell tower of the nearby St. Thomas of Aquinas church. Mansard-roofed, the 8th floor suites include a flowered balcony. And all offer bathrooms with a bathtub in the centre to admire the rooftops of Paris through the window from the bath.
The signature suite of the hotel, suite 82, bears the stamp of Anne Jousse, Chairman of B Signature Hotels & Resorts, who has designed it as her Parisian “pied-à-terre.” No ebony here, but rather light oak hardwood floors in a herringbone pattern. Particularly luminous, this spacious suite displays separate colour schemes from the rest of the hotel. Mrs Jousse has furnished the suite with pieces that she loves (Gerrit Rietveld designed Utrecht armchair edited by Cassina, cushions and accessories by a Moroccan creator, and bargain-hunted objects from her travels), and she has personally designed the carpet, which imparts a lovely touch of colour to the whole.
Paintings by Jean-Pierre Bourquin, inspired by his wanderings, adorn the walls of the suites. Anne Jousse has fallen head over heels for the work of this French artist who teaches at the Beaux-Arts and exhibits in China.
The story of the lobby begins with a meeting. “Nothing was premeditated,” explains Géraldine Prieur. “When Anne Jousse entered the doors of our showroom, she was immediately receptive to our universe, halfway between fashion and decorative arts. Evidently, our colours, our vibrations and our different collections of furniture, fabrics, wallpapers and accessories enticed her, since she solicited us to undertake the lobby’s decoration.” Géraldine recognises that this task was rather tricky since it necessitated that she and her team from the “Rouge Absolu” workshop respect the project undertaken by Pascal Allaman for the rest of the hotel.
“Fashion is a major influence for our projects,” she points out. “Following our first visit to the Montalembert, we chose a picture by Yves Saint Laurent, which has been our reference in terms of contrasts, colours and composition.”
“Rouge Absolu” therefore created several pieces of furniture specifically for the Montalembert: a bench seat, tailored with a loop, in walnut and covered in velvet, a double showcase in ebony and brass, the “Up To You N°001” bookcase in walnut and lacquer, a carpet of random shapes, brass light fittings with rafia nude lampshades and the “Résille” door separating the lobby and the restaurant.
“Each piece of furniture has a real presence in this lobby and does not leave one indifferent,” explains Géraldine. “The warm coloured wood is consistent with the other elements of the restaurant that can be seen in perspective. The dark green of the lobby brings a touch of masculinity: we wanted the guests to have a sense of entering into a private mansion rather than into a cold and soulless lobby. The full grain leather sheathed desk is enclosed within a sienna box. The brass and patina finish gold ribbons underline the ebony mounts which have been retained.”
Géraldine Prieur and her team have also designed the patterns of the carpets in the rooms.
Central point of the hotel, the restaurant of the Montalembert has for decades been a favourite place in the world of literature that has been present throughout the neighbourhood. For its renovation, Pascal Allaman had the desire to retain the same spirit that he used in the decoration of the hotel: the white Carrara marble for the bar, rosewood panelling and dark hardwood floors. A sofa designed by Pascal Allaman brings a colourful note in front of the fireplace, while the famous Salon Gallimard (a reference to the neighbouring publishing house), intended to shelter conversations, enjoys a large bay window open onto a small bright patio. It is difficult to remain insensitive to the elegance of the large backlit bronze and alabaster sconces designed by the decorator and manufactured in the workshop of François Pouénat, one of the last traditional locksmiths. A monolith of marble on which were placed pebble shaped plates, the bar offers an attractive contrast with the wall of bubbled mirrors tinted grey using lead by employing an 18th century technique.
If the bar of the Hotel Montalembert is slated to once again be the “it” place in the neighbourhood, it is not simply because it is a reference in terms of decorative elegance. It is also because the man who, behind the white marble, presides over it is one of the best mixologists of his generation. Having arrived at the Montalembert at the beginning of the year, Jérôme Bréard brings with him creativity and experience gained through a career in prestigious establishments.
After having started his career with Joël Robuchon and then Alain Ducasse at Raymond-Poicarré Avenue, he managed the Fantasia Bar at the Disneyland Hotel, invented macaroon cocktails while at Ladurée on the Champs-Elysées, reinvented the lounge spirit at the Marignan Hotel and mixed drinks at the Fouquet’s.