After a four-year closure and lavish renovation, Paris’s storied hotel unveils a daringly modern new look.
Each of Paris’s ultra-luxury hotels occupies its own niche in the city’s landscape. Fashionistas haunt the Ritz and the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme; one-percenter American families and jet-setting sheikhs go for the Four Seasons Hotel George V. The Hôtel de Crillon has always been for traditionalists and heads of state, thanks to its location overlooking the Place de la Concorde, within a stone’s throw of the Élysée Palace and several major embassies.
You could do worse for French national glory. Commissioned by Louis XV in 1758, the Crillon has had several lives — as government offices, a private residence for a noble family, and finally a hotel, beginning in 1909. The heritage look of crystal chandeliers and gilt-tipped chairs had its admirers, but by 2010, when Saudi royalty purchased the property, a revamp was in order.
When I stayed at the Crillon this summer, the first thing that struck me was how brilliantly d’Amman and her designers (Tristan Auer, Cyril Vergniol, and Chahan Minassian) nailed what makes Paris tick. This is a city that celebrates being seen, yet the old lobby felt cavernous and devoid of energy, its public spaces impossibly stiff. Now it’s as if le tout Paris is there. Check-in takes place in a semiprivate salon, where conversations can be had discreetly, but the remainder of the lobby has been transformed into multiple lounge spaces, with deep pile rugs and cushy silk sofas, to promote socializing. Les Ambassadeurs, formerly a fine-dining restaurant seen by only a fraction of visitors, is now a humming cocktail lounge with live music. The aim is to get guests — including locals — to kick back, relax, and people-watch.
There’s a new approach to service, too. White gloves and hushed tones are out; casual foulards and 1970s-retro knife-pleated skirts are in. I found the staff to be approachable and friendly, down to the butlers who service all 124 rooms and suites, but the team, at times, was still unpolished. It took several tries to put in a drink order at Jardin d’Hiver, the lounge and tea salon (though when my cocktail, a blend of calamansi, bitter rhubarb, rose cordial, and champagne, did arrive, it was magnificent). An order of oysters came out on a thin slate palette covered in rock salt, which made a righteous mess. The staff acknowledged every hiccup gracefully, and they will no doubt find their groove. But when room rates start in the four figures, snafus take on added weight.