A lavish Paris chateau
Membership may have its privileges, but at Saint James Paris, a private Parisian club with ultra-luxe amenities, anyone who books a room may enjoy everything on the premises. That includes the chateau’s library lounge, a renowned restaurant with a whimsical French garden patio and a spa that features Guerlain products.
For more than a century, this once private mansion catered to scholars of famous Parisian universities as a residence through the Thiers Foundation, funded by the widow of former French President Adolphe Thiers in tribute to her husband. In 1992, Saint James Paris opened its doors with a bold, design-forward look that still embraced its past. While the outside looks like a countryside chateau, the interiors by designer Bambi Sloan are decked out in vibrant, extravagant furnishings that are simply a joy to behold — the eclectic mix includes a graphic black-and-white lobby, individually designed rooms, a very clubby bar filled with leather-clad books and chairs. Saint James Paris is the only chateau-hotel in proper Paris, and sits on a corner within the heart of the 16th Arrondissement, a residential area with easy Metro access.
Every one of the 48 rooms is unique and lavishly decorated. One room is papered in music sheets of black and white, another with the roofs of Paris. Eye-catching details found in various guest rooms include an oversized porthole window, leopard carpeting and even a grand piano. There are 22 connecting rooms to enlarge the suites and separate townhouse options for those who prefer multiple floors and generous space.
One room is named the Last Queen of Scotland and its walls are draped in faux animal skins and red accents refurbished from flea market finds. The Scent of Madeleine room has walls of turquoise, curtains of silk and accents of black. A room suited for male clientele has a wall lined with shirt cotton, faux parquet carpeting and a bed inspired by Italy. French amenities add to the Parisian atmosphere and include Guerlain grooming products and Mathilde M. soaps available in every room.
The stately lounge is filled with a collection of furnishings from travels and refurbished finds from Paris’ Les Puces flea market. Hanging from the ceiling is an oversized structure of crystal chandelier chaos, which compliments the marble columns, velvet covered chairs, red velvet carpet and sofas. The galley-shaped library bar to the left of the lounge is bathed in panther prints and, telltale of its scholarly past, towering bookshelves filled with tomes from the Paris hotel’s boarding house days. Adding to the chic hunting lodge ambience, rams’ horn sconces add light to the dimly lit space. There’s an additional bar at the far end where you can grab a cocktail and relax at a cozy table.
Adorned with palace-inspired paintings and bold Napoleon III decor, the restaurant off the lounge and library is open to the public for dinner and Sunday brunch. But hotel guests and club members may enjoy this quiet side of Paris for a class French breakfast, lunch or dinner inside or outside in a lovely garden area, which is outfitted in toile cushions and scrolled iron tables and chairs. Lining the perimeter are three life-sized hot-air balloons (the grounds were, after all, once home to a hot-air balloon field). Specialty cocktails are named after famous writers such as Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and French writer Marguerite Duras, the latter a mix of housemade limoncello, rosé, basil, cucumber, sugar and housemade chamomile bitters.
Bicycles are parked outside and available for guests to enjoy. If you prefer to work out inside, there is a spacious gym (complete with crystal chandelier, of course) on the basement floor. Also on the lower level is the Spa by Gemology, which offers massages performed with Guerlain products.