Hotel Couture Fashionably located and decorated, the brand-new Mandarin Oriental, Paris instills a frisson of pleasure, discovers Neena Dhillon.

Arriving in Paris instantly lifts the spirits. There’s something intoxicating about the grand boulevards, the monumental architecture, the manicured green spaces and the stylish enclaves dotted around France’s premier city. Once fêted as a beacon of the Age of Enlightenment, this European capital continues to boast a formidable reputation for creativity, culture, learning and gastronomy, one that draws travellers from all corners of the globe. 

Set in the heart of the first arrondissement, rue Saint-Honoré is surely the city’s most coveted address, home to the haute-couture industry and minutes from landmarks such as the Place Vendôme, Tuileries Gardens, Opéra Garnier and the Louvre. While its history can be traced back to the 13th century, today the fashionable street thrives with shoppers browsing the exclusive boutiques and foodies sampling cuisine and fine wine served in enchanting eateries. It could only be here, then, that Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group would choose to put down its roots, arriving in France with a promise not only to deliver luxury, refinement and the award-winning service it is renowned for, but also an element of surprise. 

‘We are flying the flag for the brand in Europe, so we have aimed to create a magical experience for international and local guests, combining the highest standards of service with a warmth and kindness that can sometimes be missing at this level,’ explains Philippe Leboeuf, General Manager of Mandarin Oriental, Paris. ‘We offer modernity and elegance, providing visitors with space and light in the centre of Paris. You can expect to find the most generously proportioned rooms in the city, an abundance of suites, an all-suite spa concept, a landscaped indoor garden and cutting-edge restaurants helmed by Executive Chef Thierry Marx.’ 

Unwilling to compromise on location, Mandarin Oriental waited patiently for its position on rue Saint-Honoré, taking up residence in a trio of Thirties office buildings which have been transformed by acclaimed architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte into a majestically unified structure. Wilmotte turned to the timeless Thirties style of the protected, original façade, first designed by Charles Letrosne, a noted local architect who contributed to the 1937 Paris World Exhibition, and replicated the use of materials and detailing to create a sense of harmony throughout the eight-storey hotel. So, natural Parisian stone is found inside and out, with moulding and frescoes, while the exterior gates, conceived by Letrosne all those years ago, are now honoured by a new, majestic iron-gate entrance featuring the same fish-scale pattern.

In this hotel, you won’t find standard
things; almost everything is
bespoke design
Designer Sybille De Margerie

To inject a fresh lease of life into the structure, Wilmotte decided to remove the central building, opening up the space for a stunning interior garden, landscaped with different species of trees, plants and flowers, set around a reflective water pool. Extending the green theme vertically, some of the guest rooms benefit from tree-filled terraces, while one of the courtyard walls is planted with vegetation laid out gracefully across horizontal lines. Bronze shutters, copper roofing and gilded metalwork all play with the light in this atmospheric inner courtyard that forms the heart of the hotel. Wilmotte’s approach has not only brought a wow factor to Mandarin Oriental, Paris, but has also earned the property green credentials in the form of HQE (High Quality Environmental) certification. 

Crucially, both the Thirties façade and interior garden have provided rich sources of inspiration for interior designers Sybille de Margerie, Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku, who, together with Wilmotte, have striven to define what a grand Parisian hotel can be in our contemporary age – each developing their vision of a palace conceived for the 21st century. 

France’s first lady of design, Sybille de Margerie set up her own firm over 20 years ago and has since built an impressive track record in hotel interiors, garnering awards for her renovation of The Grand, Amsterdam, and acclaim for Cheval Blanc in Courchevel, one of eight French hotels distinguished by the official rank of ‘palace’, indicating that they are the best the country has to offer. Other projects have taken her beyond Europe, such as the Old Cataract in Aswan and a new luxury property in Tel Aviv. 

Starting with a philosophy of tradition-meets-innovation, de Margerie fashions her ideas from the identity of each location, aiming to communicate an art of living specific to the town and country. ‘Mandarin Oriental wanted to share a uniquely Parisian viewpoint with their guests,’ she reveals. ‘While we wished to respect the city’s history and heritage, our challenge has been to take these qualities and give them a contemporary twist.’

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