Talk about timing. In a serendipitous conspiracy with the millennium, Paris is lifting the veil on four new design-driven hotels, located in key pockets of both the Right and Left Banks. Styles swing from Second Empire to updated traditional, from Neoclassical to snugly provincial. And did we mention intimate?The city's fresh crop of hotels plays the personal card in ways that will remind you of home--except you don't have to make the bed, and the world's most romantic city is at your feet.
Hôtel le Lavoisier
Two Left Bank hotels, Le Tourville and Le St.-Grégoire, have figured for years on sophisticated insiders' lists of places to stay. So when word started circulating that their owner, Michel Bouvier, was readying a Right Bank property in the same mold, Paris pulse-takers wasted no time in checking it out. Before you could say "fashionista," the new Hôtel Le Lavoisier was crawling with Vogue editors covering the couture collections and Prada's design team on a trend-gathering mission.
Folded into a mid-19th-century town house in the Eighth Arrondissement, near the imposing Église St.-Augustin, Le Lavoisier also appeals to Japanese travelers, who like to be near the Opéra and the Madeleine (it's the shopping, stupid). Being neighbors with a wonderful branch of Monoprix, the well-priced mini department store so loved by Parisians, doesn't hurt, either.
No sane hotelier tempts fate by announcing success before all the kinks have been worked out. But if ever a place had "hit" written all over it, Le Lavoisier is it. To decorate the hotel in a manner consistent with Tourville's and St.-Grégoire's traditionalism-with-a-twist, Bouvier turned to Jean-Philippe Nuel, a French designer in his late thirties. Nuel's clean, fresh style confidently straddles past and present. Snowy white pilasters and crisp dentil molding set the lobby's classical tone. Halls with taupe wainscoting below deep coral toile are lit with huge plaster sconces in the shape of stylized oak leaves. The 30 rooms and one suite have nine-foot ceilings, interior shutters that cancel the need for blackout curtains, and a judicious sprinkling of antiques. Mahogany doors, each weighing almost 200 pounds, put a blessedly soundproof barrier between you and early-to-work housekeepers. Bizarrely, however, showers come sans shower curtains. Après une douche, le déluge!
An unwritten hiring policy keeps most of Le Lavoisier's staff at 35 or under--Bouvier's way of ensuring a young, energetic vibe. Still, a few more bodies would go a long way toward relieving morning bottlenecks, when check-ins collide with checkouts.
Staying in a well-imagined, newly minted hotel in a pedigreed old building produces a peculiar rush, especially in Paris. At Le Lavoisier, the rush is nonstop.
21 Rue Lavoisier; 33-1/53-30-06-06, fax 33-1/53-30-23-00; doubles from $141.
Trocadéro Dokhan's Hôtel
When, in an 11th-hour name change, the Mercure Kléber became the Trocadéro Dokhan's Hôtel, owners Georges and Anne Dokhan assumed they would have to take a loss on the porcelain ordered with a monogram for the old name. It took the hotel's designer, the Merlin-like Frédéric Méchiche, to explain how the change actually played into their hands. "Since the hotel was intended to feel like a family pied-À-terre, it was no stretch to think of the china as an heirloom," says Méchiche, one of Europe's most influential design talents.
With its giddy references to the 18th-century British architect Robert Adam, the Dokhan's style might be called early Neoclassical bonbonnière. "There were no constraints; no one ever told me to hold back because this was a public place where porters would be charging through with luggage," notes Méchiche. The lobby's ecru toile curtains were hand-sewn, he says, with "the care of a couture dress." Lacquered Regency armchairs fill the awning-striped hall off the reception area. A bronze Empire chandelier lights the entrance rotunda, designed as a winter garden with a checkerboard marble floor and emerald silk Roman shades. "The rotunda's calm makes guests understand right away that this is no place for cell phones," says Méchiche.
Located in a handsome Hausmann-style stone building in the 16th Arrondissement, the hotel's 41 rooms and four suites are a magnet for businessmen, gastronomes, and shoppers: nearby are the Champs-Élysées, international law offices, Alain Ducasse's namesake restaurant, and the boutiques of Avenue Victor-Hugo. Triple-glazed windows, washcloths sealed in plastic pouches, and antifogging bathroom mirrors almost make you forget the flabby, scrambled service.
The day starts with buttery viennoiserie from Dalloyau, one of the finest bakeries in Paris, brought to your room on Swiss hotel silver. On the ground floor, the city's only champagne bar was created from scratch with 18th-century boiserie painted a chic pistachio and tipped with gold. Its lunch menu is devoted to three noble French products: foie gras from the Landes, smoked salmon from Brittany, and the little-known caviar from the Aquitaine. Drawing on a changing list of more than 25 champagnes, the bar turns a nightly spotlight on one brut vintage, one brut nonvintage, and one rosé. And even brut vintages can be ordered by the glass, a rare opportunity.
Guests looking for signs to the elevator, which is covered in panels from an antique Vuitton trunk, look in vain. "There are no signs in a private house," says Méchiche, "and there are no signs at the Dokhan's."
117 Rue de Lauriston; 33-1/53-65-66-99, fax 33-1/53-65-66-88; doubles from $332.