Workers have a difficult task modernizing this historic building while retaining its much-loved soul and spirit
The historic and extravagantly expensive Hotel de Crillion in the center of Paris closed its doors last month to begin a two-year renovation project. Funded by Prince Mitab bin Abdullah of Saudi Arabia who bought the former palace for 250m, the rich-veined marble lobby and winding stairs leading up to salons overlooking the Eiffel tower, once walked byMarie Antoinette, Benjamin Franklin and Ernest Hemingway, will be reserved for builders and architects, save for the sporadic visits of Middle East royalty checking in on progress.
However modernizing a hotel while retaining a soul and feel loved by regular residents is a huge undertaking, and this challenge is magnified by the fact that many of the rooms are national historic monuments, restricting the work that can be done. Matt Turner of hotel design magazine Sleeper says that this is a problem for anybody trying to renovate historic hotels. “The most successful refurbishment manages to keep the spirit of the original hotel, while adding a contemporary polish. It needs to pass the ‘regulars and local test’, as those people often feel a sort of ownership of these historic buildings.”
In keeping with a building both woven into the fabric of France’s history and now in foreign hands, this project has been given to three Parisian decorators Chahan Minassian, Cyril Vergniol, Tristan Auer and overseen by Lebanese architect Alined’Amman, who have together been tasked with rooting this 250 year old building more firmly in the modern age. And while the overall design remains a secret, the designers said in a press release that, “The 7th floor will be imagined as a `quarter within the hotel’ where fashion designers and brands can collaborate with the Crillon to decorate the suites.”
The management structure is also going to be evolved along with the project itself, with rumors suggesting that the contract will go to Swiss-based Kempinski who already have the experience of managing a portfolio of historic hotels across the world. When the hotel opens for business again, whoever wins this contract will have the task of attracting the rich, the famous and the barflies that swarm around Paris every night. This refurbishment could help the new management here, with such work having a long history of invigorating the revenue of such hotels. London’s Claridge’s increased turnover by 38% and profitability by 90% after similar work and at the Savoy gross operating markets increased by 10% after reopening in 2010. However it still remains to be seen whether the Hotel de Crillon will follow this trend.