Maison Martin Margiela has captured a very particular following. The conceptual approach to fashion that won the unique Belgian designer many accolades and a staunch base of supporters has shown little signs of letting up since the much discussed departure of Martin Margiela from the brand that still bears his name. If anything, the international clientele promises to carry on growing. There is also very much a sense that those who are attracted to the brand are not only interested in the wonderful clothes themselves but the very values that surround them. In the conceptual frame, it is as if Maison Martin Margiela has grown into the world’s leading luxury ‘anti-lifestyle’ brand. So, it was probably only a matter of time before the atelier’s work would extend beyond its existing lines of clothing and accessories.
The Maison Champs Elysées, a Parisian boutique hotel in the heart of Paris, sees Maison Martin Margiela turning its hand to large-scale interior design for the first time. The winners of a competition for the commission to design the interior for the hotel, the design takes in the expansive interiors in both the building dating from the French Second Empire and its neighbouring more recent addition.
In a sense, this was more than enough inspiration for Maison Martin Margiela in itself. The kind of ironic juxtapositions bordering on the surreal that are a familiar concept within the clothing were immediately set to work in the context of the building. For example, in the suites in a more contemporary part of the building, the walls are covered with photographs of the mouldings from an older part of the building, a kind of Spartan trompe l’oeil. In fact, it would be reasonable to say that the juxtaposition of two different periods in history is something of an overall theme in the interiors. Photographs of the historic details of the Second Empire building are printed on numerous surfaces from wallpaper to net curtains in other parts of the building creating a quirky sense of being in two places –or times- at one time.
As with the well-known boutiques of the brand, the hotel is never really minimalist but rather an exercise in austere luxury. The beautiful surfaces of high-quality materials or extremely carefully selected pieces of antique or statement furniture are placed within the otherwise uncluttered interior spaces. It is poised and even a little operatic without ever becoming too fussy or overdone. This open-ended sense of space is the result of a familiar Margiela pale palette that makes extensive use of mirror and other highly reflective surfaces and fabrics such as white linens in many of the public areas of the hotel as well as within the rooms and suites. However, inverting the colour scheme to its negative unexpectedly creates a sense of cosy intimacy and comfort when combined with wood tones or bright accent touches. If anyone thought that black walls was only the stuff of 1970’s nightclubs and teenage Goth bedrooms, then its use in specific areas of the Maison Champs Elysées is a bit of a revelation. It’s surprising how welcoming it can be. Used in combination with dark brown leather club armchairs it gives the basement Cigar Cellar an authentic English gentlemen’s club style. Yet, upstairs in the windowless corridors where only projections simulate daylight falling into the dark space, it takes on a playful Alice in Wonderland feeling, a magical place where one might literally wander upon a crop of giant forest mushrooms.
As might be expected of any hotel designed by Maison Martin Margiela, the Maison Champs Elysées is a promise of a very sophisticated luxury. It’s offer of rooms, suites, an intimate restaurant, various bars and interesting function rooms is set to not only become the destination for the discerning visitor to Paris, but, no doubt, a local point of reference for the fashionable Parisian.