The prestigious house of Baccarat, which has dominated the crystal market for centuries, has chosen to move to a unique building in Paris’ 16th arrondissement. Luxos magazine presents a guided tour of this surreal villa, the image of luxury and perfection itself, decorated by designer Philippe Starck.
Baccarat , from crystal glass-making to this unique building
In order to understand the success of Baccarat, a name associated with crystal manufacture the world over, one must first go back over two centuries, Bishop Louis de Montmorency de Laval the task of setting up a glassworks in Baccarat, a town east of Paris in Lorraine.
In 1816, this glassworks would become the first crystal manufacturer in France, thanks to Gabriel Aimé d’Artigues, who decided to install a crystal kiln when the place was purchased. Baccarat was to become a most celebrated name combining creativity and quality on a whole new level.
At the beginning of the 18th century, King Louis XVIII showed off his most beautiful crystals to envious royal families across the world during official dinners. As for the “Harcourt” glasses, created in 1841, they remain to this day the very image of extreme sophistication.
Baccarat quickly realized that to reign supreme over the crystal market, an unquestionable expertise would be necessary. The best workers, from glassblowers to tailors and engravers, contributed to the Baccarat flair. From those times right up to the present day, many of them held the qualification of “the best workers in France”, a symbol of status and recognition. During the 20th century, designers and artists (including Georges Chevalier, Salvador Dali and Andrée Putman) were also invited to create original designs. Throughout its history, the Baccarat house continues to reinvent itself, creating new objects including, for example, crystal chandeliers and even perfume bottles. In 1992, Baccarat was bought by the Louvre, presided over by Anne-Claire Taittinger.
This new start has allowed Baccarat to enter the world of jewelry with a collection of the same name. In order to reestablish its heritage and luxury image, this celebrated crystal maker decided in 2003 to move to a special location in the heart of Paris. This majestic house, situated in Place des Etats-Unis in the 16th arrondissement, belonged to Marie-Laure de Noailles, a painter and above all great patron, who always arranged impressive parties - the capital’s most popular - where diplomats rubbed shoulders with actors, writers and artists. Without omitting this influential past and wanting to add a touch of the enchanting and excessive, Baccarat called on Philippe Starck to redo the space. The famous designer, renowned worldwide, was given a carte blanche to transform this house into an extraordinary venue.
Baccarat, somewhere betwen magical and extraordinary
You can feel the magic as soon as you enter. Two huge crystal encrusted mirrors greet visitors while at the end of the aisle the “zenith” chandelier falls in a custom-built aquarium. It becomes obvious straight away that Baccarat wanted this building to stand out. The red carpet lit with fibre optics is the running theme throughout the villa.
The shop is on the ground floor where living art, crockery and decorative objects can all be found. The great rough concrete walls and heavy grey velvet curtains which hide the windows looking out onto the garden are equally striking. In the centre of the room, a 13-metre-long glass table lit up by diodes on which lay a few Baccarat items, seems to be ready to welcome guests. If you can, turn your attention to the divine revolving chandelier of candles and crystals. Numerous silver bookcases placed around the shop act as display cases for different Baccarat collections. We pass from room to room, discovering all the objects for sale. We are left in awe of Philippe Starck’s “Dark Side” collection and dumbstruck by that of Kenzo as we ponder attentively the creations of various young guest designers. It is the displays of jewelry that really stop us in our tracks, however. The names alone are dreamy: “Ambush”, “B in love” and “rock’mantic eclipse”. But it doesn’t stop there. In this house, visitors are left to wander the corridors. The passage from the first to second floor also leaves us reeling. A tree trunk and a huge chair are placed under the staircase, transforming us in an instant into a character from Alice in Wonderland lost in a land of marvels.
On the first floor a huge surprise awaits as one enters the Ballroom. Left the way it always was when Marie-Laure de Noailles used to receive guests there, this room was originally inspired by an 18thcentury Venetian palace with a painted ceiling by Francesco Solimena. The only things added to the floor were crystal lanterns and a television screen incorporated into a mirror which narrates the history of Baccarat. This ballroom could easily be a space for private soirées and temporary exhibitions. Continuing on our journey we reach the gallery-museum. Baccarat clearly also wanted this special venue to be a place of history and memories. The first part, entitled “Folie des Grandeurs” displays monumental items produced by the crystal brand such as grand candelabras and furniture delivered to Indian Maharajahs on the back of elephants. Then we enter the unique world of painter Gérard Garouste who decorated the central dome with a canopy to represent the four indispensable elements to crystal making (water, earth, wind and fire). An incredible piece of work which makes this place both alluring and mysterious. Here, several signature pieces are displayed including the “Simon” vases. And finally, “beyond transparency” is a journey into the past, reliving Baccarat’s finest moments over the last two centuries. From makeup boxes to perfume bottles, from decanters and glasses to special orders, Baccarat has sought to fulfil wishes and desires from all over the world.
Dining at Baccarat ’s Cristal Room
To conclude this journey into the world of crystal, the first floor also houses a restaurant. Baccarat has really tried to make this a habitable place where one takes the time to enjoy various dishes. The former dining room of Marie-Laure de Noailles has been transformed into a restaurant known as the Cristal Room, open for breakfast right through to dinner with Chef Thierry Burlot in charge. The noticeable red bricks in this room are counterbalanced with powder pink and grey furniture designed for Baccarat by Philippe Starck. A wishfully romantic place, modern and atypical, with a change of menu every month to include seasonal fruit and vegetables. Baccarat has opened itself to the public with this unique base in the heart of Paris, a place of prestige and elegance, leaving a trace of its history while drawing us into this luxury universe. In view of the brand’s success, the crystal brand has chosen to expand outside France, building a new imposing and enchanting Cristal Room in Moscow, which is yet another crystal encrusted temple of excessive grandeur.
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