Occupying a discrete history-rich building in the 10th arrondissement of Paris, halfway between Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est, the new Hotel Les Deux Gares is poised mischievously, ready to treat visitors to a wild and wonderful joyride. The once abandoned bourgeois edifice is now frocked up in the signature stylings of its art director Luke Edward Hall, and offers a bar, restaurant, fitness room and sauna. Not to mention the 40 petite rooms where guests are warmly invited into the eccentric universe of the British tastemaker.
This is the first hotel that Luke has lent his inimitable finesse. And the rebellious designer-artist has embraced the opportunity with fervour, choosing to adorn every nook and cranny of the former railway station hotel with a combination of English chic and French soul amid mind-boggling colour and Art Deco flair. Antique furniture from various decades, French wallpapers and English carpets, mid-century lighting pieces and sumptuous fabrics combine – sometimes conform, sometimes collide – to establish a ravishing place of respite for travellers to the City of Lights.
Immersed in the 1960s-70s cinematic charms of the hotel’s lobby, it’s easy to understand why the designer queried whether this is “a hotel or the home of a bohemian Parisian collector?” throughout the design process, of which he oversaw every intricate detail. The tales imagined by such a question were an ongoing creative influence at Les Deux Gares, says Luke, and the terminus a quo of the hotel’s concept.
The pea green walls of the ground floor lobby set the tantalising tone for the rest of the hotel and serve as an “electric” backdrop to an effervescent mix of furniture: a 19th-century gilt wood table, a pair of mid-century Spanish pink ceramic table lamps and a mirror designed and decorated by Luke himself, inspired by the Palladian masterpieces of William Kent.
Peer into the toile de jouy wallpaper of the lobby’s sitting room and expect to drift-off into a whole other magnificent world. Depictions of villagers, cherubs and an exotic menagerie return the gaze, arranged among romantic garlands of scrolling foliage. The coffee table is in the style of Jean Royère and the duo of armchairs are from the workshop of Italian architect and designer Paolo Buffa.
Venture upstairs and one of the world’s most fabulous lucky-dips continues. The rooms at Les Deux Gares are divided into three cheerful schemes, offering ebonised and gilt furnishings informed by the style of French Empire antiques, woven geometric carpets that nod to the 1970s and velvet-fringed armchairs in myriad colourways. On each side of the striped bedheads, the lampshades of the wall lights are emblazoned with Luke’s illustrations, some of which are frequently shared by the designer on Instagram.
Drawing upon 1920s sophistication, the bathrooms are a bold spin on Art Deco style, spotlighting a joyous mismatch of pastel-coloured fixtures and fittings sourced by Luke, including pillar wall lights, yolk-yellow wall tiles and border tiles with Greek-key motifs. Guests can opt for breakfast in bed – an absolute indulgence – though a journey to the nearby Café Les Deux Gares is worthy of donning one’s Sunday best.
I love listening to stories from the past and feeling as though I’m entering another, more elegant era.
The interior of Café Les Deux Gares is also the work of protean wild-child Luke and continues the hotel’s colourful story. Cherry red and pale blue mix with the conventions set by old-world Parisian cafe culture: cement floor tiles, Thonet bentwood chairs from the Paris flea market (“luckily we came across a really good seat of sixty,” says Luke), an upholstered banquette and charming bistro tables.
A number of offbeat touches speak to the playfulness of the designer’s decorative approach. The ceiling is finished in a tortoiseshell motif by painter Pauline Leravaud and the pale pink and red exterior awnings are adorned with martini glasses hand-drawn by Luke. The wall lights, made in London, recall the devotion to Art Deco style. “I love listening to stories from the past and feeling as though I’m entering another, more elegant era,” says Luke.
Vintage Paris exhibition posters nod to a time when the primary mission of the local cafes was to be places of social and cultural exchange. Then there is the finely crafted bar by metalworker Frédéric Lesire. Behind the bar, expect libations from the boss, Frederic Lesire. In the kitchen, delectable dishes are prepared by chef Jonathan Schweizer, supported by Frédérico Suarez, who promise to serve up simple yet exacting cuisine.
And while a trip to the gymnasium is unlikely to rank high on a traveller’s ‘when in Paris’ to-do list, a pre-checkout sweat session at Les Deux Gares’ fitness room and sauna is a must. Even if it’s just for the eye candy. On the walls, of course.