In the “wilds” of Paris’ hipster Saint-Lazare quarter, architect and interior designer Jean-Philippe Nuel, has created a stylish sanctuary complete with a secret garden for the recently opened Belleval hotel.
As a nod to the father of scientific botany, Pierre Richer de Belleval, the muse and namesake of the 4-star hotel, Nuel’s design juxtaposes refined, classic Haussmannian features with raw elements. Natural timber and stone mix with foliage motifs, fusing the relaxation of the outdoors with the formality of the heritage structure. Nuel’s concept also plays with the notion of “tribes”—from the Parisii founders of the City of Light to international groups to the fashionable enclaves of the 8th arrondissement.
“My approach is not to deny roots, culture and history but, to make them discoverable in more contemporary ways,” says Nuel. “Easily understood by both international and French guests, this language becomes versatile; only cultural vocabularies change.”
The building’s historic carriage entrance has been transformed into the lobby, with traces of the past layered throughout the décor. Rugs with mosaic-style patterns suggest tile floors that could have been excavated, while a tri-panel floral screen inset with mirrors creates a lively backdrop. A traditional round leather conversation sofa sits below contemporary crystal pendant lights, and the adjacent library lined with timber bookshelves feels up-to- date with modern chairs. Oval “zen view” windows with ornately carved frames look into the restaurant on one side, and the bar on the other.
The streetside F&B venues feature muted palettes, making the guests and cuisine the stars of the show. Walls feature black and white chalkboard drawings of botanical “specimens” labeled in Latin according to the “tribe” of their taxonomic rank, alongside labeled sketches of architectural embellishments. Roughly textured exposed limestone walls contrast with delicate ceiling mouldings to bring further visual excitement.
In comparison, Belleval’s central courtyard is indeed a secret garden. Hidden from streetview, the private, open-air terrace welcomes both guests and in-the-know locals. A botanical fresco painted by street artist Gola Hudun extends from the ground level to the uppermost 7th floor, sharing its sunny, colorful whimsy with the patio-facing bedrooms.
Nuel designed the 52 guestrooms and suites to feel like modern Parisian apartments. Warm teal walls and ceilings contrast with cool white finishes, while eclectic mixes of furniture and accessories suggest pieces with storied pasts that were collected in marchés aux puce (flea markets). “The notion of ‘Made in France’ is very personal,” says Nuel. “However, I always aim to express this with creativity and elegance.” With his studio’s newly opened New York City office, Nuel’s French flair will soon be seen in North American projects, as well.