Photography by Benoit Linero
"I always like to have a backstory in mind for my projects. For Les Deux Gares, I imagined the building belonging to a Parisian collector who has spent his life travelling and has now decided to open his home to guests." explains Luke Edward Hall, the protean artist and designer who recently applied his signature aesthetic and fantastical sense of story telling to his first hospitality project; Hotel Les Deux Gares.
His approach to interior design defies all preconceived notions. “I always begin my projects by leafing through old books and magazines; then, I visit galleries and museums. I allow myself the time to dream and invent stories.” Detesting the obvious path to interior decorating, Hall uses themes with historical references layered with patterns and above all humour. “Design can often be something very serious, whereas I want my work to convey joy.”
Located in a narrow alley of Paris’ 10th arrondissement between the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est; the abandoned bourgeois edifice that once stood as a railway station hotel provided an opportunity for Luke to reimagine what the classic rail lodgings of the 20th Century would look like in present day.
Behind the imposing iron gates at its front, the petite hotel keeps firm guard to the whimsy and eclecticism located within its walls.
When developing this joyful oasis of mismatch and the anti-modern, Luke looked to his two favourite French and English design heroes for inspiration - David Hicks and Madeleine Castaing.
"There are little homages to them dotted around the hotel – geometric carpets, leopard print fabrics and ebonised antiques." says Luke.
It's this roguish collision of French elegance and English country playfulness that sings throughout the whole project. "I envisioned a striking mix of colours and patterns, and antique, vintage and contemporary furniture. A sort of new French style, inspired by the past and filtered through an Englishman’s eye for colour and pattern. I imagined a variety of people staying at the hotel – young lovers, solo explorers..."
It's not difficult to imagine the Hotel playing host to the off-beat 20th Century French-Bohemian artists Luke so looks to for inspiration - Lounging in the vast reception area which includes shining emerald green walls, a black and white chevron marble floor, gilt furniture, giant mirrors, Warhol, Hockney and Cocteau exhibition posters is nothing short of excellent and unexpected.
This flirtation with garish taste yet the tension of never surrendering to it is seen throughout all of the unexpected pairings in the hotel.
Artworks created by Hall himself depicting this fanciful crowd are dotted throughout the hotel with sketchy doodles of martini's and fantastical illustrations of what could very be the young bright things so destined to be boarding within the location.
The 40-bedrooms housed in the property are split into 3 cheerful colour-ways featuring mismatched geometrical rugs (à la David Hicks) oxford striped head-boards, classic tulip tables and fringed chairs in yellow velvet. To take things up a notch, he adds 70s-inspired light fixtures and egg-yolk-yellow Art Deco bathrooms.
This thorough attention to detail brings the hotel to life with Hall painstakingly sketching, antique hunting and commissioning reproductions from small, family- owned businesses – like the mint-green, pale blue and pink bathroom fittings crafted in the south of England to form this dedication to the anti-modern and anti-commercial.
It's easy to draw comparisons between Hall's approach to the project and his own personal style, "With my own style I’m all about similar things – I like mixing colours and patterns, and I’m a sucker for vintage pieces."
Luke's favourite corner of the hotel, sits in the basement as a compact and unexpected gym featuring bright floral wallpaper by the team at Svenskt Tenn, graphic flooring and elegant wood equipment. "I’m a big fan of the gym. I love the floral wallpaper combined with the red and white checkerboard floor."
"The bathrooms are a favourite, too, with their colourful sinks and toilets. I can’t forget the foyer, either! I had fun mixing antiques and decorative pieces from different
periods." says Luke.
Through his work, Hall easily tells us the tale of an eccentric Parisian whose art and furniture collection reflects his various travels to different eras. “It’s this combination of styles that, I hope, will intrigue guests”, says the artist. Here, Hall has indulged himself, dreaming up encounters like that of writer-photographer Cecil Beaton and art collector Peter Watson (1908-1956). The very calling of a railway hotel.
✨ QUESTIONS 👀
What are you reading and listening to at the moment? I’m reading The Judgment of Paris by Gore Vidal and listening to Depeche Mode’s first album, Speak & Spell.
What is the first thing you do when you get to Paris? I think about lunch.