It takes something unique, even extraordinary, to surprise Parisians. Their standard ”unimpressed” demeanour has downplayed novelty since Sartre made love to de Beavoir. And yet, on the banks of the Seine, something is happening sure to capture the attention of even the most disillusioned Parisian, and every novelty-seeking traveller.
The Samaritaine, an early 20th-century icon of Art Deco architecture and style, already was supposed to have “always caused a scandal” in its development by Cognacq-Jay founders, is due to become the newest flagship Cheval Blanc Hotel, and the destination du jour of anyone visiting, shopping, or dining in Paris. As part of the trend-setting redevelopment of this historic building, LMVH is creating one of the most exclusive hotels in the heart of the City of Lights, nestled between Le Louvre and Le Marais and boasting spectacular views across the Seine and encompassing the beauty of the medieval, Haussmann, and contemporary city. Truly it is Paris, from the heart.
It is only fitting that this spectacular new home is housed in an icon of Parisian life, a cathedral, as French writer Émile Zola described it. The author was good friends with one of the architects of the building, Frantz Jourdain, and predicted that luxury was a bazaar that would replace churches and become the Parisian’s new religion. The new hotel will be situated at the height of the Samaritaine complex, already an internationally acclaimed destination renovated by the Pritzker award-winning Japanese firm Sanaa. French President Emmanuel Macron recently inaugurated the building, calling it a “wonderful French treasure.”
Only at the end of the 19th century did elevators make their debut, and with their introduction, the most desirable floors began to move skyward. Cheval Blanc’s concept situates their exclusive rooms far above the bustle of the buskers and fulfils the vision of this historic building’s first architects and designers. They had decried the monotony that had prevailed in the transformation of Paris under Haussmann, and hoped to raise the city’s architectural prowess both literally, and proverbially, higher through the glamour of rooms with a view, or in this case, a thousand glittering views.
One cannot deny that the hotel’s Quintessence Suite, which will surely appeal to our readers, is a destination worthy of that hope. A lavish apartment, it sits atop the hotel overlooking panoramic views of Paris, including the iconic Eiffel Tower across the river Seine. Four en suite bedrooms complete with a private swimming pool, hammam, sauna, treatment room and fitness suite will surely be a welcome sanctuary for friends, family, and lovers in the heart of the city. Couple these exclusive features with incredible historic and contemporary design, from the flashy fin-de-siècle building with its colourful enamel panelling and use of glass and iron instead of traditional stone to the staircases designed by contemporary artist Sophie Mallebranche and inspired by the industrial print work of the Art Deco movement, this address is sure to capture the attention. Such luxurious surroundings would not be complete without Parisian Chic scented amenities, created by François Demachy, Maison Dior’s perfumer.
Speaking of Dior, this exclusive address will also feature a Dior Spa boasting 6 treatment rooms for bespoke rituals, a gently rippling swimming pool and state-of-the-art exercise facilities. This luxury experience extends to children, with a featured destination in “Le Carrousel,” as well as to shoppers of all ages. Rumour has it that a secret elevator will connect you directly with the luxury department stores already opened by LMVH in Samaritaine’s historic art deco site. Indeed, guests may also book personal shoppers, transforming their Cheval Blanc suites into fitting rooms for the most discerning of chic travellers. It is already on the path to becoming “the most beautiful urban hotel in the world,” the challenge laid down by Cheval Blanc to La Samaritaine, in the words of Jean-Jacques Guiony, its Chairman.
Yet it isn’t only fashion, views, and exclusivity that will draw clients to this 72-room truly boutique hotel. The gastronomic creations of chef Arnaud Donckele, a former chef of Cheval Blanc St Tropez who was granted three Michelin stars and given 19/20 by Gault et Millau alongside pastry chef Maxime Frédéric, recently of Hotel Meurice and George V, are sure to draw informed epicureans from around the world. Accompanied by coveted views across Paris, these restaurants will soon become the go-to destinations for Parisians and bespoke explorers alike.
While digital experiences, from ateliers to amities, have become de rigueur over the years – particularly in the highs of prosperity and the lows of pandemics – the discerning will understand that bespoke luxury experiences, from personal shopping in a historic art deco location to dining above the Seine, can never be replaced by a click on Amazon. The glamorous tradition of seduction – real, earthy, raw – is being continued at Paris’s newest destination. Jourdain, one of the original architects, cried out “Ma bâtisse n’est pas une matrone austère. C’est une petite dame un peu folle qui fait aux passants : Psst ! Venez-donc. Il fallait bien l’habiller, la coiffer, la maquiller de façon qu’elle séduise les gens.” She is not “an austere matron. It is a lady, perhaps a little crazy, who says to passers-by: Psst! Come, then. It was necessary to dress her well, to do her hair, to make her up so that she seduces people.”