The story of a Parisian icon with Charles Jouffre

It’s one of the most iconic hotels of Paris, first opened in 1835, and which has been a piece of Parisian history ever since. It’s the place where Picasso got married and Salvador Dalí lived for years, infusing its spaces with his playful spirit. To this day, Le Meurice retains its artistic flair but what you might not know is that the hotel has also always been supportive of new talents. Artists, chefs, designers…they believe the only way to look to the future is to always be innovative and let in the fresh ideas of the uncorrupt and the unburdened.

In an exclusive interview with Charles Jouffre of Les Ateliers Jouffre, we learn about the incredible creative process and collaborative work that went into bringing Le Meurice into the 21st century over the years.

Meet Charles Jouffre

GLH: Hello Charles. It’s an absolute honour to have you with us today. So tell us, how did you come to work with Le Meurice?

Charles Jouffre: Le Meurice is a bit of a love story, I would say. It is above all the story of my meeting with Franka Holtmann. I know her from the time she worked at the Plaza. Then I worked with her when she was at Hôtel de Crillon; We worked on a salon renovation. And I started working with Le Meurice in the 2000s….a magical place where we had the chance to reimagine all the curtains and sofas.

This happened when she took over the management of Le Meurice and she called me and asked me to think about how we could refresh the decor of the rooms to give them more soul. Franka called me because she thought all the fabrics -which appeared a little dull and sad to her- needed to be reworked. She wanted something that had more character. We spent a lot of time talking, chatting, trying to figure out what she had in mind and what this establishment needed to really make a stronger impression. It was an incredible challenge!

GLH: And what does Le Meurice mean for you?

Charles Jouffre: For me, Le Meurice is very much linked to the discussions I had with Franka. We came to the idea that the hotel was truly a royal residence. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in Paris, and it’s also wonderfully located in the city, on Rue de Rivoli, facing the Tuileries garden.

Since we were going about this project with Philippe Starck, our goal was to find a link between 18th-century France and 21st-century modernity; not fall prey to an excess of modernity but not remain too much in the past either. It is thanks to the collaboration with Ms. Holtmann that we succeeded in defining this balance. She decided to go directly to the manufacturers to create something uniquely Le Meurice.

GLH: Can you tell us a bit more about the last set of renovations you did for Le Meurice?

Charles Jouffre: Once again, the rooms were first and foremost a result of the numerous interactions with Ms. Holtmann.

I remember I was on vacation and in a swimming pool when Ms. Holtmann called me and said “Charles I have to talk to you because we have to think about the future of Le Meurice”. And it was an exchange that lasted several hours, right at the edge of that pool.

The objective was to transcend the history of Le Meurice. It was, of course, necessary to have an interior designer who understood what we were trying to do, like choosing the materials and figuring out the layout of the rooms. For my part, I only took care of the upholstery and the fabrics, so we called on Lally & Berger who seemed up to the expectations of Ms. Holtmann. She wanted to find a young team of architects and designers who were sufficiently creative to bring freshness, which would, in turn, make it possible to break away from established styles.

We really bet on them, and they delivered, bringing very fresh ideas and pieces while still falling in line with the hotel’s innate 18th-century style and atmosphere. They did a lot of work on the paintings, on the choice of furniture … And we collaborated very intensely.

GLH: And the Belle Etoile Suite? It’s a special one right?

Charles Jouffre: The Belle Etoile Suite is legendary. It is one of the most beautiful suites in Paris with a terrace overlooking the Tuileries garden. It is a suite that had the creative input of many artists and designers already, and Ms. Holtmann and the directors of the group called on us to breathe new life into it. So it was Luc and Margaux, from Lally & Berger, and we had to rethink the way a guest would experience this room.

There was also a lot of technical work with Fabien Coubard, who imposed constraints of his own on us so the suite would meet the expectations of modern travelers. Later in the process, there was a lot of work when it came to the materials, leather, fabrics, curtains, paintings…all of which creates this sense of escapism while still keeping Le Meurice’s identity…its 18th-century ambience. For instance, we thought it would be interesting to design the curtains with an extremely sophisticated type of wool, and we did something a little out of the ordinary, as we put the metallic veil in front of the curtain so we were able to play with the shade of the material. And you don’t see the embroidery of the curtain until you close it, which is a nice surprise.

To learn more about this hotel, look out for our new video on YouTube!

About Nimah Koussa

The best part about being a travel writer is bringing cities and destinations to life: their stories, secret addresses, luxurious gems and unique holiday moments. And I have been one for a little more than 10 years. From the best bars and restaurants in different cities of the world to hotels where you can check-in to get away from it all, this Magazine is all about making every trip just a bit more meaningful.

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