The Martin Margiela
The diamond-shaped reception desk and ”wind-blown” floor in the lobby of La Maison Champs Elysées.
The fashion industry’s favorite philosopher, Martin Margiela, has swapped his sewing machine for the interior decorator’s drawing board. At La Maison Champs Elysées, the first hotel to be decorated by Margiela, he seamlessly (pun intended!) transfers his design philosophy from shirt to sofa.
Margiela, a graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp who began his career as an assistant to John Paul Gaultier, started his own label in 1988 and kept a famously low profile, responding to interviews only by fax and never allowing himself to be photographed or interviewed in person. He has since sold his clothing label, which was known for its deconstructed patterns and shapes, and for its use of recycled materials and secondhand garments.
For this hotel in a Haussmannian mansion, built in 1864 for the Duchess of Rivoli, Princess d’Essling, by the French architect Jules Pellechet, Margiela has mixed the original Rococo styling with minimalism to create an experience in which, as in Alice in Wonderland, nothing is quite as it seems. His trademarks are used in abundance: matte white paint, deconstruction, repurposing of materials, an artisanal approach, trompe l’œil and humor.
In the lobby, the reception desk is a dramatic structure of reflective metal, which looks for all the world like a huge diamond from Antwerp. The characteristic Parisian black and white marble floor is reinterpreted with a twist, with the little black squares deviating from their usual regular pattern. The friendly and knowledgeable concierge told me that are supposed to look like they have been scattered by a gust of wind when the doors open. I am not sure whether visitors will get it, but what matters is the effect. Frames fixed to the walls never quite meet at their corners, hinting at what might be, or what might have been, creating an eerie effect.
The small all-white Essling Bar is exquisite in its attention to detail, with a grand piano, white walls, white floor and white-covered sofas. Opposite it is the humidor or cigar-smoking room, which is a complete contrast in dark wood.
In the restaurant, La Table du 8, the chairs are covered in white fabrics and the walls in shades of gray with M.C. Escher-like trompe l’œil effects. Black-covered dressmaker’s forms are artfully arranged like ghostly presences from Margiela’s past. The menu seemed disappointingly ordinary compared with this creative decor.
The guestrooms, where Margiela again uses his white and black palette to good effect, are quite different from any you are likely to have stayed in before. The daringly all-black “Closet of Rarities” suite is not oppressive and depressing, as you might expect, but sensual and warm. Another, slightly smaller suite (some of them are very large) is completely furnished in pleasingly minimal birch-veneered plywood and has a sunken bed. The lamps are draped with white suit coats, and the photographs are covered with white curtains that must be lifted if you want to see the images.
In an age where novelty and invention are so often subsumed by the bland and the corporate, “what people want” and what’s deemed to be fashionable or marketable, it is refreshing to see Margiela’s quirky approach to decoration, as original as his fashion design.
La Maison Champs Elysées: 8 rue Goujon, 75008, Paris. Tel.: 01 40 74 64 65.
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