Like a vision from surrealist paintings, the blood red, liquid-like lacquered ceilings and walls at Les Bains wowed us with their visual audacity while simultaneously reaching to something deeper inside. Once hangout of Impressionists, then a 1980s iconic nightclub, today Les Bains is in vogue again.
Built in 1885, this elegant Haussmanesque building was first a home to a public spa, then a café frequented by Manet, Pissaro, Degas and public intellectuals like Marcel Proust or Emile Zola. In 1980s and 90s once again was Les Bains a hub of night life—the kind of address where socialites and international celebrities were regulars.
Fast-forward to 2015 and Les Bains re-enters the scene—this time as a boutique hotel—and one that we can safely say is one of the most unique luxury sleeps in Paris.
The designers behind the daring reinvention of this heritage establishment reached to its creative roots, creating a place as inviting as it is original.
The award-winning architect Vincent Bastie, joined by designers Tristan Auer and Denis Montel, paid homage to the historical Haussmannian building by retaining its shell and many original details. They serve as a gracious context to the hotel’s dramatic new interiors.
Les Bains spaces are organised into vastly different moods. The underground Club seem soaked in oily gloom. Upstairs, ceilings curve and disappear into darkness as light dances on their surfaces. The focal point of the hotel—the bar—is a pure eye-candy, thanks to the ceiling that meets above it in a huge blob of sensuous shape.
Meanwhile, on the higher floors, the guestrooms are all about soothing simplicity. They are light-filled and warm, and designed to provide sleek comfort.
We liked these contrasts on many levels. Visceral glamour downstairs, sophisticated serenity upstairs make this hotel a place of surprise and delight.
While dining at La Salle à Manger, the hotel’s main restaurant-and-bar, we discovered that food reflected these contrasts too. From the menu prepared by the three-Michelin-star chef Philippe Labbé the kitchen serves artful dishes that mesh flavours, colours and textures in a most agreeable way. It’s certainly one of the nicest culinary experiences we’ve had in Paris.
Bed and beyond
The hotel is comfortably ensconced in Paris’ third arrondissement, on the edge of Le Marais which is historically the aristocratic district—and one of our favourite areas of the city. It’s a trove of atmospheric streets and architectural delights.
This historic neighbourhood rarely witnesses rebirth quite like Les Bains. With imaginative contrasts, visual panache and illustrious past it is one of the most interesting openings in Paris in recent years.