The Largest Hotel in Paris Gets a Midcentury Modern Update

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By Aileen Kwun / Published by Dwell
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And it has a legendary jazz club, too.

Today in Paris, Le Méridien Etoile unveils an extensive renovation led by London architecture firm Michaelis Boyd in partnership with French interior designer Jean-Philippe Nuel and Julie Frank, global director of design for Le Méridien, marking the first comprehensive update to the international hotel brand's flagship location. With more than 1,000 rooms, it's also the largest hotel in Paris.

Embracing its hometown in the City of Light drove nearly every design decision of the revamped interiors, which nod to its late-midcentury founding in 1972 by Air France, also referenced through aviation-inspired forms and the overall blue color palette throughout. For Frank and the team, avoiding clichés in their visual references to an iconic city was not a simple feat—nor was retaining its loyalty with locals who have frequented its legendary Jazz Club Etoile, which has been a neighborhood mainstay since 1975 and was also redone as part of the renovation.

While Le Méridien is now owned by the Starwood Hotels group, strengthening that early DNA was core to the project. What began as a standard update to the property, says Frank, has now become an extensive renovation signaling a new chapter for the brand's crown jewel: "Local context is really important to us. We've had this great momentum in terms of growth, but now we're bringing it back home to where it was founded, to the original property."

Below, our first look at the revamped Le Méridien Etoile, which officially unveils today.


The Neighborhood

Located in the city's 17th arrondisement, the hotel houses 1,025 rooms. While that means the trip from your room to the elevator bank can be a bit disorienting, the elongated layout also means that every room comes with a window; in the only exterior change to the structure, 500 new windows were installed to the front facade. Those seeking more active nightlife may choose to stay closer to the city's center, but this location has its draws, too: It's a stone's throw from the Arc de Triomphe, and just a 15-minute walk to Frank Gehry's recently completed Fondation Louis Vuitton in the nearby Bois du Boulogne park. 

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The Lobby

"I think that a vibrant lobby encourages people to stay and linger," says Frank. "We know that as people are walking toward reception, they'll look right and see activity, so will come back and have a drink, versus dropping their bags and going out elsewhere. The thinking is, if you build it right, they will come." To that end, a new series of gridded brass fittings structures the space and directs they eye to each area. 

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The Hub

Part cafe, part library, this new area of the hotel has an upscale and creative
co-working space vibe to it. Situated on the main floor, it's filled with a variety of lounge chairs, magazines, and newspapers. A reinterpretation of the traditionally static hotel lobby, it makes for a welcoming spot to read, hold a casual meeting, or simply grab a coffee to start off the day. "We're providing visitors with every type of space they would want," says Frank—and that includes guests who aren't staying upstairs, too. 

A reinterpretation of the traditional hotel lobby, The Hub is a large open-plan space with modular seating arrangements for casual meetings, or lounging and reading with a coffee. Situated on the ground floor, it socially activates the traditional waiting area.

A reinterpretation of the traditional hotel lobby, The Hub is a large open-plan space with modular seating arrangements for casual meetings, or lounging and reading with a coffee. Situated on the ground floor, it socially activates the traditional waiting area.

The Room

The first thing one notices is the soft and plush, yet dense carpeting that lies underfoot—Frank says it's intended as a nod to Chanel tweed and the city as the epicenter of haute couture. It's tastefully subtle, and distinctive enough to distract from the fact that many of the hotel's rooms are efficiently small. 

On my stay, a 250-square-foot room comfortably contained a queen-size bed, a spacious bathroom (and a separate commode, next door to it), a mirrored closet, a long niche shelf beneath the TV, a writing desk and chair, as well as a dining room and chair. An elongated navy blue pendant hangs above the head of the bed—its plane-like form is meant to evoke of the hotel's founding by Air France—but its LED gives off a soft filtered glow, so you're not blinded by it when you lie in bed.

Interior architect Jean-Phillipe Nuel led the redesign of the guest rooms, which are packed with stylish space efficiencies. Long curtains visually enlarge the interior, and a modestly sized wall-mounted desk and chair provide ample space for working on a laptop. 

Interior architect Jean-Phillipe Nuel led the redesign of the guest rooms, which are packed with stylish space efficiencies. Long curtains visually enlarge the interior, and a modestly sized wall-mounted desk and chair provide ample space for working on a laptop. 

Jazz Club Etoile

Downstairs, the hotel is home to a bar and jazz club that was founded by actor and musician François-Alexandre Galepides (best known by his stage name, "Moustache"), and has since become a staple for neighborhood locals. Legendary acts like Count Basie, Fats Domino, B.B. King, and Ike Turner are among the many musicians who have performed here since its 1975 opening.

Coordinated in palettes of blue and copper, the new interiors now feature an array of seating arrangements, tiered to offer and suggest varying modes of interaction. You can sit further up, on a slightly elevated level lined with intimate booths; or on the main floor seating area, which is set up cafe style in tables of two to four with the occasional lounge chair, closer to the stage; the bar is placed strategically in-between, lined with stools. As with The Hub, the Jazz Club and bar are open to the public.

Varied seating options in the hotel's Jazz Club Etoile include leather banquettes; a new row of windows lines an interior wall to evoke an urban feel.

Varied seating options in the hotel's Jazz Club Etoile include leather banquettes; a new row of windows lines an interior wall to evoke an urban feel.

Newly renovated and unveiled as of September 22, Le Méridien Etoile is located at 81 Boulevard Gouvion-Saint-Cyr, 75017 Paris, France; lemeridienetoile.com