the only five star family owned hotel in Paris 

The Hotel Alfred Sommier, the only 5-star family affair in Paris

Richard de Warren wants you to feel at home in his Hotel Alfred Sommier. Indeed, the owner of the place puts a lot of effort into this very special establishment that has belonged to his family since 1860 — it’s the only five star hotel in Paris that can brag about that. A personal heritage nested in the heart of the city that his owner takes pride and genuine pleasure in sharing with his hosts. 

The Hotel Alfred Sommier is a place like no other. Located between Madeleine, the Faubourg Saint-Honoré and some of the most popular department stores in Paris, it is almost invisible from the street. This gorgeous Hotel Particulier is indeed hidden behind a gigantic wooden door. To reach the reception, you’ll have to walk through a charming cobbled passage. Right from the start, the tone is set. A majestic stone staircase welcomes the guests. It’s almost like you’ve just stepped into a museum. On the main floor, small spaces have been rearranged: you can sit on the nice terrace, have lunch under the conservatory (which has air-conditioning during the summer) and drink coffee in one of the many little sitting rooms. 

Upstairs, you’ll find the very well decorated rooms, some of which are overlooking the beautiful garden. As Richard de Warren, the owner of the place and a descendent of the well-known Sommier family, likes to say: « It feels like a little castle, but in the middle of the city». Delicate touches of gilding here and there, old-inspired furniture, thick curtains and huge fireplaces are what makes the place so special. Indeed, it is quite inspiring how everything has been restored with so much taste, and refinement. 

It’s almost as if you could hear Alfred Sommier in the hallway. This gentleman was the first person to have ever lived here. And to get a better understanding of the place, it is crucial to tell his story. He comes from a family of bakers, which used to be settled in Burgundy, in the Center-East of France — usually, this region is known around the world for its divine wines, and not so much for its bread. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Sommier family decided to step into the sugar business. In fact, not so long before that, a renowned chemist had discovered the formulation of sugar, which made its industrialization way easier. It was settled: they were going to start a new company, in the hope for a better life. They moved to Paris, but quickly found out that being settled in the center of the city wasn’t the best option for them. They moved again, to La Villette this time. Back then, it wasn’t part of the 19th arrondissement, but a city of its own. It was the ideal location for their business, since it was near the Canal de l’Ourq, the Canal Saint-Martin, but also the slaughterhouses. Back then, pigs and cows’ blood were used by the refineries to whiten the sugar. « With black, you made white », said Richard de Warren, a smile on his face. 

The Sommier family was a very industrial one: they weren’t afraid to dream big and have ambitious plans for the future. One day, the youngest brother decided that he didn’t want to live right next to the refinery anymore. He looked for a place in the center of Paris: an easy way to have a social life. After browsing for a couple of months, he found the Petit Hotel de Soubise. When the Sommier buy the place, they realize that it is in very poor condition. They don’t think twice about it and demolish everything. Three years later, the brand-new Hotel Particulier was born. It was divided into two sections from the start: the family moved into one part, and Alfred Sommier took up residence in the other one (which is now the Hotel Alfred Sommier, called as such as an homage). Funny enough, he was also the one to buy the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, not far from Paris — he renovated it completely as well, to make it his own. Alfred Sommier’s son was born in the Hotel Particulier that now has his name on it, and he married the daughter of a French president. Talk about a social ascension! 

Richard de Warren’s great grand-mother inherited the place, but she got married to a Belgian man and left the place unoccupied. After the war, a company called Démos moved in. They stayed there for no less than 27 years. When they told Richard de Warren that they didn’t want to sign a new lease, he decided it was time to transform the beautiful building into a fine Hotel Particulier. He talked about it to his cousins, and they all agreed on the fact that it was an amazing idea. It took one year to get the building permit. The renovations took two years and three months. The Hotel Alfred Sommier finally opened its doors to the public at the end of summer 2018. A quite funny timing, since France was struck with the Gilets Jaunes movement a couple of months later, then by the national strikes. And finally, a global pandemic. Richard de Warren had to close his establishment on March 15th, 2020. He was allowed to reopen the restaurant three months later and the hotel on July 1st. But a second confinement was announced in France, and he had to close the restaurant for the second time in one year. « But as Elton John once said: “I’m still standing“ », he said. 

Those unpredictable events don’t make him any less proud of what he has done with the place. « Back in 1855, when the Hôtel Particulier was bought by my family, they decided to rebuild everything. They did it with the help of a very renowned architect: Joseph-Michel Le Soufaché », he explained. If his name rings a bell, it’s because he worked on the Château de Versailles, but also the Château de Sceaux, two very famous properties in France. 

When Richard de Warren decided to transform the place into a hotel, he kept the structure of the building and only made a few arrangements: he kept most of the floor plans, but had to pull down some walls to make the place more welcoming. « I really wanted to keep an historical touch, because the hotel is a family affair. My idea was to tell a story », he said. « I didn’t want our guests to feel like they were in a hotel, but in a private mansion “Hotel Particulier”. Which is very different ». Indeed, among the five star hotels in Paris, the Alfred Sommier Hotel is the only one that has been owned by the same family since the start. Which makes it very special, and quite personal. 

A personal touch that you can sense all around the Hotel. When it came to decorating, Richard de Warren got help from two friends: they worked together to design comfortable furniture and find a place for every souvenir the owner wanted to put in the different rooms — such as old floor maps, politics and artists caricatures from vintage Vanity Fair magazines and contemporary pieces of art. Richard de Warren kept the original mirrors and fireplaces, but also repurposed some of the wooden floors that had to be teared down. He even kept some of the original secret passages that connect the kitchens to the front yard, where horse-drawn carriages used to park. He also decided to keep all the small private rooms, so that guests and clients could organise small diners and business meetings. But because he didn’t want the place to feel like a business convention site, he hid the televisions behind some very well-picked contemporary art pieces. 

And what about the food? Richard de Warren wanted, once again, to bring a historical touch to the table. He gathered some old menus from the Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, where huge feasts used to take place. That’s where he got his inspiration from. « I didn’t want to open a gourmet restaurant. I felt like it didn’t have anything to do with a Hotel Particulier ». That’s the reason why you’ll rarely see more than three starters, three main courses and three deserts on the menu. And that is a good sign, because it simply means that everything is cooked and prepared in their basement kitchen — which used to be the old stables. At the Hotel Alfred Sommier, the ambiance is casual, and the cuisine inspired by old recipes — with, of course, a contemporary touch. « When you are invited to a friend’s house for dinner, you don’t really choose what you are going to eat. Yet, everyone is pleased », Richard de Warren explained. « I would have created a unique menu, but I know that some guests don’t eat fish for example. They needed to have some options. Add to that the fact that some of them come back often, and I’m sure they wouldn’t want to eat the same meal over and over again ». Moreover, times have changed. Nowadays, people don’t have time (nor the appetite) for a huge feast anymore. The restaurant, in that way, in the perfect reflection of the owner’s goal: make you feel at home, in a historical place that has been remodeled to fit with the contemporary way of life. 

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By Alexane Pelissou

A Paris Antoinette Poisson, decoration heritage

French decor-Paris

A Paris Antoinette Poisson, restorers of an 18th century decoration heritage

When two friends passionate about decorative arts discovered a long-lost artisanal technique while restoring a historic house in Auvergne (central France), they knew they were on to something. This encounter with centuries-old domino paper beneath layers of wallpaper led heritage restorers Vincent Farelly and Jean-Baptiste Martin to bring what is called dominoterie, back to life. In 2012 A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson was born, and the rest is history, 18th century history to be exact. 

Named for Marquise de Pompadour, born Jeanne-Antoinette Poisson, A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson pays tribute to a woman with an affinity for interior decoration, wallpaper included. The name also calls to mind a very regal era, one in which French savoir-faire was at its prime. With the invention of continuous paper in the 19th century, this decorative paper gradually fell out of fashion. That is, until dominoterie, also known as domino paper returned thanks to this designing duo.  

What exactly is dominoterie? This 18th century technique involves the domino paper being cut into the printing block from a metal block in which the pattern is engraved with floral or geometric patterns. Afterward, the paper is painted by hand or stenciled resulting in individually crafted 32 x 42 cm domino paper. Traditionally, this paper was used to cover books, boxes and caskets or to decorate the interior of cabinets. Small rooms or hallways could also be decorated with these colorful prints. Commonly, larger productions of domino paper were used to bind paperbacks. Domino paper by A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson can either be used as wallpaper or individually framed and hung up like artwork. 

Respecting the traditions of the time, Vincent and Jean-Baptiste create their original designs based on both historical documents and objects that inspire. Drawn and printed sheet by sheet and painted in their Parisian workshop, A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson designs include playing cards, ikat prints, a variety of floral compositions and geometric designs. The colors used in creating these papers are limitless.

Domino papers are not the only decorative products found at this charming Parisian boutique located within a courtyard in the right bank’s 11th arrondissement. Other signature items include wallpaper, printed linens, stationery and a variety of decorative handmade objects. From hand-crafted notebooks that can be used to document journeys in Paris and beyond, to linen fabrics to decorate the home, some that even pair with the domino papers. Cushions too are part of the selection, ranging in a number of unique prints. A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson has also collaborated with Gien, the famous French tableware manufacturer, to create five patterns inspired by the 18th century. 

Past collaborations also include a fabric collection for iconic fashion label Gucci, two exclusive designs composed of roses for fragrance brand Diptyque, a rose pattern for Ladurée’s macaron collection “La vie en rose”, and three designs for Parisian fashion brand Sezanne, including Petite Indienne, Ikat, and Treillages. Even the Chateau de Versailles called upon A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson to design their boutique Cour de Marbre, in the style of Marie-Antoinette and King Louis XV, of course. The most recent collaboration included a capsule collection of tableware, ready-to-wear, bed linen and decorative objects with French store Monoprix.  

Stepping away from home decoration and into the world of fragrance, A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson also presents a collection of three intoxicating perfumes wrapped in their own custom paper, each one whisking you away to another era. The perfume “Bien Aimée” with its floral notes, takes you on a stroll to the gardens of Versailles while “Joli Bois” sets the scene, and the plant-induced scent, of a meeting between a young woman and the King of France. The third perfume “Tison” is composed of smoky and woody notes and evokes the warm glow of a fireplace. The latter also represents the flame that long burned for the Marquise de Pompadour.

Another notable creation by the innovators behind A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson are fashionable silk scarves and twillys. While these perfect Parisian accessories are inspired by the historic prints of several of the domino papers, they prove a timeless accessory. And what better to complement your home décor than a matching scarf? 

What’s next for A Paris chez Antoinette Poisson? Keep an eye on this dynamic duo whose creations are certain to keep us inspired in the present day while reminiscing of 18th century French savoir-faire for many years to come.

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By Kasia Dietz 

Top image: Boutique Antoinette Poisson, photo Anne-Charlotte Moulard
Side image: Atelier Antoinette Poisson, photo Anne-Charlotte Moulard

Christofle, Immersion into French art of living

Maison Christofle, an immersion in French art of living

Christofle is a French luxury House that, in the tradition of the French art of living, embodies the art of sharing. Through sharing – with family, with a loved one, with friends and relations – Christofle speaks to contemporary aesthetes, hedonists and globetrotters who know that beauty, elegance and refinement enhance the shared moments, making them even more powerful and precious.

The company was founded in 1830 by Charles Christofle. In 1842, he acquired the patents for silver and gold metal electroplating. More durable and less harmful than traditional techniques, electroplating and gilding made it possible to manufacture pieces on a massive scale. Christofle was the only patent holder in France for 15 years. This made Christofle a major player in the 19th century silver industry and an integral player in art of living today.
One of his first clients was none other than the French King, Louis-Philippe I. The King actually ordered a full service for the Chateau d’Eu in Normandy, a vacation spot for the French royal family.

Maison Christofle uses entirely handmade manufacturing. The precious trades of spinning, embossing, carving, engraving, perpetuated by its craftsmen immortalize the qualities of elegance and excellence. The know-how of its highly qualified craftsmen is transmitted from teacher to student thus constituting the living heritage of Christofle. True “Living Treasures”, the Master Goldsmiths are the guardians of the sustainability and quality of Christofle know-how.

In addition to its studio’s creations, Christofle collaborates with renowned designers and artists to produce ambitious pieces illustrating its vision of the art of sharing. Produced by the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (Best Craftsmen in France), these pieces – works by artists and designers, historical reprints and reproductions, and custom-made and exceptional commissions – are all crafted in the Christofle workshops in Normandy (France).

Present in 70 countries, the art of sharing by Christofle has spread worldwide but its know-how can only be observed in France.

Discover our experiences of French art of entertaining  

Top image: Know-how, matrix creation for stamping the cutlery©Koox productions
Side image: Eden Garden collection designed by Marcel Wanders for Christofle. ©LuxProd