The legendary Les Bains, a former 19th Century bathhouse turned nightclub, is reborn into a hybrid hotel dripping with soulful decadence.
It was originally built in 1885 as Les Bains Guerbois, a private thermal bath house founded by Franc?ois Auguste Guerbois—who also owned the bohemian mecca Cafe? Guerbois in Montmartre, beloved by E?douard Manet and E?mile Zola. That clientele soon began to also frequent the baths, including Marcel Proust, who enjoyed regular steam sessions alongside local workers from the nearby Les Halles.
In 1978, the ailing building was resurrected as the nightclub Les Bains Douches, which, designed by a relatively unknown Philippe Starck, became a playground to glitterati including Yves Saint-Laurent and Catherine Deneuve. The club closed in 2010, after which the tattered property briefly functioned as a temporary artist space. In 2014, construction began on the 39-room boutique hotel Les Bains, which opened in April.
In spite of the design pedigree, it’s hard not to expect the odd aesthetic stumble when hearing the hotel’s concept. Yet, most aspects of Les Bains exist in relative harmony. There are nods to the original baths throughout the rooms, including complimentary loofahs, personal hammams in the suites, marble bedheads, and brushed-concrete textures. The most notable design thread, however, stems from Starck’s iconic black-and-white checkered dancefloor, crafted from kitchen tiles (a cost-saving measure for the then-fledgling designer). This tile fixation begins in the lobby, where ornamental Art Nouveau patterns are given a pixelated update; the motif morphs a second time in the restaurant-bar, where it finally becomes the famous checkerboard. Upstairs in the rooms, Starck’s tiles make an unexpected appearance, embellishing that usual eyesore, the mini-bar fridge.
In the hotel’s basement, a smaller but faithful replica of the original nightclub—with the notorious swimming pool just off the dancefloor—opened in June. It’s a fitting tribute to the building’s hedonist past that doesn’t encroach on the hotel’s generally understated elegance, as the club’s subterranean existence allows adequate separation between revelling and rest. There are other subtle references to the disco era—artworks by Futura and Basquiat are among the hotel’s rotating collection curated by gallerist Je?ro?me Pauchant. The baroque hallway carpet replicates that found in Serge Gainsbourg’s apartment at Rue de Verneuil. And in several rooms, Auer’s cartoonish copy of Andy Warhol’s famous sofa from The Factory takes prominence among the other bespoke furniture.