Cour des Vosges: a designer hideaway


Cour des Vosges: a designer hideaway

Award-winning interior designer, Sophie Ashby, finds an enchanting aesthetic escape on a picture-postcard Parisian square

Sophie Ashby

BY Sophie Ashby23 September 2022

The noble Places des Vosges, one of Paris’s oldest (and loveliest) squares, was built in the 17th century by Henry IV. It’s situated in the Marais district and straddles the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, so you’re in prime position to enjoy the sights and delights of Paris. Hidden between two of its restaurants is a pair of blink-and-you’ll-miss-them doors and a small brass plaque indicating you’ve arrived at Cours des Vosges.

Spa pool at Cour de Vosges, Paris | Mr & Mrs Smith

This isn’t the sort of hotel which has a doorman, guest lounges, a sprawling spa, multiple restaurants or glitzy bar. It’s simply an elegant townhouse with rooms – and a Roman bath.

The rooms have been beautifully created by interior designers Yann Le Coadic and Alessandro Scotto. As a designer myself – and someone who’s experience of a place very much centres around the aesthetics – I’m instantly impressed and appreciative of the overall feel and attention to detail. It’s refined, luxurious, elegant and extremely chic. It’s clear that great care has been taken to restore and protect the mansion (itself an historic landmark) whilst also weaving in sleek modern touches.

On arrival, I’m told I’ve been upgraded to a suite on the fifth floor. Fifth floor rooms are effectively in the attic so, while it had quite low ceilings and small dormer windows, it still felt generous in scale and had prime views over the Places des Vosges.

It’s late afternoon on a warm summer’s day and the square is peppered with couples, families and groups of young people hanging out, exercising, taking a stroll and picnicking in what presents as the most idyllic chocolate-box Parisian scene.

Fifth floor suite at Cour des Vosges, Paris | Mr & Mrs Smith

I was grateful to have been upgraded because the additional adjoining room – complete with little sofa, TV and dining table – became more useful knowing that the hotel doesn’t have any shared guest living spaces.

Breakfast is offered either in your room or in the ground-floor café. During my stay I tried both options. I adore a hotel breakfast and generally prefer to sit in the restaurant and really soak it all in, so on my first morning I went downstairs to sample petit déjeuner at the Salon de Thé: a tiny patisserie by the much-lauded Yann Brys.

In all honesty, I found the experience slightly underwhelming. I was hoping for something a bit more… resplendent. It’s the perfect spot for a pastry and a coffee – and I notice the place is really busy in by mid-afternoon with delicate little cakes being served to a happy clientele – but I prefer breakfast to be a more indulgent, salubrious affair. That said, the coffee, pain au chocolate and orange juice were all absolutely delicious.

So on the second morning I decided to have breakfast in my (adjoining) room. It was glorious. I opened the little windows onto the square and enjoyed the fresh morning breeze and gorgeous views over a tray heaving with deliciousness.

Breakfast with a view at Cour des Vosges, Paris | Mr & Mrs Smith

All in all, the room facilities are generous, sumptuous and very well provided for. The bathroom is masculine and dark in shades of black marble and neutral tile with low lighting. It feels glamorous and timeless and, crucially, different to any more residential or home-type setting which I think is always nice when you’re away travelling.

The bed linen deserves a special mention. It is incredibly sumptuous, silky soft and feels very expensive. Interestingly, I notice that it’s actually for sale and find myself vaguely interested in buying some as it’s just so dreamy – a thought I’ve never had before on sampling a hotel bed!

There was quite an unusual, extremely thick, quite small but feather-light eiderdown/duvet type thing which confused me entirely but I ended up becoming quite attached to it.

I read that Anatole Desachy, the independent bookseller, has selected the books and magazines and it certainly gives the impression that someone (I expect the owner) has a real vision for his guests’ experience. The carefully selected ones in my room give a really cosy ambience. Also, hotel bedroom art is notoriously rubbish and overlooked so I really appreciated living amongst some original and meaningful artworks during my stay.

Bedroom details at Cour des Vosges, Paris | Mr & Mrs Smith

In my room is a stunning wall hanging tapestry, which sits alongside some lovely drawings and original abstract paintings. The bed itself is brushed stainless steel and the cold, reflective hard finish of the bed is perfectly juxtaposed by the rawness of the artwork and the cosiness of the soft furnishings.

The collection of art throughout the hotel is expertly curated, in fact. Covetable sketches, unique sculptures, refined and interesting tapestries and original, expressive paintings are everywhere.

I discovered it’s the work of gallerist Amélie du Chalard of Amelie art gallery which, by chance, I also enjoy visiting on my stay. (It’s a gargantuan and awe-inspiring space, clearly once industrial, which she has converted into a sprawling art gallery – entirely original and very special.)

The concierge helped me book at table one evening at the nearby Grand Cours – and the best thing about this delicious restaurant was something that seemingly happens entirely by chance. As we sat outside on a balmy evening, the dance school that occupies the second floors of the building had their windows open during rehearsals so throughout the course of our dinner we were able to listen to and catch glimpses of their classes, from ballet to Afrobeat. It was romantic and magical.

Cours des Vosges, though, is a very private place. You don’t go to be seen or because you’re ticking off the city’s latest hot spot. It’s intimate and human in scale and is so quiet that I barely saw another guest during my stay.

View from Cour des Vosges, Paris | Mr & Mrs Smith

The setting is the cherry on the cake – somehow so perfectly Parisian in its mood, you instantly feel that you’re realising your own Gallic holiday fantasies.

Shades of green, blue slate roofs, and that familiar creamy greige of the architecture surround you. A short walk leads you to the buzzy streets of the Marais, peppered with stylish boutiques and excellent cafés, with prime people-watching possibilities.

When I think back to my hotel I see plush velvet, glossy metal, deep pile maroon carpets, moody marble and fantastic art. This hotel is sexy-chic incarnate. Anyone looking for a low-key, under-the-radar base from which to dive off and explore the city needs look no further.

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Sophie Ashby is a celebrated interior designer whose work is informed by, among other things, a love of colour, contemporary art, classic antiques and ‘beautiful things’. She is the creative director and founder of Studio Ashby and was named House & Garden‘s designer of the year in 2021.