The feeling that Le Pigalle—a boutique hotel located in the Pigalle district of Paris—captures is both of the moment and timeless. Its owner Valéry Grégo had a clear goal for what he hoped the hotel would achieve when he developed the concept: to help people understand the neighborhood. "We didn’t want to make a hotel that simply reflected what Pigalle is becoming, but what it was and still is." Formerly a seedy, red light district that still maintains a bit of its provocative character, Pigalle has enjoyed a colorful reputation throughout the 19th and into the 20th century. Grégo, who grew up in the area, believes that prior to opening the hotel, Pigalle was lacking an energetic focal point that "reflected the neighborhood spirit."
The spirit Grégo refers to can be evasive, since it’s not a formula, nor is it a style. A hotel that embodies the neighborhood collective occupies a unique place in the community, for although its original function is intended for guests, it’s just as much a creative and collaborative space for locals. The success of a true neighborhood hotel lies in the ability to integrate both guests and residents.
In order for this synthesis to occur, Le Pigalle turned to the district’s local experts to blur the line between neighborhood and hotel, which is comprised of 40 personalized rooms, a restaurant, bar, café, vinyl collection, and newspaper kiosk. The spirit of collaboration is at the heart of Le Pigalle; its design, products, food, drink, and attitude have all been curated by locals. The team has created more than a place—they’ve curated a lifestyle. The hotel is committed to the neighborhood’s history and every person who plays a role in its operations has deep local roots.
Thierry Breton, a pillar of the community who arrived more than 20 years ago and runs three restaurants, provides the bread for Le Pigalle. Design specialist and furniture hunter Alexandre Guillemain tracks down little-known gems for its interior collection. Thierry Roche, the man behind the local brewery Goutte d’Or located down the street, has teamed up with the hotel to brew a table beer that pairs well with food served at the restaurant. Roche describes the local beer as one that emanates history. "It was made for the working class, with a low alcohol content, and it was used as a substitute for water," he explains. Sound specialist and founder of a nearby recording studio, Laurent Aurion, is responsible for creating and installing top-quality sound systems for the bedrooms, lobby, and ground floor. Floral stylist Muse, located in neighboring Montmartre, creates arrangements for the hotel that blend flowers, vegetables, and branches with the hope of imparting "a hint of Pigalle romanticism and a touch of floral flair."
For a truly Parisian start to the day, guests can stop by the in-house newspaper kiosk, operated by Pigalle resident Hussam Mouli, while enjoying a coffee from the hotel’s café, prepared by local barista Nicolas Clerc.
Design duo Charlotte de Tonnac and Hugo Sauzay of Festen Architecture were intent on preserving the character of the building, a neo-classical structure created in the style of the area known as La Nouvelle Athènes. This style of architecture, characterized by uniform and symmetrical windows, cast-iron balcony railings, and intricate moldings and friezes, was developed in the 1820s for the rising professional classes and is still present in much of the hotel’s exterior. For the interior, de Tonnac and Sauzay have incorporated quintessential Parisian touches such as paneled doors, woodwork, and white walls.
The ground floor acts as the focal point of the hotel with an open floor plan that allows different areas of the hotel to seamlessly blend into each other. Sauzay commented that "the terrazzo flooring on the ground floor is like the ones you find in the local bar." There are also other visual references to the neighborhood throughout the hotel: the classic neon-lit signs of Pigalle are seen on the exterior, denoting the hotel, restaurant, bar, and café; photographs of the neighborhood taken by Parisian artists line the walls; and the distinctive pop of deep red—found in nearby cabaret houses such as Moulin Rouge—is expressed in the elevator, lobby toilets, and signature furniture pieces.
A large worn leather sofa in the lobby lends a retro look, particularly when placed next to more contemporary pieces. Classic lighting fixtures such as George Nelson’s Saucer Pendant lamp and Poul Henningsen’s Artichoke lamp hang from the ceiling, shedding light over intimate arrangements of vintage design pieces from the ‘50s and ‘60s. Floor-to-ceiling doors and windows reveal cozy lounge spaces and lend street level visibility.
The use of diverse materials and textures gives the hotel an incredibly tactile look and feel. De Tonnac and Sauzay use marble, granite, and plaster of Paris throughout the hotel, and the different use of textiles such as velvet, wool, and felt allow for playful combinations of design. Objects in both the public spaces and rooms have been collected by local artisans, photographers, designers, and shopkeepers—people who have something to say and show about the neighborhood of Pigalle. Communal bookshelves are filled with weathered books, collectibles, and ironic if not kitschy souvenirs—items that look to have been effortlessly accumulated, but not cluttered.
The dining menu, developed by self-described "flavor assembler" Camille Fourmont, serves simple, seasonal, and natural dishes, put together using local retailers and growers. Fourmont says the food is "more about assembly than cooking, like a kitchen where most of the preparation is done beforehand." Staples include homemade jams, terrines, pickles, preserves, and Thierry Breton’s famed bread.
It’s easy to see why Le Pigalle works. An updated boutique hotel business model with a proud aesthetic reimagines the overlapping worlds of sleeping, dining, drinking, and entertaining. It seems critical for a neighborhood to have a space for both residents and guests to collect, work, and play. Since it opened in 2015, Le Pigalle has embraced its role as the energetic focal point for the neighborhood and in turn, the neighborhood has embraced the hotel.