PARIS — Adding a fresh voice to the clamor of European houses defining modern luxury, Boucheron is set to open its newly restored Place Vendôme flagship Wednesday.
With its sweeping views of the famed Paris square and its spiraling column, the mansion, which covers nearly 20,000 square feet of space, now has a winter garden—and an intimate perch to observe it from—in addition to a succession of distinct, refurbished salons. Moving past the traditional realm of a high-end boutique, the upper floors house the label’s design studio and workshops, as well as an entire floor that can serve as an apartment to host its most elite clients—overnight stays included.
The jeweler embarked on the overhaul amidst a backdrop of increasingly elaborate retail projects from labels the world over, many spurred on by the rise of digital commerce, which has expanded offers for discerning consumers and raised the profile of select, physical spaces as a means to convey a brand’s universe. Across the square sits the expansive Louis Vuitton flagship, which opened last year; nearby, on Rue Cambon, Chanel just opened a five-story flagship that was vandalized during this past weekend’s riots in the French capital.
For the Boucheron project, which coincided with the house’s 160th anniversary this year, the building’s historical stature took precedence, recounted Hélène Poulit-Duquesne, chief executive officer of the jeweler.
“It’s the heritage of Paris, it’s the heritage of the Place Vendôme, it has been the heritage of Boucheron, dating back to 1893,” she said. That was the year house founder Frédéric Boucheron set up shop here, at number 26 Place Vendôme. Cartier, Chaumet and Van Cleef & Arpels followed suit, joined by others over the years, and soon the square became synonymous with the sector, gaining a reputation as the epicenter of French luxury.
Least complicated, by Poulit-Duquesne’s account, was defining the mission of the Kering-owned jeweler with François-Henri Pinault, chairman and ceo of the luxury group.
“Fairly rapidly, we settled on the idea that we would work on a renovation project, not with a retail bent, but a historic renovation of a heritage building — we were seeking to rediscover, restore the former luster of the Hôtel Nocé that was created in 1717,” she said.
The task soon took a technical turn, and the house sought out the assistance of Michel Goutal, the head architect of France’s historic monuments department. Known for his work at the Louvre, Goutal helped the company sift through 390 years of history.
“And here is what we found,” said Poulit-Duquesne, sweeping her hand up toward the ceiling to emphasize the height of the windows lining the ground floor’s grand salon.
“We discovered this openness thanks to our piles of paperwork — these two openings existed, the window frames are identical to when Frédéric [Boucheron] set up here, which gives us light and a view on the column again,” she said. On the walls, the original Louis XV-style panels carved out of walnut and installed by Mr. Boucheron, preside over the space, where the house’s signature models, including pieces from the Quatre collection, are displayed.
Exploring ideas for restructuring the building’s space, which included clearing out the false ceilings and mezzanine floors that had multiplied over the years, planners turned to the historic 18th-century staircase. Altered over the years and hidden behind walls, it had been relegated to use by employees.
“We recovered the central staircase of the mansion, which gave us the backbone and the project took form around it,” Poulit-Duquesne explained.
The house also employed Pierre-Yves Rochon, the interior decorator behind some of the world’s top luxury hotels including the Four Seasons George V in Paris and the Waldorf Astoria in Beverly Hills.
“The brief I gave Pierre-Yves [Rochon] was that we have to feel like we are at home, that it’s a family house, a place where we welcome our friends,” she added. This is conveyed through a mix of new furniture with pieces found at the flea market and antique stores. Eschewing more traditional and imposing desks geared toward transactions, the house opted for round tables, designed by Rochon.
Moving past the grand salon, the ground floor also includes a spacious entryway, decorated with an elaborate chandelier drawn up by Rochon and made by Maison Lalique, that includes birds carved from crystal. Further on, an intimate room lined with red lacquered walls features an Asian motif — preserved in the building since the 19th century — and includes a hidden door, freshly revived from a time when clients needed a discrete exit.
An entirely new space was built around the winter garden on the north side of the building — the mansion is famous for its southern exposure — reflecting the house founder’s obsession with nature. A glass wall overlooking the vegetation rises up four stories, bringing more light to the floors above.
Reflecting the more personal approach sought by the house, visitors can take in the space from a sofa on the ground floor while sipping tea and tasting pastries specifically chosen for the site. Dishes and silverware come from Bernardaud and Christofle, while sales staff will wear outfits designed by an upscale Paris-based label, Fête Impériale. Underfoot, covering the marbled floor, is a rug with bright green leaf motifs; round display cases for the house’s animal- and vegetation-inspired pieces are scattered throughout the space.
Watches are upstairs, in a library, now called the “salon de l’horlogerie.” More masculine, and decorated with tan leather-covered furniture to match the light brown bookcases, the former office for Boucheron descendants Alain and Gerard Boucheron is the only mezzanine level left in place.
Rooms on the second floor include spaces for engagement pieces, with a window-lined room devoted to diamonds and high jewelry.
The next space, the Salon des Fiancés, was restored to its original form, with white-and-gold molding, historical grandness offset by a modern beaded chandelier by Maison Mathieu.
At the end of the floor is a room designated for drawing up made-to-measure pieces — creative director Claire Choisne can trot down from upstairs — and includes a cozy sofa-lined nook in blue velvet; paintings and sketches clutter the walls.
The third floor, an events space that also serves as an apartment, has been named “Le 26.” Operated by the Ritz Hotel — conveniently located across the square — the jewelry house plans to welcome its most VIP clients in the space, for a forest-themed dining experience, or a full night. While the expansive windows on the floors below give the impression of being on the Place Vendôme, visitors on the higher floor feel as if they are floating above it. Tucked to one side is a historic room with freshly renovated Chinese wallpaper from the 18th century — dominated with a celadon hue. At the other end of the building, past the bedroom, is a vast bathroom, the bathtub strategically placed for soaking up the view — of the Vendôme Column and the Eiffel Tower.
“In its new configuration, 26 Place Vendôme will enable us to show who we are, where we come from and where we are heading,” Poulit-Duquesne said. “This is our home.”