Love Letter: Hôtel Duc de Saint Simon
WSJ. and former Domino editor Deborah Needleman may have the best decor taste of anyone we know. We checked in with her during a recent trip to Paris to find out where she rests her head. Of course, it sounds amazing.
PARIS – It seems the things I like in a hotel are different from what other people like. Here are some things that endear a hotel to me: fabric-covered walls and shirred silk lampshades, old carpets running up the stairs held in place by brass rods, a comfortable sitting room where you can have a drink, a front desk that is a desk rather than a service counter.
I like it when the lady at the front remembers you from your last stay or when the man who brings up your luggage is the same man who brings your coffee up, as well as an extra toothbrush if you require one. I know I am in a minority not just because these things are old-fashioned, but because John Maynard Keynes proves it so. The increasing rarity of delightful small hotels must be the direct result of a clambering desire for trendy, boutique shitholes. The kind of places with dim elevators with piped-in pumping music, garish discos, and lobbies full of unsavory-seeming characters looking like they might do disservice to the world, if they have not already. And young, untrained service personnel, really? I sound like a crotchety old person, because I am one, but I did not bother waiting to become one before I formed my views.
Should a hotel also have beautifully painted walls, an antique rug-covered elevator, decent portraits of someone's ancestors mixed with some contemporary trompe l'oeil wall paintings, and a narrow stone staircase leading to an ancient breakfast room with silver candlestick lamps illuminating each table, and pretty green-and-white striped china and nice heavy silver, well, then I would be happy and that hotel would be Hôtel Duc de St Simon in Paris, one of my very favorites. Tucked away on the tiny Rue de St. Simon on the Left Bank near St. Germain and entered through a little garden area, even most Parisians are unfamiliar with it.
The bedrooms are heaven, with big French windows. The walls are wrapped in floral fabric that perfectly match the heavy curtains and your bed coverings, which makes your room exceedingly cozy (and pretty). The lamps have colored silk shades, which make the lighting soft and romantic and you look very good. The cabinet walls are beautifully painted, not slathered with a roller, and the wood paneling details have been lovingly picked out in complementary colors. There are good paintings, not hotel art. The beds are beautifully made (it is worth analyzing them for copying at home) with exquisite quality sheets — crisply ironed, of course. The bathrooms have been renovated into modernity, which is exactly what you want — marble tile and big mirrors and a strong shower and good tub.
We live in a modern, modern world. Why do we want to get away and stay in a modern hotel? Especially if you can have all the good bits, like functioning heat and WiFi, without the college student staffers acting overly familiar or super laissez-faire? The Duc de St Simon is homey and chic in a way that is far homier and chic than my home could ever be. Plus, at home, no one brings up a new toothbrush when I need one.
Shop the neighborhood. See Deborah's favorites spots.