In the heart of Le Marais, one of Paris’ most progressive neighbourhoods, comes Les Bains, a design hotel housed in a building with an unassuming, traditional Haussmannian façade and a rich, storied past. Opened in 1886, the building was first used as a bathhouse frequented by Marcel Proust and the bohemians of the Belle Époque. In the 1970’s the building reincarnated as the hedonistic Les Bains Douche nightclub designed by Philippe Starck. The famed nightclub became a cultural phenomenon – Paris’ answer to New York’s Studio 54. It was frequently decorated by the likes of Andy Warhol, Yves Saint Laurent, Grace Jones, Mick Jagger, and David Bowie until it fizzled out to its ultimate closure in 2010.
2015 saw the beginning of the latest chapter in the building’s rich history with the opening of the design hotel boasting 39 new guest rooms, a fine dining restaurant, cocktail bar, underground nightclub, Turkish baths, and a concept boutique store.
Thankfully, none of this rich history has been lost in the conversion to design hotel.
The updated interiors pay homage to the heritage of the buildings storied past while introducing a bold new take on Parisian hospitality. The guest rooms look like they’ve always existed with their original, unfinished walls and distressed grey carpets. The bright, industrial palette is contrasted with cozy, bespoke furniture pieces designed in tribute to the buildings’ raft of distinguished guests - most strikingly the red velvet sofas modeled after the iconic piece in Andy Warhol’s Factory in New York. In another ode to the hotel’s past, many of the rooms have been equipped with private hammams (Turkish baths) and are well appointed with toiletries by cult perfumist, Le Labo.
When you’ve fully pampered yourself and are ready to leave your suite, a plethora of hip spaces are available for eating, drinking, and dancing. Making a dramatic first impression on the first floor is the hotel’s restaurant La Salle-à-Manger. The walls, undulating ceiling and stalactite-like pillars are swathed in a burgundy-red lacquer. Reflected in these glossy surfaces are the bespoke Danish-style timber tables and chairs and the black and white tiled dance floor from the original Philippe Starck designed nightclub.
And while the original nightclub has been re-purposed to make way for the hotel’s food and beverage venues and communal spaces, it’s spirit lives on through smaller but faithful replica located in the basement. Simply called The Club, the space boasts the original white and washed-out-blue mosaic bath that was Les Bains Douches’ grand attraction. It’s a fitting tribute to the building’s hedonist past that doesn’t encroach on the hotel’s generally understated elegance, as the club’s subterranean existence allows adequate separation between revelling and rest.
Other spaces for guests include the Salon Chinois study-lounge with a self-service “Honesty Bar” and an idyllic
apartment-like courtyard perfect for sipping on a morning coffee or afternoon cocktail.
Les Bains has raised the bar of the traditional hotel gift shop with their standalone boutique located across the street. This experimental space features exclusive Les Bains collaborations as well as up and coming local French brands. The offer is varied, including designer couture, swimwear, skateboards, artwork, and specialty coffee. The off-site location has allowed the unique concept store to capture and flourish in a market beyond the walls of the affiliated hotel.
The reincarnation of Les Bains into a design hotel has succeeded due to its ability to seamlessly reference the buildings storied past, without falling victim to gimmick. The journey to its latest chapter can be best summed up by a striking adornment gracing the La Salle-à-Manger restaurant that combines DNA from each of the building’s varied incarnations. The stylised disco ball by artist Joachim Sauter spins eerily in the dark revealing one word at a time. “Le temps perdu…est retrouvé,” it spells out: “Lost time…is found once again,” in homage to Marcel Proust’s classic work In Search of Lost Time.