A match made in heaven that started with a collaboration on the French haute couture designer Christian Lacroix’s renovation of the Hotel Bellechasse in 2006, the very discreet Parisienne Emmanuèle Thisy and Bordelaise Anne Peyroux, have since worked on more than 15 Parisian hotels with four more on the way in 2016. Their top projects include luxury boutique hotels like Fashion Week hotspot Hotel Chavanel, the secret Marais pied-à-terre Dupond-Smith and all-rounder Hotel de Sèze.
And although they have more hotels under their belt than most celebrity designers the female design duo like to operate below the radar and away from the spotlight. They agree to talk to LUXOS about their design inspiration and their favourite spots to get away from it all in Paris, a city that has them falling in love with it a little more each day.
Can you tell us a little bit about your work?
Anne: We are both architects and interior designers and have worked together since 2006. And we both work on every project together. I think we’re quite different in our tastes and even in our ways of working but that’s what makes up our strength.
Emmanuèle: As we do both architecture and interiors, it’s what makes it so interesting – to be able to go further. Also, every project is so different in terms of the building, the client, the requirements, and it’s this challenge that we relish.
Anne: Clients come to us already with a venue so our role is really to extract the story from it. We never refuse a project due to not liking the space or the client – it’s the challenge that we like. We always try to see the good side to a project and it provides us great inspiration for creation.
Lobby at Hotel Chavanel
Your hotels are all so different that it can be difficult to describe your signature style. Can your designs be characterised by a common style or theme?
Anne: Well, our hotels are always boutique and intimate. Those are the types of projects people call us for.
Emmanuèle: We love materials and textiles, we’re very tactile. We like putting unusual materials on walls, like the orange velvet you can see at the Hôtel de Sèze. Anne: We like our designs to be modest and just – we’re not about always doing something bigger, louder.
Emmanuèle: We also like to play around with scales – we blew up the scale of the lace patterns at the Chavanel and the wings of a butterfly at the Sèze for example. It’s always very discreet but it’s often a starting point for us.
Anne: We also love to use colours we find in nature, like those of a parrot’s feathers that we found, which inspired us for some of the rooms at the Sèze.
Emmanuèle: We really try to adapt ourselves to the client but in a nutshell we like things that are elegant but not fussy and with a little fantasy, something that intrigues. With a closer look people realise that the materials, furniture, lighting have been very carefully chosen – and in fact lighting is key for us in all our projects. So there isn’t a common theme as such but there is a particular ambience maybe.
Breakfast room at the Hotel Chavanel
Among our favourite hotels you have designed, are the Chavanel, Dupond-Smith and Hotel de Sèze but all three are very different so what was your inspiration?
Anne: At the Chavanel what we liked was that the owner Sophie Charlet is a friend of ours so the hotel was a real team project and her energy was extremely motivating and interesting.
Emmanuèle: We all agreed that creating a hotel focused around lace would be fun. We worked with the maison Sophie Hallette (behind the lace of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton’s, wedding dress), who are the last to do lace in such a traditional way in France. They’re also in the same neighbourhood as the hotel, as well as all the couture workshops like Dior – it’s an area focused on fashion and accessories. So it was the ideal area to explore that material, which in the end we played with in the curtains, we even sculpted it in the headboards and blew up a printout of a lace pattern on the carpet, which is wonderful because you can really see all the detail in the work. Lace is ultra-feminine and we’re women after all – plus it’s a material that people usually find quite old-fashioned or it’s something people associate with ultra-sexy lingerie.
Emmanuèle: We wanted to find the right balance to update the way we see lace.
How would you describe the Chavanel, what kind of traveller did you design it for?
Anne: First, the central location between all the main sites and main shopping streets has put it on the Fashion Week inside track. I think it’s for people who care about fashion, about detail, and it’s for people who recognise, who have an eye for the detail in the work we’ve done with Sophie Hallette on the lacework.
And what about the Dupond-Smith?
Anne: The Dupond-Smith only has five rooms, so this project was really different because we had never had such large rooms to work with before. We made them like apartments in a house. The location itself, tucked away in the Marais appeals to people with taste who like their intimacy. Here we had a good budget to work with so we could choose rare pieces of furniture like re-editions of Pantone chairs and rare pieces by Ligne Rosset. We were able to use things that were expensive, that we don’t use often like fabric by Hermès, or vintage oversized tiles in the bathrooms.
Emmanuèle: I can see someone like Paul Auster loving it here! (laughs)
Anne: Yes, it’s a place for visitors who want to feel Parisian because of the location, the neighbourhood. I imagine famous literary, artistic figures coming to stay here, like in the big palace hotels where each figure ends up having their own regular room.
Hotel de Sèze
What kind of clientele is the Sèze for?
Anne: With the Sèze it was very different.
Emmanuèle: Yes, the owners are not hoteliers, but they do travel a lot. It wasn’t an easy project, but it was very interesting. They wanted something exclusive, something where everything had to be rare, from the lighting to the colours and the materials. We really like the lobby area with the bright orange velvet wall, which is a contemporary version of a curiosity cabinet. The starting point here was actually the butterfly wings, which we blew up on the headboards in the rooms.
Anne: I think this hotel is more traditional that the others and is for people who don’t want to experience Paris completely like a tourist due to the unusual and very central location just next to Madeleine. It’s funny too because when the hotel opened we were surprised to see that the fashion crowd had completely taken over – so we saw an eccentric young very trendy clientele stay here.
Salon at the Hotel de Sèze
You are both Parisiennes...What are you favourite spots where you like to walk, to visit, to lose yourself...
Emmanuèle: Oh I love Paris – I love to look at the architecture, I mean all the buildings are so detailed and all different, and yet create a certain uniformity. It’s incredible.
Anne: I love the Musée Rodin. Paris for me is about places like that, that are outside time, places where it’s not necessarily about buying anything. And Paris is full of them. I also like the Musée Picasso – but I’m an unconditional Picasso fan (laughs).
Emmanuèle: I love to stroll around the Left Bank in the 5th and 6th districts; round the tiny winding streets like rue Bonaparte, rue Jacob, the Seine...I love the ambience here at night as well as in the day. There are lots of cafés, restaurants, galleries...it’s an area that has changed a lot, where the numerous bookshops and galleries have been replaced by fashion boutiques, but they’re coming back! A bookshop’s just reopened in place of Dior! It’s just so beautiful, the quai Malaquais, the Ecole des Beaux Arts...
Anne: Also, for me, Paris is really about the Seine and its defile of bridges – it’s fascinating. Paris is magnificent and we appreciate it every single day.
What do you think of the new Paris? Of the Triangle Tower for instance?
Anne: I love what Heurzog & De Meuron do, so I think we should trust them but I don’t know enough about the project to really speak about it. But anyway, we have to move on, as long as it’s well done.
Emmanuèle: There have been some serious missed opportunities though – I mean look at the Beaugrenelle area. It’s cold, and the pedestrian scale hasn’t been worked out properly.
Anne: And at the same time it’s an area that is very particular, the gentrification there goes well with the area’s style. I would love to live right at the top of one of those towers so I can see the whole of Paris!
Model for the Heurzog & De Meuron triangle tower
Emmanuèle: The Beaugrenelle area aside, it’s funny because my daughter who is 19 years old once told me she’d like to live in the 13th! I didn’t quite understand at first but now I can see it. The glass buildings have been well built and there’s lots going on, the deck chairs out on the Seine’s banks in summer, there are no cars, there’s also the Batofar club. There are lots of foodtrucks and rock’n’roll dancing in front of the cinema. It’s a contemporary pocket of Paris that has actually turned out well. So yes, Paris has to inevitably move on – as long as it’s done conscientiously.
Anne Peyroux and Emmanuèle Thisy have been designing boutique hotels in Paris for almost a decade. Find out more about their past and upcoming projects on their website www.peyroux-thisy.com.