PARIS — Stepping into the lobby of Les Deux Gares in Paris feels a little like wandering onto the set of a Wes Anderson film — especially at a time when routine hotel stays have become the stuff of dreams for many grounded travelers.
Those lucky enough to make it to Paris can escape the dreary reality of the coronavirus pandemic at least momentarily in this quirky boutique venue dreamt up by British artist and designer Luke Edward Hall, who revives the dusty concept of the railway hotel with his signature zingy colors and midcentury flourishes.
“It was a nice idea to think about it being almost like the home of a very bohemian Parisian collector who’s decided to open his house to guests,” Hall said in a telephone interview from London.
“I wanted the hotel to feel like a bit of a fantasy, or just somewhere very different. You come in off those gray streets, and I wanted it to provoke an emotional response, and for it to be joyful and playful,” he added.
Located between Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord on an elevated street overlooking train tracks, the 40-room hotel is the latest addition to hotel group Touriste’s portfolio, which includes Panache, Bienvenue and Beaurepaire, with a fifth on the way in London in the spring.
Antoine Raccat, the owner of Les Deux Gares, came to Hall through agency Desselle Partners and decided to take a gamble on the designer, whose aesthetic stands out in a sea of bland minimalism.
“We wanted something completely different from other hotels in Paris or elsewhere,” he explained. “It was a risk because it was his first hotel project, and also because his style is very distinctive.”
Think rooms painted mustard, olive green and pink; candy-colored bathrooms with Art Deco-style sinks; a basement gym covered in floral wallpaper by Swedish interior design firm Svenkst Tenn, and vintage posters everywhere.
Hall sourced the old travel and exhibition posters from flea markets and eBay. He trawled familiar dealers for antiques, and tapped The Bold Bathroom Company in the U.K. for the colorful washbasins and toilets.
His personal touch can be felt throughout, from the lampshades featuring a handpainted design to the custom-made mirror and painting in the lobby, where mismatched furniture — including a leopard-print couch, in a nod to French interior designer Madeleine Castaing — creates an eccentric but homely atmosphere.
“I was doing the art direction, so I was helping come up with a name and then I worked with a designer in New York to realize the branding. We’re doing the matchboxes and the stationery. We made the light-up signs outside and the awnings,” said Hall.
“If you step into a good hotel, it should feel like everything has been given attention to. I love those hotels that you enter, and everything has been done in the right way, from the interiors, but also the music and the uniforms and the stationery,” he added.
Hall also designed the restaurant across the street, Le Café Les Deux Gares, where traditional touches like geometric floor tiles and Thonet chairs meet unusual features like a tortoiseshell-patterned ceiling painted by artist Pauline Leravaud.
The eatery, formerly a railway-themed restaurant equipped with vintage train seats, has won plaudits for its revisited bistro classics by chefs Jonathan Schweizer and Federico Suárez, formerly at Sauvage and Loca, respectively.
Raccat, a lawyer making his first foray into hospitality, has met more than his share of adversity, with the opening of the hotel delayed from early April to late September due to the lockdown, and tourism down sharply due to ongoing travel restrictions designed to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Nonetheless, with the street about to be converted to a pedestrian zone, he is confident about the prospects for the hotel, where rooms rent for an average of 120 euros a night. “We hope that it will become something of a destination,” he said. Judging from the early reactions on Instagram, he’s onto something.
Hall, meanwhile, has a full slate of projects, including a men’s wear and women’s wear collaboration with an undisclosed brand later this year; his weekly column for the Financial Times, and an exhibition of drawings and paintings in Athens next year.
He hopes his first experience in hospitality, though fraught with logistical issues, won’t be his last. “I love hotels and restaurants, and it would be something I’d love to do more,” Hall said.