Hôtel Les Deux Gares had all the right credentials for a successful opening this July: A well-known hotelier, an internationally regarded young designer, and a location in one of the coolest neighborhoods in Paris. Except: Covid. How do you open for tourists when the world is closed?
For the owner, Adrien Gloaguen — whose Touriste group also operates such charming small Parisian hotels as the Bienvenue and Panache and the Chrysos in London — the answer was relatively simple. While his other properties reopened at the beginning of September, Les Deux Gares waited until October 1 to debut. “We hesitated,” admits the esteemed hotelier, who had spent the day being trailed by a television crew as he prepared to launch what would, under different circumstances, be the season’s buzziest opening, “but we have to open now. Otherwise, we never will!”
Three months of strict confinement from March until May halted construction, as well as the manufacturing of the hotel’s custom furniture. That furniture was worth the wait: Like the hotel and the adjacent bistro, the well-received all-day Café Les Deux Gares, it was designed by the British superstar decorator and artist Luke Edward Hall, marking his first hotel project. Gloaguen has always surprised with his choice of designers: “When they’re young and have never done a hotel, that interests us,” he says. “It brings a new perspective to the hotel.”
Hall also brought his signature vivid palette and romantic’s magpie eye to the interiors. From the outside, it looks like the kind of modest, four-story hotel you see from your window when pulling into the gare. (In this case the Gare de l’Est in Paris’ trendy 10th arrondissement; the other gare referenced in the name is the Gare du Nord, which lies across the rue la Fayette.) Inside, however, that classic French/Art Deco feel has been amplified and modernized by Hall’s three shocking color palettes — one per floor. “There’s not a white wall in the building!” marvels Gloaguen. “Not even on the ceiling! At first it scared us a little. En France, ça n’existe pas!” But the chartreuse green, electric lemon and bubble-gum rose of the walls and square-tiled bathrooms work, well, brilliantly, especially when contrasted against equally outgoing striped headboards and velvet settees. The light that flows in thanks to the unobstructed views over the station make it lovelier still.
While custom designs fill the rooms and hallways — such as Hall’s hand-painted mirror frames capped with Grecian figures — for the lobby, Hall combed flea markets outside of Paris and in the U.K., then customized the items to 11. It is in the lobby that guests can enjoy breakfast, such as homemade yogurt and granola or locally sourced bread and croissants from some of the neighborhood’s best bakeries. (Those who choose to stay in the neighborhood, near the Canal Saint-Martin, for its status as one of the city’s most exciting new-restaurant scenes will thrill at the names Thierry Breton and Du Pain et des Idées.) The only Covid-driven design change was the addition of a Plexiglas screen at reception — though certainly Hall could have had fun with that, too.
Opening weekend would have surely seen Les Deux Gares packed with Fashion Week participants in search of a stylish bargain (rooms start at just 120 euros; the emphasis at Touriste hotels is more on great design than countless services), Gloaguen believes that, for the near future, his guests will include visitors from Europe and, surprisingly, locals. “It’s mostly Parisians who are profiting,” says the hotelier, citing city promotions that make it enticing to spend a weekend at a hotel. “We call it a staycation,” he says in French. With early feedback from such discriminating guests, Hôtel Les Deux Gares will be more than ready to welcome us into its world when we arrive.
Christine Muhlke is a food consultant and writer currently based in Woodstock, NY. A former editor at The New York Times and Bon Appétit and the founder of the Xtine newsletter, she has written books with chefs Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, David Kinch of Manresa and Eric Werner of Hartwood Tulum. Her most recent books include Wine Simple with Le Bernardin’s Aldo Sohm and Signature Dishes That Matter.