SO/PARIS, PARIS, FRANCE
With interiors trumped only by the panoramic views across the Parisian skyline, Space discovers why So/Paris is Oh-So fabulous.
Words by Emma Kennedy
When SO/Paris announced the opening of its fashionable Parisian doors, I was unfamiliar with its location, which wasn’t too surprising given the area’s recent history. Perched on the banks of the Seine, between the Marais and Bastille districts, is the re-developed and re-named La Félicité Paris, Sully-Morland. In 2014 the 1960s concrete building – part of an uninspiring complex that wrapped its way around an equally lifeless square – was ripe for development when Réinventer Paris (Reinventing Paris) Urban Design Competition was launched. Calling on the world’s leading architects to ‘reinvent’ the capitals unloved sites, London based David Chipperfield was one of 22 winners, with his proposal to transform the buildings into a vibrant, mixed-use area, based on the model of a small village.
Today the neighbourhood is a busy hub, with shops and cafes, an impressive food market, patisseries, and bars, all frequented by local residents, hybrid workers in co-working spaces and curious hotel guests. Fulfilling its brief, it is the epitome of modern Paris, a stone’s throw away from its more conventional neighbours.
Staring up at the generous glass entrance of SO/Paris, like all successful regeneration projects, the first question is ‘What took you so long?’. The clean lines and pale concrete façade immediately feel contemporary and fresh, with little hangover of what went before. The wide glass doors, bedecked with bronze concentric rings to echo ripples in the Seine – reveal the lobby beyond.
Drawing inspiration from the archives of Paris, the geography of the Île Louviers (the former island on which it stands), and the roots of the city, Paris based interior architecture and design studio RDAI are the brilliant vision behind the interiors. Led by architects Denis Montel and Julia Capp – best known for their collaborations with Hermes – the studio has delivered timelessly stylish interiors throughout.
The temple-like lobby is nothing short of spectacular. Vast white tulip shaped columns rise from the terrazzo floor, towards the triple height ceiling, spilling out a bright light to create a graphic pattern above. Contrasted against the rich palette of terracotta, burnt orange and yellow ochres below, the effect is quite startling in a technicolour Nouvelle Vague way.
The amber mirrored walls, cast a warm glow upon the pale stone bench seating and softly curved armchairs below. It’s an amazing space, that feels almost temple like, inviting you to linger and observe. But all comparisons to a temple stop here because the ambience is lively and positively fun – and void of any religious overtones.
My appreciation of the interiors was temporarily replaced at check-in, by friendly reception staff, donning chic Breton-striped sweaters, in colours to complement the décor. Soon joined by a concierge in a silk ombre dress of deep violet fading to a soft pink offering us a cocktail that had clearly been created to match her dress – it was apparent that fashion was definitely ‘a thing’ at So/Paris. Collaborating with Parisian designer, Guillaume Henry, Artistic Director of Patou, everyone from the baggage handlers in their sailors’ berets complete with pom-poms to bar staff in velvet puff-ball skirts teamed with classic French sneakers has been catered for.
Back to business – for want of a better expression – crossing the traditional peacock’s tail paving of the marble floor, we made our way to the lift. Pausing en-route to observe the first of a curated collection of 122 contemporary artworks throughout the hotel, Le Phare de Paris, by Parisian artist Neil Beloufa is a vibrant piece and a strong focal point. Curated by the Emerige group, the artistic selection invites visitors to discover the works as they would in a museum. With a quick QR Code scan, each piece reveals its own story and information about the artist.
Taking full advantage of the Paris skyline, the 162 rooms and suites, begin on the fifth floor (with the floors below outsourced as office space). There are three categories of rooms, with price points according to the view as opposed to room size.
The indulgent feel of the rich tobacco-hued corridors lit to perfection by recurring luminous rings, continues on into the room. Given our location, the panoramic view across Paris shouldn’t really have come as a surprise, but it’s a breathtaking moment. Feasting our eyes on the skyline, we excitedly ticked off landmark monuments and buildings from The Pantheon to the Sacré Coeur, Bastille and the Eiffel Tower before turning our attention back to our immediate surroundings.
Like the lobby downstairs, the palette continues, with the introduction of navy blue for the rugs, curtains, and headboard. Ribbed wood features throughout, from the cleverly screened off bathroom area, to the cocktail cabinet, giving a contemporary mid-century feel. Though not huge, the space is beautifully designed, allowing two people to move about freely without stepping on toes – and to be honest, who needs more with a view like that?
However, if space is the order of the day, the suites above deliver in spades. From the self-explanatory Studio Balcony to The Atelier Suites – designed to evoke an artist’s studio – to the Atelier Seine, a corner suite overlooking the river, budget allowing, there’s plenty of choice. However, the suite de resistance is an eye-popping statement of modern living. SO/Paris Panoramic Suite located on the 14th floor is a true gem, offering a large luxurious space with two balconies, a dining room and an additional bedroom across a total area of 128m2.
Back in the lift, we head up to the 15th and 16th floors, where Bonnie: The Restaurant, and Bonnie: The Bar & Club, spans the two floors, wrapping itself around the building and offering yet more vertiginous views. Operated by Paris Society and designed by Jordane Arrivetz of Notoire Agency, there is a subtle yet notable change of aesthetic pace, which appears to amplify the design story from the floors below. With a distinct sixties vibe – the space is extraordinarily glamorous, taking the definition of cool quite literally to a whole new – extremely high – level.
Immediately on entering the restaurant, a richly patterned carpet, continues to embrace the optimism of the sixties with its bold pattern repeating off into the distance. Round marble-topped tables with soft velvet dining chairs sit opposite bouclé banquettes with their backs to wall. Outside, the terrace showcases a new permanent site-specific installation: The Seeing City, by Studio Other Spaces (a spatial experimentation studio co-founded by designers Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann). Reflecting the Parisian landscape below, the mirrored roof canopy gives a perspective like no other where reflection and view become one. It’s all very Paris meets New York circa 1960 in the best possible way.
On the floor below, the bar continues in the same vein. Deeply comfortable cream bouclé modular seating and swivel chairs look out across the city – offering the best seat in the house as night falls. Next door in the club, back-to-back tan leather sofas on rectangular steel bases are grouped with matching pouffes and simple round steel tables. Bold oversized floor lamps, with opaque domed glass shades, complete the scene, omitting a soft ball of light – all grounded by a rich amber carpet.
French berets off to So/Paris for offering a fresh take on five-star luxury in the city. Its location though central, is just enough off the beaten track to let you explore areas you may not be familiar with, yet still within walking distance of its more traditional neighbours – which in my humble opinion, makes it hard act to follow. The design is exciting and original matched only by the unwavering friendliness of the staff, who without exception, are a joyous bunch.