The hotel's facade was designed by the Petit Trianon architect, Ange-Jacques Gabriel.
Faced with increasingly stiff competition in recent years from neighbours the Mandarin Oriental, Shangri-la and The Peninsula piloted by Asian groups, the Hotel de Crillon was under growing pressure to refurbish its fading interiors, just like the Plaza Athenee and the Ritz Paris did. So the establishment – it is said that queen Marie Antoinette took piano lessons here – located in the Place de la Concorde in Paris overlooking the Obelisk of Luxor announced in 2012 that it would close its doors. Its owner, Saudi Prince Mutaib Abdullah Abdulaziz Al Saud, called on architect Richard Martinet and artistic director Aline Asmar d’Amman of Lebanon- and Paris-based agency Culture in Architecture to lead the facelift, with Hong Kong’s Rosewood Hotels & Resorts managing it.
Rather than a straight-forward restoration of the hotel that’s housed in a historic building – its facade was designed by the Petit Trianon architect, Ange-Jacques Gabriel –Aline orchestrated a modernisation where history is aligned with the 21st century. The building was commissioned in 1754 by King Louis XV, and became the former residence of the Duke de Crillon in later years.
Aline enlisted the help of four designers: Tristan Auer, Chahan Minassian, Cyril Vergniol and Karl Lagerfeld. The opulence remains but the feeling is entirely contemporary and vibrant. Taking the stiffness and formality out of the traditional five-star experience, the Crillon feels more like a private home rather than a hotel, complete with fresh flowers by Djordje Varda (the florist behind Pippa Middleton’s nuptials) and interior fragrances by Parisian soapmaker and perfumer Buly.
Each area of the hotel exudes a different feel, yet all of them offer the same level of opulence and elegance.
The men's grooming salon helmed by La Barbiere de Paris, France's first female barber.
Tiles that were laid by hand adorn the walls of the new indoor linear swimming pool.
Known for designing furniture, residences and hotels like Paris’ Les Bains and Cotton House on Mustique Island, Tristan transformed the former reception space into a peaceful haven with a concierge area, and introduced a cigar lounge covered in papyrus leaves evoking cigar wrappers by their texture and colour. He also included in the space a hairdressing salon featuring an alcove lined with peacock and black feathers; a men’s grooming salon helmed by La Barbiere de Paris, France’s first female barber; and a shoeshine area housing 1960s’ Aston Martin seats that reference the decorator’s passion for cars.
The engraved mirrored glass lifts are crafted by specialists Arizio. A boudoir for tasting extremely rare spirits in the brown and auburn tones of cognacs and Armagnacs comes with a star-studded, fireworks-motif domed ceiling created by French artisans in gold leaf, palladium leaf and acrylic paint; while the casual Brasserie d’Aumont is designed with woven rattan seats and an undulating rosewood bar.
He even breathed new life into the hotel’s 1973 Citroen DS courtesy car in luminous and chic Parisian grey, and launched a bespoke haute couture car “tailoring” business personalising vehicles from A to Z.
While Tristan has injected a pure and refined yet warm aesthetic, Chahan’s signature use of rich, mineral and textured materials shines through in other areas. The extravagant, gold-hued, all-mirror, marble and frescoed Les Ambassadeurs bar mesmerises with its cloudy blue sky-painted ceiling, a chandelier composed of patinated and folded brass and bronze sheets, sofas in grey crushed velvet, and tabletops inlaid with slices of agate. Fine-dining restaurant L’Ecrin led by chef Christopher Hache features aged patinated mirrors, Murano glass sconces, and furniture in gypsum and rock crystal hues. A magnificent, curving white Corian staircase and stucco corridor lead to the spa abounding with marble, Venetian plaster and mirrors in shades of cream, gold, aqua and turquoise that confer a seaside atmosphere.
However, the piece de resistance is the brand-new indoor linear swimming pool. It’s lined with 17,600 gold leaf, molten glass fish-scale mosaic tiles applied by hand that are surrounded by celadon ceramic sculptural walls punctuated by large gold-flecked pearls by American artist Peter Lane. Dug two stories underground, it is illuminated by natural light flooding in through a glass roof from the ground- level Gabriel courtyard designed by famed landscape architect Louis Benech.
Using 600 materials (including 40 types of marble) decorated in a palette of greige, blue or brown, Cyril updated the 124 guest rooms and suites with furniture like 1950s’ silk- upholstered armchairs, soft rugs and specially curated board games and coffee-table books to give a homely feeling.
As Karl is an 18th-century decorative arts expert, he is particular apt in combining historical elements with a French art de vivre aesthetic, and was entrusted with decorating two Les Grands Appartements suites and an adjacent room that he devoted to his Birman mascot, Choupette, complete with black-and-white carpeting inspired by cat scratches.
Guests are welcome to lounge in any of the hotel's grand open spaces.
The grand setting of the hotel suites evokes a sense of redolent splendour.
Close to the heart of the city, the hotel offers unobstructed view of Paris' most iconic landmark.
The spacious marble-clad bathroom gives more than just privacy, it's almost a space for a personal retreat.
The suites showcase textured grey walls that are made up of nine layers of paint, with touches of iridescent mother-of-pearl, referencing the silvery light of Paris. He personally chose each crystal for the dining-room chandelier, and original sinks from the Chateau de Versailles were placed in the powder room. Concerned with how guests would interact with the furniture, he custom-made a white couch in the living area to guarantee the ideal curvature for a woman’s frame.
As the Crillon’s owner is an avid art collector, the entire hotel is filled with 1,000 original artworks from his collection, curated by London-based Fru Tholstrup. Cesar’s giant thumb in Baccarat crystal and British artist Kate MccGwire’s Tussle made from pheasant feathers resembling intertwining serpents are in the lobby; Annie Morris’ Stack 9 Copper Blue totem in pigmented metal, concrete, plaster and sand greets visitors at the entranceway; and celebrated photographer Cecil Beaton’s black-and-white prints of famous personalities, such as Alberto Giacometti and Coco Chanel, delight diners in the Brasserie d’Aumont.
In three listed heritage salons with 6m-high ceilings, oversized paintings commissioned from French artist Laurent Grasso portray battle scenes imbued with the artist’s language weaving science, history, mythology and supernatural phenomena.
Story by Y-Jean Mun-Delsalle, originally appeared in the print version of Home & Decor Singapore.