A Is for Astonishing *
Wonders never cease at Le A, a Paris hotel by the high-flying Frédéric Méchiche
Ian Phillips -- Interior Design, 10/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
When the rich and famous need a decorator, many look no further than Frédéric Méchiche. The Frenchman's projects have taken him from a minimalist house on a private Greek island to an art-filled penthouse high above the island of Manhattan, and he also regularly outfits yachts and jets. Far more rarely does he accept commercial commissions. As he explains it, "They really have to grab me." To date, only three jobs have.
The latest is Le A, a Paris hotel with a markedly residential outlook. "It's like a friend's apartment where I'd dream of going to stay," says Méchiche. And to him that means contemporary art. "Not those uninteresting little paintings you see on the walls in many hotels," he asserts. "At home, I've never used art as simply a decorative splash of color. It always plays a powerful, central role."
For Le A, he virtually gave carte blanche to Fabrice Hybert, the artist whose French pavilion won the 1997 Leone d'Oro at the Biennale di Venezia. "I've collected his work for a while, and I like his ideas, his humor, his spontaneity," says Méchiche—who put that spontaneity to the test by giving Hybert a scant two and a half months to produce dozens of original pieces for the hotel's guest rooms and public spaces.
In the bar hangs Hybert's "shadow" tapestry, speedily woven in Guadalajara, Mexico. "The shadows represent both the city and your nighttime fears and fantasies," says the artist. Behind the bar of ebony-tinted oak, turquoise-gelled lights appear at night to cast an aquatic glow on the white-painted walls and columns of salvaged brick.
The bar's star daytime attraction is the sole feature to survive the gut renovation of the hotel that used to stand on this site, just off the Champs-Elysées. Intending to demolish everything but the facade, Méchiche uncovered the 19th-century glazed roof of a ground-level room extending behind the building, and he restored the structure according to the techniques of that time. "We used nuts and bolts à la Gustave Eiffel," says Méchiche. During breakfast, served here daily, the sun pours through the glazing onto white-upholstered seating—an uplifting start to the morning. Visible beyond the roof is a wall that Hybert clad in Mexican ceramic tiles displaying a's of various sizes and shapes, painted in molten glass.
In the ground level's stylish lounge, Méchiche stocked the bookshelves with handpicked titles on modern design, art, fashion, and photography, current as well as out of print. "The selection is what you'd find in someone's home," he says. Steering clear of trendiness and willful eccentricity, he upholstered custom armchairs, chaise longues, and sofas in a sober yet wonderfully elegant chocolate-colored velvet. Oblong white rocks line the floor of the gas fireplace for a slightly Japanese touch.
Less Zen—and much more disco—is Hybert's elevator. "It changes color at each floor," he explains, "like a thermometer." As passengers are whisked up and down, the capsule progresses from blue to red to yellow to green to white to violet, thanks to the computer-programmed diodes installed above the acrylic ceiling.
No two rooms or bathrooms are exactly alike, though finishes and custom furniture do recur. The scheme is either bronze-and-cream striped carpet and wall paint, with ebony-stained oak, or celadon-and-cream stripes, with gray-tinted oak. Méchiche slipcovered the lounge seating in a white flame-retardant polyester, simple to wash after each guest's departure.
That type of attention typifies Le A. "At other hotels, you get big bouquets of flowers. Here the luxury is discreet, almost invisible," he says. The care lavished on the bathrooms comes through in the sink vanities and tub surrounds of Portuguese marble, hammered to look rough but feel sensual. Even the chrome toilet-paper holders were designed by Arne Jacobsen.
Total key count is 26, one room for each letter of the alphabet—whether u for Unisex or i for Incognito.
At Paris hotel Le A, Frédéric Méchiche designed the bar's tables, topped in ebony-stained oak, and seating slipcovered in flame-retardant polyester. Artist Fabrice Hybert designed the tapestry.
Polycarbonate shades and stainless-steel rings make up the bar's sconces.
The custom reception desk is ebony-stained oak.
Hybert used paint and charcoal crayon to scrawl letters and numbers on a wall.
Velvet covers a custom armchair and chaise longue in the lounge.
A 19th-century glazed structure, discovered during demolition, is now restored as the bar's roof.
A Hybert piece in india ink establishes the theme of the guest room called Double. Méchiche presents his pedestal table, topped in ebony-stained oak, as an alternative to a desk pushed against a wall.
In a bathroom, glass mosaic tiles compose the striped wall.
A glass vase sits on the oak-topped cocktail table of a guest room.
Hybert's donkey, fairy, and ghost—in oil, india ink, charcoal, and gold dust—hang above a custom sofa with a slipcover in flame-retardant polyester.
For another bathroom, Méchiche chose hammered Portuguese marble and Arne Jacobsen's chrome sink fittings.
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