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March 30, 2010

7 Lovely Paris Boutique Hotels

Courtesy of Hotel Daniel

Seven out-of-the-ordinary places to stay prove that little can be lovely, too.

The French term “hôtel particulier” translates roughly as “townhouse,” a grand private residence in the city. But to the English speaker, it seems to indicate a unique, idiosyncratic overnight stop. So we’ve appropriated the expression, using it to describe Paris’s boutique spots, places with 40 rooms or fewer, most privately owned. More integrated into their quartiers, more attuned to la vie quotidienne, and, not least of all, more gently priced, these six favorites (out of the city’s more than 30) strike us as just right for right now.

Hotel Daniel

In the bustling neighborhood around the Avenue Montaigne, Rue Frédéric Bastiat offers some rare quiet. At no. 8 sits Hôtel Daniel, welcoming guests into its intimate lobby–cum–tea salon where regulars—many of whom come to Paris on business with the nearby fashion houses and luxury brands—nibble on Ladurée macarons and Kayser croissants. The backdrop? Reproduction 18th-century wallpaper, hand-painted specifically for the hotel by de Gournay in London. So goes the aesthetic at this 19-room, seven-suite hotel, which opened five years ago. With layers of patterns, textures, fabrics, and colors, the design concept references 18th-century France’s fascination with the exoticism of the East, and each room has its own style. The Japanese-themed Paris Suite is filled with antique and custom repro bamboo furniture; in the four Kipling-inspired rooms (104, 204, 304, 404), hunters ride elephants across the walls. The bathrooms, in contrast, have simple white tubs and sinks of hand-hammered copper. The most popular rooms are on the top floor, where the Daniel Suite has a small balcony that overlooks the private garden of the three-star restaurant Apicius. The hotel’s own highly regarded dining room can do 24-hour room service—something these other properties don’t offer. From $500. At 8 Rue Frédéric Bastiat; 33-1/42-56-17-00; hoteldanielparis.com.

Hotel Le Placide

A never-ending forest of silvery birches—as they appear on the Cole & Sons wallpaper hung throughout the hotel—is Le Placide’s leitmotif. And their calming effect makes this 11-room place, just around the corner from Le Bon Marché, a minimalist sanctuary from the intensity of Left Bank shopping. Cool white leather furniture decorates each of the moderately sized rooms, with a few hints of color coming from the Missoni bedding and Kenzo blankets. Glass walls enclose the Molton Brown–stocked bathrooms; thick drapes must be drawn for privacy—this is only a minor inconvenience compared with the benefit of having sunlight streaming in from the windows at both ends of the room. (Another small issue: The soundproofing could have been better.) Most important, the staff is completely charming, especially general manager Marie Garabedian. From $360. At 6 Rue St.-Placide; 33-1/42-84-34-60; leplacidehotel.com.

Hotel Particulier Montmartre

Finding this hotel is not simple. Near the top of Montmartre, off a winding treelined street, it’s hidden on a cobblestoned passageway, its gate marked “Entrance Forbidden.” But the place more than makes up for its somewhat obscure—and, to be frank, out-of-the-way—location. Open since 2007, it’s a former private residence from the 1700s with a riotously lush garden designed by Louis Benech, the landscape architect who renovated the Tuileries. There are various outdoor terraces where guests, mostly film, art, and fashion types, can have a lovely breakfast of coffee, croissants, and fresh fruit. (Other meals can be arranged on request.) And inside, the lobby is like a gallerist’s living room, furnished with Le Corbusier chairs, cow-skin rugs, and design books. Owner Morgane Rousseau is an art-world fixture, and she has turned each of the five generous bedrooms into an artist’s showcase: In room 4, Martine Aballéa’s green-and-purple wallpaper envelops the space with a light-filled forest of branches; room 2 houses a sort of medicine cabinet of curiosities by sculptor Philippe Mayaux. And through the hotel’s windows, the only sounds are those from pétanque games next door and the light rustling of trees. From $560. At 23 Ave. Junot; 33-1/53-41-81-40; hotel-particulier-montmartre.com.

Le Bellechasse

If Christian Lacroix’s first hotel—the Hôtel du Petit Moulin, which opened in the Marais in 2005—was prêt-à-porter, then his latest, Le Bellechasse, is haute couture. A few steps from the Musée d’Orsay, the interiors of this 34-room spot, beloved by art aficionados and fashion folks, could not be mistaken for anyone else’s work. Seven patterns of canvas wallcovering, called bâche, decorate the rooms with collages of photos, paintings, old scientific drawings, and magazine cutouts, and Lacroix’s penchant for natural materials is evident everywhere. The stone floors are like the one in his Provençal childhood home; doorknobs and handles are actually bits of sculpture by artist Brigitte Sillard—made from bronze, they have the texture of wood, grass, and hay. All the rooms are intentionally small—215 square feet on average—to give guests a sense of coziness. What’s cozy to some may be cramped to others, however. Breakfast here is a bit lackluster, but word is it will be revamped this fall. From $370. At 8 Rue Bellechasse; 33-1/45-50-22-31; lebellechasse.com.

L’Hotel

In 1900, the owner of the Hôtel d’Alsace on the Rue des Beaux-Arts arranged a funeral for one of his long-term guests, a certain Sebastian Melmoth. The deceased, using a pseudonym, was actually Oscar Wilde. And the place where he spent his last days now goes by the name L’Hôtel. A stone’s throw from the Seine, the 20-room property has been completely remodeled by French designer Jacques Garcia. Upon arriving, the first thing one notices is the circular central atrium, which extends up six stories. After that, it’s the bar, once Jean Cocteau’s watering hole, and the restaurant, which received its first Michelin star last year. In the basement—a stone-walled vault originally part of the Reine Margot’s palace—there is a spa treatment room and a small pool. The rooms are done up in Garcia’s signature opulence: In the Marco Polo Room the color red dominates, as do Chinese antiques, while the Madame de Merteuil Room, named for a character in the film Dangerous Liaisons, is bright with gold. For all its style, the hotel does show some wear and tear: In the Reine Hortense, a suite named for Napoléon’s stepmother, the hallway ceiling could have used a fresh coat of paint, and electrical outlets were few and far between. But the pleasures of sitting on the suite’s little balcony, with a view of the neighboring apartments and the steeple of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, fully compensated for any small glitches. From $400. At 13 Rue des Beaux-Arts; 33-1/44-41-99-00; l-hotel.com.

Marais House

Entering Marais House is like stepping into the home of an eccentric, well-traveled collector—which is basically what this four-room hotel is. Upon arrival, one is greeted by the house Labradors, Bonheur and Vendôme, and the proprietor, Yann-Gabriel Hentschke. A man of indeterminate aristocratic accent, Hentschke bought this former sign-making factory in 1999 and gutted it, turning it into a rococo guesthouse that doubles as his home. The scent of fresh flowers fills the place, which has an otherworldly air about it: a bit dark (the building faces north) and packed with artifacts from other places, lives, and times. Each room—there’s one per floor—is outfitted mix-and-match style: a 17th-century fireplace here, an 18th-century Venetian door there. Every morning Hentschke serves cakes, coffee, and tea in the basement, on a table made of Versailles parquet. The hotel’s regulars, many Paris-savvy Americans looking for something beyond a standard high-end hotel experience, discover Hentschke through word of mouth. He’s so discreet, he won’t even release his address—or the rate—until a reservation has been confirmed. 33-6/16-13-39-90; maraishouse.com.

Cheap Chic

On the city’s fringe, closer to the airport than to the Eiffel Tower, the quirky new Philippe Starck–designed hotel Mama Shelter has rooms from $185 a night. It’s cool—a place where hipster musicians stay right alongside habit-clad nuns. 109 Rue de Bagnolet; 33-1/43-48-48-48; mamashelter.com.