Written by Jan Henderson. Photography by Paul Bowyer.
To visit Paris is to step into another world filled with art, architecture, design, fashion, food and wine – all wrapped up in a package called ‘joie de vivre’. The City of Light is still bright, the spirit of the people strong and, for the visitor, Paris is a destination without peer. There is now another reason to visit this wonderful city, however, and that is to savour the delights of the newly renovated Hôtel Bachaumont. Located on La Rive Droite (the Right Bank), in the second arrondissement, Hôtel Bachaumont is small, with just 49 rooms, a bar and a restaurant, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with presence.
The history of the building has been colourful and it all began in the 1920s as the Grand Hôtel de Bachaumont. The hotel quickly became a Paris institution, frequented by celebrities, socialites and traders; however, when the great market in the adjoining quartier, Les Halles, moved 16 kilometres to Rungis, fortunes waned.
The building became derelict and was then refurbished to become Clinique Bachaumont, a medical clinic. With the passing of time, however, the premises have returned to their original usage. Today, the new Hôtel Bachaumont is a destination for international travellers, a popular bar and a restaurant patronised by a local clientele and quickly establishing itself as a fashionista hotspot.
The commission to renovate and restore this grande dame to her former glory was given to Dorothée Meilichzon, a young French designer who in September last year was awarded Designer of the Year at MAISON&OBJET in Paris. Meilichzon and her design practice CHZON are much sought after in France for hospitality design – the style a combination of understanding and meeting clients’ desires and requirements with a sophisticated design translation of function and form.
The Hôtel Bachaumont is comfortable with all the expected amenities, but it is the interior decoration that is consummate. The project, realised over a three-year period, was a labour of love, and the end result is a timeless design that pays tribute to an eclectic aesthetic.
The colour palette of slate, teal, blues, white and black has been used to accentuate and delineate the architectural features. Architraves, mouldings, the bas-relief logo on walls and wrought ironwork have been retained and celebrate the history of the building. From the front portico, complete with overhead weather shade, the experience begins. The large imposing doorway opens onto a wide hallway with Carrara marble inlaid floor.
Meilichzon has used an architectural motif or key from the door within the marble floor and throughout the hotel as a design continuum. The hallway is bordered on each side with archways and mirrors, and the hospitality areas are beyond the arches, restaurant to the right and bar to the left.
French oak timber flooring has been used throughout and abuts the marble hallway, the two disparate materials complement each other and symbolise the past meeting the present. The restaurant features an open kitchen at the back and a separate wine cellar to the side, while the dining area is large and airy. Patrons sit beneath a redesigned glass roof and this architectural feature helps to capture and diffuse the light to great effect. The soft furnishings take centre stage in this area and the choice of fabrics – wool, cotton/wool mix and Trevira – are elegant within a colour palette of fuchsia, cream, solid grey/blue, pastel pinks and baby blues. Separately and together they sit perfectly on banquettes and chairs and complement the oak, walnut and wenge veneered tables.
The bar, situated opposite the restaurant, is small, with intimate furniture groupings that sit beside a dark oak wood bar. Colours here are dramatic with smoky blue drapes and a burnt orange and cream patterned paper on walls. Burnt orange fabric covers comfortable chairs and the ambience is low key and sophisticated.
The residential area is located at the back of the building at the end of the corridor and here the concierge and lifts have been placed. The 49 rooms are grouped into five categories and four colour combinations with differing floor plan configurations. Throughout, the constant design accent is blue, and this colour predominates on walls, feature walls, soft furnishings and tiles. The style of the rooms is restrained and relaxing, but comfort and utility are key. In the four suites there is the opportunity to expand the luxury of the design and here Meilichzon has excelled. The suites named after local sites – Montorgueil, Montmartre, Louvre and Bachaumont – are the size of a small apartment and incorporate an entry, separate bedroom, sitting room, toilet and bathroom all linked by hallways. There are the added luxuries of a freestanding writing desk, clawfoot bath and marble bar, and each has windows or a balcony overlooking the surrounding tiled rooftops below. The perfect Parisian vista is complete.
Hôtel Bachaumont is an oasis within a busy city. This is a place for a quiet drink or dinner, a place to rest after the whirlwind of sightseeing and exploration, and a destination that embodies French style at its best. The design is all that it should be, contemporary but with deference to Heritage, spare elegance with a touch of the unexpected. Meilichzon has redesigned the interior with a deft hand and a perfectly curated sensibility, and the result is a delight.