Paris’s Hôtel de Crillon Closes for Two-Year Renovation

Hôtel de Crillon, the palatial Paris hotel on Place de la Concorde, is closing on March 31, 2013, leaving little time for one last languid late afternoon of high tea-cum-low aperitif. However, you’ll still get a chance to take home some of fine flatware, dishware and Louis knockoffs during the Crillon’s blowout out-with-the-old auction from April 18 to 22.

As for the in-with-the-new, the Crillon, like the nearby Ritz, which closed last August for a planned 27 months of renovation, is shutting down for at least two years in order to better rise up to snuff to compete in the exclusive “palace” category of French hotels. The top-tier upgrade pandemic that has been giddily transforming the Paris hotelscape for the past five years (crisis, what crises?) has pushed the bar higher—or at least sleeker and techier—with renovations/expansions at the Bristol, the Royal Monceau and soon the Plaza-Athénée and with the arrival of Asian newcomers Shangri-La and Mandarin-Oriental and the soon-to-be unveiled Peninsula.

Hotel de Crillon (left portion of the building). Photo GLK.
Hotel de Crillon occupies the left portion of Gabriel’s magnificent colonnade. Photo GLK.

While prices for a room at the new begin at about $1000 per night, you could spend less and walk away with a piece of the old to last a lifetime. Consider, if you will, a pair of Art Deco-style chairs, Christofle flatware or champagne buckets, assorted serving trays, flutes or decanters, Bernardaud dishware, some framed prints, well-pressed tablecloths, bathroom accessories, mini-bars, chimneypieces, maybe even a Louis XV- or Louis XVI-style chair, bed headboard, dresser or couch. Prepare to spend more for the Lalique chandeliers. The catalogue, with starting bid prices and instructions for joining in the fun, can be viewed here. Warning: Potential buyers should keep in mind before raising their hand at the auction that an additional 29.9% in premium and tax will be added to the hammer price.

History of the Crillon

The Crillon may be getting rid of its Louis knockoffs but it’s keeping the originals, since its late-18th-century architecture has earned it a place on the list of historical monuments.

The hotel occupies the far western end of one of the two identical colonnaded facades on Place de la Concorde, designed by architect Jacques-Ange Gabriel in the 1760s under orders of King Louis XV, and the adjacent portion on Rue Boissy d’Anglas. (The police at the corner aren’t there to protect the rich and famous at the hotel but rather the American Embassy across the street.)

Gabriel’s western colonnade, though designed as single building, soon became a front for four different lots that were sold off in 1775, Louis XVI then king. The king’s architect/building manager Louis Francois Trouard purchased the far western lot and designed the mansion that first served home to the Duke of Aumont, before being sold to the Count of Crillon in the 1788.

A private city mansion or freestanding public building is called a “hôtel” in France, so the property was known as the Hôtel de Crillon long before it became an actual hotel.

Crillon GLK FR2

The revolution may have put an end to the Crillon family—as it did to Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, beheaded a stone’s throw from the hotel’s front door (did Marie-Antoinette have one final flashback to music lessons she took in the hôtel many years earlier?)—but the Crillons, having had little time to use their mansion before the guillotine ruined the view, returned to their property in 1812.

In 1906, Crillon descendants sold the property to the Société du Louvre, a company that was one of the first big players in the luxury hotel and department store business in Paris, which transformed the private mansion Hôtel de Crillon into the “do you have a reservation?” Hôtel de Crillon. The hotel opened in 1909, a time when luxury hotels spreading further west and about to claim ownership of the area surrounding the Champs-Elysées. Opening to rave reviews as French luxury at its finest, the Crillon has had an illustrious history ever since.

But the finest in luxury is far more international these days, and French hotel ownership has trouble keeping up with the big money. So, apparently, does American hotel ownership since in 2005 the Société du Louvre was purchased by Starwood Capital, which in 2010 sold the Crillon to a member the Saudi royal family. (The George V is also Saudi-owned.)

We’ll have to wait until sometime in 2015 to know what Saudi money does for the place. Meanwhile, it’s auction time: out with the old… and perhaps into your home.

Hotel de Crillon, 10 place de la Concorde, 8th arr. Metro Concorde. Public pre-sale exhibition of auction items April 12 to 16, 10am to 8pm (until 10pm on the 15th). Auction by lot April 18 to 22, conducted by Artcurial. See the online catalogue to view lots and for information on registering for the auction.

© 2013, Gary Lee Kraut

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